Conquering the Lonely Planet Rome List: Crypta Balbi and San Marco

Last week before my jaunt north I crossed two more places off the Lonely Planet Rome List: the Crypta Balbi and San Marco, neither of which were particularly thrilling. The Crypta Balbi is a museum/ruins near Piazza Venezia that is part of the four museum group that comprises the National Museums of Rome. Photos weren’t really allowed in the ruins, which were of an ancient granary/cistern/crypt with a 5th century street of shops that were built on top and later Medieval/Renaissance/Baroque business built above that. The ruins were below modern street level, with the museum above. The museum itself was really well put together, and it gave the impression, like most Italian museums, that the earth below my feet here is packed and jammed full of bits and pieces of the ancient past. If you think of all the art and pots and weapon fragments and everything else that’s been put on display in hundreds of museums throughout Italy, and then think of all the stuff that hasn’t been dug up yet, or didn’t survive, it’s a mind boggling amount of stuff! As evidence, here’s two of the displays of objects that were found while excavating at the Crypta Balbi:

buckles and spear-points and other little bits of metal
pots and pots and more and more pots

I remember hearing a “joke” once that the produce in Italy is so good because the ground is full of dead Romans, but I think it should be amended to say it’s full of Romans and ALL OF THEIR WORDLY GOODS, because they left behind a LOT of stuff.

After the Crypta Balbi I meandered over to Piazza Venezia and wandered into San Marco, which is the Renaissance church that is connected to the Renaissance Palazzo Venezia:

lovely Renaissance arches making up the facade of the church with the tower of the Palazzo to the side

The arched facade of San Marco is lovely, lovely, but the inside, like sosoososoooo so many of the churches here in Rome has been thoroughly Baroque-d, meaning it was renovated/refurbished during the Baroque period. Baroque interiors are always so subtle, with their invariable encrustation of multi-colored marbles, tons of gold, putti angel babies, and, let’s be honest, general ugliness. I like the drama of Baroque painting/sculpture and the grand exteriors of Baroque architecture, but none of the Baroque interior decorations I’ve ever seen have ever turned out well. So, San Marco = best appreciated from the outside!

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