It is one of the most visited and fascinating cities in the world, and to be honest, it is also a city that you never get tired of visiting, even if you have been there many times. Let's try to spend a long weekend in the capital of Italy under the banner of the Grand Tour, that is, a trip that is both for pleasure but also for education, as it was for the nobles and the rich bourgeois who once wanted nothing more than to visit Italy and Rome. The starting point of our journey is the Real Academia de España en Roma on the Janiculum Hill (Piazza San Pietro in Montorio, 3 free entries), right above Trastevere, one of the most panoramic places in the city. Every year, the Spanish Academy hosts a group of cultural workers (artists, researchers, musicians, designers, directors, etc.) who have submitted an application to participate in response to a specific call, allowing them to carry out their project during their residency. Created at the end of the nineteenth century (in 2023 it celebrated its first 150 years), it houses the famous Tempietto di Bramante (perhaps you remember it in one of the opening scenes of the movie La Grande Bellezza directed by Paolo Sorrentino), created by the famous Renaissance architect and commissioned by the Kings of Spain as the dissolution of a vow. The Tempietto, a sort of celebratory chapel of Saint Peter, stands in the place where, according to medieval tradition (now considered incorrect), the saint was crucified upside down. In this place so evocative of Christianity, last October the most important living artist, Michelangelo Pistoletto, installed in the crypt, at the precise point where, according to tradition, the cross of Saint Peter was placed, the work Pozzo Specchio, which can be observed leaning out of the grate on the floor of the Tempietto. In this way, it is possible to see ourselves reflected in one of the most dramatic and sacred points of Christianity in order to not feel like simple spectators but an active part of the process of life, death, and rebirth.

To complete this installation, an exhibition has recently been inaugurated (Michelangelo Pistoletto at the Spanish Academy), which can be visited until March 10, 2024 (the entry is also free for this show), and which includes the Venus of Rags, an iconic work of contemporary art where a Venus representing Art regenerates a mountain of rags, thus elevating them to a work of art, and the Mediterranean Table, a large mirrored table in the shape of the Mediterranean basin, surrounded by chairs each coming from one of the countries that overlook this sea, to demonstrate how art can resolve social differences. At the end of the visit, it is possible to go down to Trastevere on foot, and here it is possible to stop for a tasty break at one of the best pastry shops in Rome with French specialties (Le Levain, Via Luigi Santini, 22). Alternatively, by taking a few more steps after crossing Ponte Garibaldi (from which you can enjoy an excellent view of Ponte Sisto and the Tiber Island), you can reach the Jewish Ghetto, where, with a little patience (due to the long queues), it is possible to eat the best Jewish cakes and tarts in the whole capital (Pasticceria Boccione, Via del Portico d'Ottavia, 1).

From the Jewish Ghetto, let's move to Piazza Navona, certainly one of the most monumental squares in Rome, whose shape recalls an ancient stadium. A few steps from here, at Chiostro del Bramante (Arco della Pace, 5), it is possible to visit EMOTION. *Contemporary art tells the story of emotions, curated by Danilo Eccher (until April 1st, entry is 15 euros from Monday to Friday and 18 euros on weekends). Here, more than twenty artists offer the audience a journey full of emotions: joy, surprise, fear, anguish, confusion, happiness, excitement, tranquility... The colors created by the decomposable prisms of the Korean artist Kimsooja are unforgettable, as are the microcosms of Tony Oursler, the still lives of Matt Collishaw, or the cardboard architecture of Eva Jospin. Here, as the curator Eccher suggests, we must not only look at the artworks but also immerse ourselves in a world that knows how to amaze us. At the end of a day full of a thousand emotions, if, like me, you are accompanied by a faithful dog, I recommend a dinner at Fiuto (Via Flamia, 498), where you can also order dinner for your tail-wagging friends who have a specific menu created for them by an experienced veterinarian. For the night, my advice is to stop at the Hotel de la Ville (Via Sistina, 69) at the top of the Trinità dei Monti steps. A hotel inspired precisely by the Grand Tour but with a refined contemporary aesthetic: the design and furnishings evoke the objects and works of art that travelers on the Grand Tour would have collected during their trip.

On the second day, I would start the day by visiting Gagosian Gallery (Via Francesco Crispi, 16, free entry) a few steps from Spagna, where it is possible to visit Cy Gavin's exhibition with paintings inspired by nature, including the monumental Untitled (Wall of the Tiber), which portrays one of the characteristic stone walls that line the Tiber. From here, I would move to the nearby Fondazione Memmo (Via della Fontanella Borghese, 56/b, free entry), where you can visit until April 21 the exhibition The Library of the World, curated by Marcello Smarrelli, with works by Yael Bartana, Nicolò Degiorgis, Bruna Esposito, Claire Fontaine, Paolo Icaro, Kapwani Kiwanga, Marcello Maloberti, Francis Offman, and Ekaterina Panikanova. Another show not to be missed is Helmut Newton. Legacy at the Ara Pacis Museum (Via di Ripetta, 180, entry 13 euros) is an exhibition dedicated to one of the most beloved photographers of all time through 200 shots (80 of which are exhibited for the first time in this exhibition). Finally, the last stop of the morning is Melodia, the new exhibition by Julio Le Parc at Galleria Continua (The St. Regis Rome, until March 10, free admission). He is one of the most important artists of kinetic art, as well as of op art and conceptual art. Characteristics of Le Parc's practice are these large, colorful works, often site-specific installations, that envelop the visitor, welcoming them inside the work. For a pleasant stop, right in front of the Hotel St. Regis, there is a Sicilian pastry bar where you can eat delicious specialties (Dagnino, Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, 75). For the afternoon, I would recommend getting lost in the many exhibitions that the MAXXI (Via Guido Reni, 4a, entrance fee) normally organizes.

Choose the one or ones that interest you most and lose yourself in Zaha Hadid's architecture. I would dedicate the last day to a trip out of town, moving to the Castelli Romani area, and precisely to Velletri. It is possible to visit the project Io sono vulnerabile in the evocative context of the former Pontifical Prison of Velletri. It is a reality created by a group of artists and professionals from the visual arts, cinema, music, and dance and coordinated by Sergio Illuminato to address the theme of human vulnerability (free entry by appointment). The project decontextualizes art from usual places, such as the space of a museum or a gallery. There is therefore a strong contrast between the space, which, with its bars and worn stones, testifies to a past of confinement and isolation, and the artistic installations, which instead testify to contemporary freedom, which take note of human vulnerability, that is, of the possibility for all of us to make mistakes, to fall, but also the strength to get up and look at the world from a different angle. For lunch, you can stop in one of the excellent trattorias in Velletri (I stopped at the Vecchia Taverna, Via S. Girolamo Miani, 6 and ate an excellent white ragù) or, returning towards Rome, you can stop along the road that runs along the lake in one of the many kiosks that prepare porchetta sandwiches and offer a spectacular view of the lake. Finally, if, like me, you travel by train to return home and you still want contemporary art, I recommend the virtual exhibition Pàthos. Values, passions, and virtuesare promoted by the Commission for Cultural Heritage and Activities of Acri, the Association of Foundations, and Casse di Risparmio Spa and created as part of R'Accolte, the largest multimedia catalog in Italy.