TRAVEL

5 Places To See Contemporary Art In Rome

Palazzo Merulana. Credit: Palazzo Merulana

Want to spend a weekend exploring Rome as a contemporary outpost? I’ve lined up where you need to go and stay in my latest update on contemporary art in Rome for Forbes Travel, December 2018.

Rome is where the art is, but these days it’s more than just colossal monuments, dusty archeological sites and beautifully decorated Baroque churches.

Contemporary art is finally making a significant mark on the Eternal City’s landscape. The destination is now replete with an itinerary of museums, galleries, concept spaces and creative hubs. We’ve plotted out five top places that bring this ancient city back to the future.

WHAT TO SEE

Palazzo Merulana
One of the newest galleries on the scene, this former municipal office building underwent a three-year renovation in preparation for the eclectic, 90-piece collection of Elena and Claudio Cerasi, prominent local patrons of the arts. Most of the museum’s works are Italian pieces created between World War I and II by artists such as Giacomo Balla, Giorgio de Chirico and Alighiero Boetti.   

Art aficionado or not, you’ll want to hang around at CafeCulture, the palazzo’s boutique and coffee shop. The menu features a variety of fare sourced from local purveyors, such as cheeses from ProLoco DOL, hamburgers from famed butcher Bottega Liberati and sweets from patisserie Cristalli di Zucchero.

Contemporary Cluster 
This avant-garde experience is the 21st-century manifestation of those iconic multidisciplinary performances of the 1960s and ’70s: a boutique/art gallery/event space housed in a decadent 17th-century palace on a side street off Campo de’ Fiori. 

The hybrid art and commercial venue hosts monthly exhibitions, weekly performances and DJ sets, while its grounds have permanent and pop-up shops and cafés.

In essence, Contemporary Cluster is a concept store with an artsy vibe that constantly draws an eclectic crowd with almost everything being for sale as a bonus.

Sarah Sze at Crypta Balbi
It’s not every day that one of the world’s most famous contemporary art galleries joins forces with an ancient archaeological site. Gagosian, whose imprint in Rome has upgraded the art scene over the past 10 years, has turned to the past for a site-specific, National Roman Museum-partnered installation at the Crypta Balbi ruins.

Through January 27, the first-century theater provides a rustic backdrop for contemporary sculpture Split Stone (7:34) by American artist Sarah Sze. Using an ultra-modern process by which thousands of tiny cavities etched into the rock are filled with pigment, Sze has created a captivating crystalized sunset scene on the stone’s mirror-like surface.  

Sant’Andrea de Scaphi. Credit: Erica Firpo

Gavin Brown’s Enterprise: Sant’Andrea de Scaphis
To find the pulse of the international art scene, head for British art dealer Gavin Brown’s Rome outpost — it’s everything and nothing you’d expect. Located in a nondescript, deconsecrated church on a side street of Trastevere, Sant’Andrea de Scaphis is a single, rustic room of hauntingly charming medieval architecture that usually features a single artist installation.

Exhibits rotate every few months, so it’s unlikely you’ll run into the same works twice. The historic space is hosting a politically charged display by American graphic designer Sam Pulitzer, “May The Last Nationalist Be Strangled With The Guts Of The Last Technocrat,” through December 8.

Palazzo Rhinoceros. Credit: Pino LePera

Palazzo Rhinoceros
The name Fendi is synonymous with Rome’s fashion scene, but the designers’ youngest sister, Alda, opts for a more innovative interpretation with Fondazione Alda Fendi — Esperimenti, her nonprofit arts foundation.  

The group’s latest experiment is Palazzo Rhinoceros, a new creative hub in the Velabro neighborhood that opened in October. Architect Jean Nouvel rebooted a centuries-old palazzo into a multi-level gallery, 24 luxury apartments and a rooftop restaurant, without altering the building’s historic bones.   

While the interiors are stunning, some of the venue’s highlights are actually found outside, including a can’t-miss portrait projection of Alda by Pierre et Gilles on the façade and a life-sized resin rhino that lurks in the front yard.   

Hotel Eden’s La Terrazza. Credit: Hotel Eden

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Eden
Rome’s undeniable harbinger of style and hospitality, this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star stunner is dripping in fashionable touches — think art deco details, custom furniture and resplendent marble accents.

For a picture-perfect end to a day of gallery-hopping, dine at La Terrazza, the luxury hotel’s rooftop restaurant boasting some of the best views of the city.  

