Rome Diaries - Week 52

From 2006 to 2011 Paulist Father Tom Holahan served as vice rector of the Paulist church in Rome. During that time he had the opportunity to spend time exploring the historic sites of Rome as well as the hidden ones. The blog features excerpts from this travel diary. A new selection appears each week.

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April 11, 2008

Today’s wedding at the Vatican involves assisting a well known and rather conservative cardinal in the ceremony. All seems to be ready and I signal the organist to begin. The bride processes down the aisle, the cardinal steps out from the sacristy and the gates to Carlo Maderno’s magnificent Chapel of the Choir close. Just as the organ music subsides, the groom meekly asks, “Can we stop?” It turns out that most of the bridesmaids and the father of the groom have been detained by the Swiss Guards. The cardinal draws a blank and asks me what to do. I find myself advising this Prince of the Church that he should direct the liveried attendants to re-open the gates and go back to the beginning. This he does, telling those assembled, “Forget what just happened. We’re going to start all over again.” And, in five minutes, we do.


April 12, 2008

Adjacent to the Villa Medici (a French possession since the time of Napoleon), on the highest point of the Pincian Hill, is a pavilion owned by a former Borghese prince. (Both the Medici and Borghese properties were part of the extensive gardens of the Roman consul Lucullus in ancient times.) The land itself was given to the city of Rome by Italy’s Savoy royalty in 1903, but three hundred years earlier, the art-collecting Cardinal Scipione started building a series of ornamental buildings on the 3.5 square mile estate. Most became small museums, but Casina Valadier, put up by that architect during his creation of Piazza del Popolo (1816-1837), became an exclusive watering hole for the rich and noble. (The casina is built over a large Roman cistern that was used as a protective treasure vault during the Sack of Rome.) The fashionable bistro really came into its own at the end of World War I. During that time, celebrities from Gandhi to King Farouk and artists like Strauss and Pirandalio could be seen there. After a 14-year closure, Casina Valadier opened up for business again in 2004. It has been restored to the architect’s original design, including Pompeian-style frescos. Now it is a premier wedding reception venue (why I am here), a notch down from the glory days, but still bright enough.


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