Scenes from Raphael in Rome

When I went to Rome last month (yes, it was HOT), I was able to pay homage to Raphael, more than 500 years after his death in 1520.

One of my biggest joys was finally visiting the Villa Farnesina in Trastevere, where my favorite Raphael painting is located. I had to walk there because there was a two-day taxi strike in Rome and no easy way to get there on transit from my hotel. Finally I was rewarded with this street name after crossing the Tiber:

Walking along the Lungotevere Raffaello Sanzio. I wish I could say it was pristinely maintained, but it was sadly dirty and busy.

The Villa Farnesina, built in the early 16th century by Sienese banker Agostino Chigi, is tucked just off the Lungotevere Raffaello Sanzio and is a quiet and verdant oasis, although the gardens were unfortunately closed off.

A view from one of the upstairs windows.

After entering and paying admission – boom! – in the first room I beheld the glorious Galatea!

My favorite Raphael – the Galatea fresco.

Upstairs is another beautiful room with this fresco (not painted by Raphael) that a Germanic mercenary soldier scratched onto after the Sack of Rome in 1527: “1528 – why shouldn’t I laugh: the Landsknecht have put the Pope to flight.” 

Renaissance graffiti in the Villa Farnesina – it has nothing to do with Raphael, but is fascinating nonetheless

After my visit was over, I walked along the Tiber and encountered this scene from our novel The Sidewalk Artist: Bernini’s angels on the Castel Sant’Angelo Bridge.

Angels in the distance, before the fortress known as Castel Sant’Angelo, where one of the final scenes from The Sidewalk Artist takes place.

I’m happy to report I also finally visited the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican and for the first time saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which we chronicle in The Wolves of St. Peter’s. And no visit to Raphael’s Rome would be complete without paying respects at his grave in the Pantheon, a Roman architectural marvel in its own right.

“Here lies Raphael, by whom nature herself feared to be outdone while he lived, and when he died, feared that she herself would die.”

May he continue to rest in peace.

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