Gran Meliá Rome Villa Agrippina. Credit: Melia Hotels & Resorts


Gran Meliá Rome Villa Agrippina
Located on the bluffs of the famed Janiculum hill (between Trastevere and Vatican’s Borgo neighborhood) on the site of an imperial villa, this Four-Star retreat is a city-center oasis that comes complete with a 1920s-era pool and lush greenery.

Though its origins are ancient, Gran Meliá’s style is contemporary: sleek modern furnishings, wide-open spaces and the sophisticated My Blend by Clarins spa.

The Rooms of Rome
Stay in the heart of the action when you book into Palazzo Rhinoceros’s fully immersive-art experience on the edge of the Roman Forum. Each of its 24 rooms is minimalist chic, meticulously designed and curated by the aforementioned Jean Nouvel, the superstar architect behind the cutting-edge Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The stylish rooms are outfitted with luxe touches, too, like Bang & Olufsen TVs, fully equipped kitchens and L’Occitane amenities.

See Naples and Die: How To Have The Perfect Naples Day Trip

This article originally appeared in Forbes Travel, May 2018.

Charming, beautiful, heartbreaking and gritty, Naples, Italy, is a torrid love affair you’re meant to explore for a day or a lifetime. For centuries, locals and visitors alike have constantly proved the proverb “See Naples and Die” true. It is a city that never leaves you and, for some, a destination that proves impossible to leave. But for those with less than 24 hours to see Napoli, here our tips for a day trip to this seaside siren.

HOW TO GET THERE
A day trip to Naples from Rome is as easy as a train ride, especially on Italy’s high-velocity rail service. Just 70 minutes from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale with departures every hour, Italo Treno’s round-trip option is your best bet. The unmistakable red needle-nose trains are stylish as well as comfortable and equipped with free Wi-Fi.

WHEN TO GO
Any time, any day and any month, Naples is amazing. From June through September, the temperatures are high and the sun is hot, so if you prefer milder climates, plan for the cooler months. Great times to visit include religious holidays, such as the September 19 Feast of San Gennaro (the patron saint of Naples), when the city crowds into the Naples Cathedral. From Advent (December 2) to Ash Wednesday (February 14), the city is a carnival of celebrations.

WHAT TO DO
Walk the City
There is so much to see in Napoli, and the best way to take it all in is by foot. A massive UNESCO World Heritage Site, Naples’ historic center has the unique characteristic of being split in half by a road. The Spaccanapoli (Via San Biagio dei Librai) is a long and narrow street lined with buildings representing all eras of Naples’ architecture, from its Greek foundations to 18th-century palaces.

Head to the historic center’s Piazza San Domenico Maggiore and spot the larger-than-life mural of San Gennaro by street artist Jorit Agoch, which appears as a backdrop in the Italian TV series Gomorrah.

Art lovers should check out the Madre, Naples’ contemporary museum. On display until September 24 is an exhibit titled “Pompei @ Madre,” a clever show mixing finds from the ill-fated ancient city with modern Pompeii-inspired art.

Part of the national Galleria d’Italia, the galleries of Palazzo Zevallos Stigliana are housed on the ground floor of a 19th-century bank, making for a cultured stop for both history buffs and art lovers.

Kids and romantics will want to visit one of the city’s numerous medieval castles, such as Castel Sant’Elmo and Castel dell’Ovo.

Plan Your Pizza
Probably the best reason for a day trip to Naples is pizza, in particular the freshly made local variety topped with marinara sauce and seasoned with oregano and garlic but no cheese at all.

For day-trippers, it’s important to plan your itinerary around where and when you will be eating your pie, allowing yourself at least 30 minutes of waiting in line — yes, you’re going to have to wait. Local favorites, such as Da MicheleGino SorbilloPizzeria La Notizia 94 and 50 Kalò, all have queues, especially around lunchtime. And just to be on the safe side, bring euros — not all pizza joints accept credit cards.  

For a truly Neapolitan way to finish off your meal, stop by the historic Gran Caffe Gambrinus for an espresso and a fresh pastry (like a fragrant rum babà — a rum-soaked cake — or flaky cannoli) and then enjoy the beautiful Piazza del Plebiscito.

Go Underground
Naples can be chaotic and, sometimes, the best solution is to head underground to explore the city’s ancient origins. Miles of subterranean tunnels, carved by early Greek settlers, lie beneath the city’s surface. Expanded by the Romans, the underground metropolis was used up until the 20th century, when it served as an air raid shelter during both World Wars. All of this history is hidden from the modern surface, but can be explored with Napoli Sotterranea.

