If you are ever in Rome it is a sin not to go to the Cartoleria Pantheon dal 1910, just on the right hand-side of the Pantheon as you look at it, it is a treasure trove of handmade pattered stationary. Of course when in Rome there are many other spectacles to see, including the classic tourist hotpot the Trevi Fountain, the rich and exuberant Palazzo Pamphilj and the Palazzo Barberini with its lavish history. However, my love for Rome is partly due to this tiny little stationary shop.
The Palazzo Pamphilj faces the Piazza Navona (which holds the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini, 1651) and holds the most beautiful gallery named the Galleria Doria Pamphilj. The gallery spans the width of the block and contains works by the likes of Annibale Carracci, Caravaggio and also the portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velazquez. Although you have to pay for entry, it is the perfect midday trip to get out of the strong Italian sun and acquaint yourself with some of the artistic powerhouses of Art History.
The Palazzo Barberini, similar to the Palazzo Pamphilj, is also worth visiting if you wish to delve into the interesting and complicated history of Rome. This Baroque palace was built to celebrate the Barberini family’s recent rise to power after Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban VIII in 1623. There is also a gallery in the Palazzo with the most impressive fresco on the ceiling of the 1st floor Gran Salon. Images do not do this ceiling justice (it is an exemplar of the technique trompe l’oeil, which doesn’t quite translate into photographs), it was painted by Pietro de Cortona and is named the Allegory of Divine Providence (1633-1639). The ceiling and its mythological theme stands as a representation of the Pope’s rise to power (the Divine Providence chose him). It is beautifully detailed and the gallery have placed large chaise-longe type chairs around the large hall allowing you to lie back and experience the intricacy of his design. If you ever make trip there, look out for the Bee’s!
If you’re looking for something off the beaten track, a less popular tourist attraction which is definitely worth a visit is the Trastevere area, across the Tiber from the centre of Rome. Said to be ‘Rome’s favourite neighbourhood’ on the Lonely Planet website, it’s streets are filled with beautiful market stalls during the day and fabulous Italian restaurants to indulge in the evenings. If you picture your Roman Holiday with good food and wine, Trastevere is a must (see feature image for a little preview).
Back to my love affair with the stationary shop. When in Rome on an art trip a few years ago we stumbled upon this small family run shop (it must have been written in the stars) and decided we needed a pit stop. Every shelf in this little shop which you quite frankly couldn’t swing a cat in, was filled to the breaches with different pattern books. The books are so beautifully colourful and truly unique, making the classic WHSmith or Paperchase books look or so drab and indistinguishable. Upon speaking with the owner, we learnt that his family had always owned the shop and made the books just outside of Rome. It is worth questioning the validity of this as it sounds too perfect but for now I choose to believe the sweet old Italian man.