Friday, January 2, 2009

Vatican art and Vivendo's Cuisine Modern

Photos (Lexi Van de Walle): Nativity scene St. Peters; Michaelango's famous Pieta sculpture at St. Peter's Basilica; Nativity scene - Via Veneto gate to Borghese Park.

Go to the head of the line. That's what we did with Context Travel and our docent, Hilary, a high energy and very knowledgable scholar, who guided us through highlights of the vast art collection at the Vatican Museum, through Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. Pretty much an all day affair, Hilary introduced us to the classical Roman works and contemporary 15th and early 16th century artists who influenced Michaelangelo and his 4-year endeavor to paint the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel from 1508 to 1512. Michaelangelo, like so many artists and sculptors, studied art and copied styles, content and form. Much of what's on the ceiling is found in classical and early Renaissance works. At the Basilica we saw, Michaelango's famous Pieta.

Before we met up with the group we started in Vatican square and viewed the life-size nativity scene (there are wonderful nativity scenes all over Rome at Christmas time).

Our evening began with wine (Chianti, of course) at the Le Grand Bar of the St. Regis Hotel and ended with wine as well. Cole Porter, and the gilded elegance of the turn of the last century, marble bar with four seats, colorful modern Roman art hanging among the gold and crystal gradeur of this famous hotel (circa 1894). Our leisurely visit to Le Grand Bar was followed with a "light" dinner at Vivendo also located in the St. Regis Hotel. I had hoped to have more of an appetite for Vivendo, which means "living" in Italian, as the restaurant is known for its use of local ingredients and is considered by some to be the "best restaurant in Europe" (Zagat). But, after five days of eating my way through Italy, I am feeling a bit over fed. Uncharacteristically, this carnivore/locavore ordered a top notch vegetarian meal of green salad and homemade pasta with wild mushrooms. Salade Misto (Mixed Salad) and Tagliolinia i porcini con fonduta di Parmigiano (Fresh tagliolini pasta with wild mushrooms and Parmesan fondue). Our meal lingered through the evening as we sipped a glass of, you guessed it, Chianti Classico Riserva (Chianti Classico Riserva "Ser Lapo" 1994 Castello di Fonterutoli) and nibbled on the tiny little pasteries. Magnifico.

The decor is 1940s modern with beautiful contemporary art and fabric wallpaper -- romantic, simple, elegant and very "smart". Service was excellent and the food delicious. When I come back to Rome, I promise to go to Vivendo hungry. Until then....Buenos Tarde.


via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando 3

Rome (Piazza della Repubblica)

Telephone: +39 06 47092736

I discovered an amazing tour company that has docents and a tour limit of 6 people. Context Travel has culinary, art and architecture tours that are primarily walking seminars. The guides are professionals who do tours on the side so you get more of a scholarly look into say the Vatican or Ancient Rome (which are the two tours that we did with Context). Context has tours in New York, Paris, London, Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, and Istanbul. I highly recommend Context Travel and, in fact, have my eye on a few of the culinary tours in New York (Chocolate, Jewish New York, and Tasting the Immigrant Experience). Unfortunately, the tour of the Rome Farmers Markets and Tasting didn't fit into my hectic schedule.

Context Travel 2222 Lombard Street, suite 2r Philadelphia, PA 19146 USA toll free: +1 800 691-6036 main number: +1 215 392-0303 fax: +1.617.249.0186 email: 24-hour emergency phone: +1 646 863-6036

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