For a deeper dive into the city’s past, plan a pit stop at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli to dig into its impressive collection of Greco-Roman art and artifacts. Among the exhibits, you’ll find pieces from Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as the racy Gabinetto Segreto (secret cabinet).

Or, opt a different kind of underground with the Naples Metro, where the stations themselves are works of art.

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Erica

Everything Old is New in Rome

Believe it or not, there has been a lot newness going in Rome, and a lot has to do with its Ancient and Renaissance past. I've shared it all in the article "Everything Old is New in Rome" for Fathom. From hotels and restaurants to historic sites, Rome has some great old news.  

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

ROME – Rome is a city that doesn't always follow the rules or live by definition, especially when it comes to the concept of newness. Living here, I've languished in the old-school vibe and old habits, while occasionally thirsting for that take-the-wrapping-off new feeling. I've come to the conclusion that newness is relative...  Read more on FATHOM.

Palazzo della Civilta Italiana
Imperial Ramps
Furriers at work at Palazzo Fendi
Casa Copelle Bar
Tiberino restaurant

#EmptyVatican, totally #blessed with Instagram

A photo posted by Erica Firpo (@ericafirpo) on Nov 3, 2015 at 12:26am PST

I like art.  It's pretty obvious if you happen to hear me chatter, whether face to face or on social media.  I love going to galleries, meandering museums, investigating installations-  it doesn't matter, I just need to have an art experience.  I could probably call it an addiction, which may explain why I am so adamant about being first in line at the Venice Biennale, finding art tags on Instagram or helming my own Insta-artsy project #EmptyMuseo.   Combining my love for art and the fun I can visually have on Instagram, The Professor (aka Darius) and I have been curating some great art meet ups in Italy's galleries over the past year.  The latest installation was October 26's #EmptyVatican the love child of a great coffee talk between me, Darius and the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, an organization focused on bringing together restoration projects and donors within the walls of the museums.   Darius and I would select a group of 10 Instagrammers, including ourselves, based on interest, aesthetic, community participate, and committed desire to share Italy's cultural heritage, and let the world know about the Vatican Patrons and its free app Patrum.

The game plan:  The Vatican Patrons would curate an early morning away from the crowds and in non-accessible areas of the museums.  So yes, the Galleria of the Maps, Raphael Rooms, Lapidarium and Sistine Chapel were all ours.  To be clear, we abided by the rules of the Vatican Museums and did not use flash, nor take any photos or videos in the Sistine Chapel.  With just 10 photographers,  #EmptyVatican increased followers by more than 35% and brought the Vatican Museums and Vatican Patrons to the fore front of international press-  as seen and written about in  The Guardian, Condè Nast Traveler, Condè Nast Traveller India, Swide, Lonely Planet,Catholic Herald… and more

The Players:  @Aivenn, @DavidPinto_, @EricaFirpo,@Helium_Tea, @MarkoMorciano,@MatteoAcitelli, @Mattego,@MBMissMary, @Saverome,@Sherokee

Click below to see all the photos.  And give me a shout if you want to join the next #emptymuseo erica@ericafirpo.com

#EmptyVatican
#EmptyVatican

Venice Dreaming: The Contest [updated]

A decade and a half ago, I lived in Venice, that dreamy archipelago of islets and moody blues.  Manganese in the mornings, Idranthene at night, cobalt turquoise in the reflections, Phthalo turqouise and Phthalo green cobalt mix in the rain, Ultramarine and Davy's Grey mix in the winter.... a Winsor Newton palette plus Campari red and Aperol orange accents.  Venice bore into me with azure and indigo moments that I can still feel if I close my eyes.

I get the same feeling when I open up the pages of  Joann Locktov's Dream of Venice. A Venice love letter, Locktov's book is a beautiful curation of photos by photographer Charles Christopher and prose by writers, artists, directors, Venetians and Venetophiles, including Nicolas Roeg, Julie Christie and Patricia Highsmith-- artists who led me to get lost in a Serenissima of Don't Look Now and The Talented Mr. Ripley. 

All 37 lyrical contributors, like luminaries Peggy Guggenheim, Marcella Hazan, Erica Jong, Woody Allen and friends Jessica Spiegel, Giampaolo Seguso,  Nan McElroy and Eleonora Baldwin, are paired with Christopher's beautiful photos of Venetian alleys, disappearing campi and piazza, and glittering water, in color and black-and-white shots.  It is the perfect book to get lost in Venice for a minute or a whole afternoon.

Venice Dreaming:  The Contest

Welcome to my very first contest (and quite possibly the only one).  Through November 11, I want you to share with me your Venice Moody Blues by posting your favorite Venice photo on Instagram. Make sure to tag me  @EricaFirpo, and #VeniceMoodyBlues so that everyone can find the photos.

On November 12, I will announce a winner, (by random selection), who will receive a copy of “Dream of Venice", shipped directly by Joann to anywhere in the world.

WINNERS UPDATE:  After 170+ submissions, I needed help so Joann and I perused through all of them came up with a tie: Alessandro Sarno and Brian Etherington.  To see all,  please take a look at #VENICEMOODYBLUES.

A photo posted by Alessandro Sarno (@thelonesomephotographer) on Nov 11, 2015 at 1:14pm PST

A photo posted by Brian Etherington (@notdavidbailey) on Nov 10, 2015 at 7:38am PST

5 Hidden Streets to Walk in Rome

Five Hidden Streets to Walk in Rome originally appeared on October 14, 2015 in Travel + Leisure.

Out-of-the-way gems can still be found in the well-trod city.

For millennia, Rome's streets and piazzas have been walked and then some—the focal point of the ancient empire's transit network, there's a reason we have the saying, "all roads lead to Rome." As the third most visited city in the EU (after Paris and London), it can seem there are few areas left to be discovered, but if you're willing to look up from the map and stretch your comfort zone, a lesser-known, far more modern version of the city appears. From former Olympic athlete housing to a neighborhood devoted to street art, these are five blocks you won't want to miss.

Piccola Londra A few tram stops north of Piazza del Popolo, at the corner of Via del Vignola and Via Flaminia, is the street Via Celentano—though its neighbors never call it that. Instead, it's known as Piccola Londra (Little London), a turn-of-the-century, private road that gives off a Notting Hill-meets-Mary-Poppins vibe. Stop by this stretch to see the colorful, immaculate homes and to marvel at how this haven ever came about.

Quartiere Coppedè In the city's northeast Trieste neighborhood, there is an early-1900s enclave called the Quartiere Coppedè of whimsical architecture by Florentine architect Gino Coppedè. Marble and metal ornaments like spiders, sea horses, and lizards decorate rustic Craftsman-style houses and buildings, which are painted with modern frescoes and beautiful patterns. It looks like a page from a fairy tale.

EUR The EUR neighborhood, a fifteen-minute drive southwest of the city center, may be well-known but it hardly gets the foot and photo traffic it deserves. Originally designed for the 1942 World Exposition by architect Marcello Piacentini in the late 1930s and finished in the early 1950s, its is a snapshot of a would-have-been Rome, with monumental travertine buildings, palaces, and piazzas of Rationalist architecture. Be on the lookout for the Square Colosseum, a stark white minimalist nod to its 2,000-year-old counterpart.

Villaggio Olimpico Built as prototype athlete housing for the 1960 Olympics in Rome, the Villaggio Olimpico (Olympic Village) is one of Rome's planned modern neighborhoods, with duplex stilt building, sweeping piazzas, cinemas, pharmacies, and shops—albeit for temporary use. Now fully residential and permanent, its bare modernist architecture fits right in with the surrounding area, a newly developing cultural and architectural mecca that includes PierLuigi Nervi's Pantheon-like Palazzo dello Sport, Renzo Piano's 21st century, futuristic Auditorium and Zaha Hadid's MAXXI museum. Quadraro Probably one of the best places to get lost, if you can find it. The outer limits Quadraro neighborhood (in Rome's southeast periphery), is a micro-state all about street art. Artists including Gary Baseman, Alice Pasquini, Jim Avignon and Diavu have covered its exterior walls to create an open-air museum, and more continue to add to it.

3 New Rome Restaurants, Forbes Travel

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Believe it or not, Rome can change over night.  Most of the time, it is all about food-- new markets, new restaurants, new renovations, the city keeps offering more and more spots to satiate your need for new.  From Michelin to gastro-bistrot, here are three new restaurants and food spots I covered for Forbes Travel.

Talking Digital Italy with Tamu TV and All The Pretty Birds

There are a few things in life I can't say "no" to: gazpacho, a quick trip to Milan and a great conversation with a fabulous friend.   That's a trifecta rarely attained, if at all, until this past July when Tamu McPherson, the eye and voice behind All the Pretty Birds and Milan girl about town, invited me to her cafe to talk about Italy in the Digital Age.

Here's a little back story:  I've being following Tamu and All the Pretty Birds for years, from her beginning as a street style photographer and to her evolution into one of fashion's bestlifestyle blogs.  I've long loved Tamu's style- writing, behind the lense and her fresh look on fashion.  Most of all, I love how much she loves and lives Milan through art, culture and fasthion.  Tamu's Cafe is a food/lifestyle series that brings fashion, design and food luminaries to the table, so you can imagine how flattered I was when she invited to bring over a recipe.

Tune into Tamu TV for a little bit of gazpacho, Milan-with-a-view, a chat about Italy in the Digital Age with me!

Venice Biennale: The Season of La Serenissima and Luxe City Guides

If you know me, then you know I love luxe-- not just a fabulous shopping spree but Luxe City Guides, a company I have known, loved and worked with ever since I stumbled into founder Grant Thatcher in Hong Kong.  From 2007 forward, I've worked with Luxe to conceive, edit and curate its Rome City Guide, first in print, then digital and now mobile.  And I've it- from the very picky selection of all entries to emulating Thatcher's sass, style and eye.  And if it weren't for Luxe, I wouldn't have met my friends Phoebe and Magnus. With my hands in the Rome pot, I constantly am on the look out for Luxe Rome and on occasion, I turn off the Rome volume and write about amazing places and experiences outside of the Eternal City for the website.  This time, I've walked my heels off in Venice... enjoying every bit of the Biennale and La Serenissima.

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What comes once every two years, widens your eyes with absolute wonder, runs you ragged for a few months and then, with the same blaze of glory that it entered your life, departs again?

Why, La Biennale di Venezia, of course! Venice may be known as La Serenissima – the most serene one – but during the months of La Biennale di Venezia, the floating city is anything but calm. This year’s fair brings together 136 creative talents from 53 countries under the theme of All the World’s Futures, curated by the Nigerian-born critic and art-ficionado, Okuwi Enwezor.

For almost seven months, the lovely lagoon is awash with artistic expression, international hi-so, unmissable exhibs and Champers-drenched events. While we encourage putting the map away and getting lost in the city itself, there’s nothing worse than a blundering biennaler. Here’s our guide to making the most of your art agenda – bring on the glamour, the food, and of course, the art…

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Put The Gritti Palace on speed dial, as this ritzy flopspot hits the art target with suites honoring and inspired by aesthetic icons including patron Peggy Guggenheim, art historian John Ruskin and interior designer Angelo Donghi. Occupying a perf Grand Canal posi, the Gritti offers direct agacqua access with its tricked-out Riva Yacht, ideal for a spot of creative exploration. Zip over to the Arsenale or cruise the canals to see Venice’s gorgeous churches.

When it’s time to refuel, Jules, Venezia’s answer to finger-licking canapés, chicheti, is calling. Nip down a narrow alley behind San Marco in search of Osteria da Carla for fabby bar-side bites like bacalà mantecato, creamed cod on a bed of polenta – yumsome.

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Appetite and whistle whetted, make tracks for Corta Sconta, where you’ve had the good sense to reserve a table in the vibey, vine-covered courtyard. The seafood antipasti go-to for those in the know, this tiny Castello trat also serves up a mean vongole allo zenzero (clams with ginger).

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more glam, strap on those Rene Caovillas and stiletto-step over to the city’s prima piazza. Nope, no orchestra dining for you; head inside Caffe Quadri to the Mich-spangled FROW resto-with-a-view. Helmed by the Alajmo brothers of Padova’s tri-star Le Calandre, Quadri offers four spectac tasting menus executed by cucina capo Silvio Giavedoni, but keep your eyes on the Laguna menu that features flip-fresh fish sourced straight from the sea.

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Finally, reward yourself with a post-prandi at Starck’s sultry PalazzinaG – park your Prada, and order a Martinez. Didn’t you do well, darling?

For more hotspots in Venice, check out the LUXE Venice guide or download our fabulous new app with maps!

Details

Address

La Biennale di Venezia 9 May-22 November, 2015

Various locations throughout the city labiennale.org

The Gritti Palace Campo Santa Maria del Giglio San Marco, Venice +39 041 794 611 thegrittipalace.com

Osteria da Carla Calle Corte Contarina 1535 San Marco, Venice +39 041 523 7855 osteriadacarla.it

Corta Sconta Calle del Pestrin 3886 Castello, Venice +39 041 522 7024 cortescontavenezia.it

Quadri Piazza San Marco 120 San Marco, Venice +39 041 0522 2105 alajmo.it

PalazzinaG Ramo Grassi 3247 San Marco, Venice +39 041 528 4644 palazzinag.com