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5 Italian Pasta Sauces You Can Make From Scratch

Posted on May 17th, 2015 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

puttanescaAn often overlooked yet crucial aspect of Italian cookery is its sauces. We are used to buying any old jar of sauce to add to our pasta, and yet a skilfully prepared sauce can make or break a meal. The thought of making your own can conjure of the image of slaving in the kitchen for hours, but don’t be intimidated. Here are a few deliciously simple recipes you can try for yourself with minimal prep time.

  1. Marinara. This classic sauce you’ll go back to time and time again, and it’s far easier to cook than you might believe. All you need is a can of full tomatoes, some garlic, and herbs to taste. Sautee the garlic in olive oil and crush the tomatoes by hand in a bowl, then add the tomatoes and some water to thin it out to the skillet. Season with oregano and salt, and add basil as a garnish.
  2. Alfredo. A rich sauce that goes perfectly with linguini is made by combining garlic, heavy cream, butter, and Parmesan cheese in a skillet and stirring until it thickens. Flavor with salt, pepper, and white wine if you wish, or experiment by adding prawns, mushrooms, shredded bacon, et cetera.Simple-Marinara-Sauce-GI-365-10
  3. Carbonara. For a sauce with more bite, try carbonara. Sautee a chopped onion with crushed garlic and strips of prosciutto ham in olive oil. Next, add some cream and two whisked eggs, plus salt and pepper to taste. Once the mixture has thickened, add Parmesan cheese and stir in your pasta.
  4. Puttanesca. This more complicated sauce packs a powerful flavor for lovers of anchovies and capers. Start by sautéing some onions, and halfway through add some garlic and a handful of chopped anchovies. After the mixture has cooked down, add two tablespoons of tomato paste plus a can of crushed tomatoes, oregano for seasoning, and chopped olives. After letting the sauce cook down for a few minutes, add two tablespoons of capers and simmer briefly. Season with salt and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
  5. Pesto. When done properly, pesto can completely transform a pasta dish, sandwich, or salad. Better yet, no cooking is involved in its preparation—all you need is a food processor. Take three cups of fresh basil leaves and combine them with one cup of pine nuts, one cup of olive oil, a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese, and some garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then process the mixture as finely or coarsely as you want. Pesto can be added to pasta dishes of all sorts and provides an excellent zing to anything with chicken or tomatoes.

If you have the interest to go deeper into the intricate world of Italian sauces, you will find an eclectic world and sweet and savory concoctions waiting for you. To learn more, check out some more recipes straight from the source. To do that, why not take a beginner’s Italian course? If you aren’t sure of your level or would like some more information, contact us and we’ll be happy to get you on your way.

4 Medieval Towns in Italy For Game of Thrones Fans

Posted on April 27th, 2015 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you’re a religious reader or watcher of George R.R. Martin’s series Game of Thrones, then you absolutely owe yourself a tour of Italy’s countryside. First of all, here you’ll find miles of rolling hillsides, lakes and mountains, vineyards and valleys that one can very easily imagine a medieval cavalry riding across. Even more importantly, Italy’s stormy history, filled with knights errant, decadent feudal societies, warring city-states, and political intrigue, could very well have inspired the fantastic world of Westeros. Even if Italy is a modern European nation now, its countryside is full of remnants of its epic past. Relive history by visiting these five fantastical towns off the beaten track.San-Gimignano-1

  1. San Gimignano. This small city in the hills of Siena in northern Italy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as “The City of Fine Towers,” due to its collection of Romanesque and Gothic churches. Once an intermediary city on a pilgrimage route from northern Europe to Rome, San Gimignano also has historical clout in being a hotspot in the now legendary clash between the rival Renaissance families, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines; it once even hosted a visit from Dante Alighieri. Today, it’s worth the visit for its arts and culture scene, as well as its impressive skyline of medieval tower.
  2. Costiera Amalfitana. A series of communes on the Mediterranean coast, the Amalfi coast dates back to Neolithic settlements. It went through a series of sieges and lootings until it declared independence and became a key port town with a monopoly on maritime trade in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its beaches, fjords, and grottoes (not to mention perfect climate) make this an ideal town to relax and enjoy the scenery, while centuries of Arabic influence make it fascinating in terms of architecture and culture.villa adriana
  3. Assisi. Another UNESCO heritage site built on a hill, Assisi has especial claim to fame by being the birthplace of the Franciscan order, after its patron saint, St. Francis. Following a series of invasions by barbarians, the city became home to a wide variety of stunning basilicas—the Basilica of San Francesco is decorated by Biblical and allegorical frescoes by Renaissance greats, such as Giotto and Pietro Lorenzetti.
  4. Tivoli. This classical city outside of Rome really has it all: a river, waterfalls, hills covered in lush, deciduous forest, plus castles and fortresses galore. Dating back to ancient times as city constructed to be the perfect classical Greek ideal, Tivoli was an important site of political conspiracies and feuds throughout the Renaissance. In modern times, it retains its fame for its lush gardens at Villa d’Este, and for its hauntingly beautiful works of sculpture and architectural ruins at Villa Adriana.

In fact, in light of Italy’s larger than life past, a lot of which has been preserved in less-visited cities like these, history is arguably more exciting than fiction. While there may not be dragons, White Walkers, or winters that last for centuries, a visit to the Italian countryside will fill your imagination with thoughts of jousts, tournaments, and epic battles. If you want to learn more about the country that inspired centuries of art, literature, and film, send us an inquiry or look into our various Italian language courses.

Italy’s Top 8 Beaches To Check Out This Summer

Posted on April 8th, 2015 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

s-1As the summer months approach, you’re probably looking for a holiday destination that’s affordable, has great food and drink, and has unforgettable beaches. Look no further than Italy—with 7,600 miles of Mediterranean coastline, Italy offers some of the world’s most spectacular beaches at prices that won’t break your budget. Whether you’re looking for surfing, sunbathing, partying, or family-friendly fun, here are some of our top picks for catching some sun and surf in Italy.

  1. Amalfi Coast. If you’re looking for picturesque Italian countryside complete with romantic cliffs and secluded beaches, the seaside town of Amalfi is your best bet. With many of the beaches accessible only by private resorts, this is the beach experience for those seeking luxury – not for budget travelers!
  2. The Italian Riviera. More accessible to the public is the Italian Riviera at Cinque Terre, where you will find plenty of beaches, restaurants, hotels, and hikes throughout the region’s idyllic traditional villages. While this is the quintessential Italian holiday experience, keep in mind it will be packed with tourists, especially in the summer months.
  3. Viareggio. While Tuscany is famous for its wine country, its gorgeous beaches are a little more hidden away from the spotlight. However, small coastal villages such as Castiglione della Pescaia and Maremma offer white sand beaches and azure waters, plus the some great spots for scuba diving and other activities, without all the hype.
  4. Sant’Andrea. For European history buffs, a visit to the famed isle of Elba, site of Napoleon’s exile, will offer plenty by way of tours and museums. For those looking more to relax, there are plenty of beaches for sunbathing, swimming, and diving. Plus, you can rent boats.
  5. Spiaggia Sabbie Nere. If you’re looking for something a little different from the typical tourist beach, head to Sicily’s island of Vulcano. There you’ll find dramatic, black sand created by the volcanic island as well as natural hot mud baths for pampering your skin.blacksand-300x200
  6. Reserve Naturale di Vendicari. For the lover of wildlife and breathtaking geographic formations, Sicily is also home of the Natural Reserve of Vendicari, that offers untouched beaches free for the exploration. Get a tan and take a dip, and then go bird-watching, as the reserve is the habitat for hundreds of species of waterfowl, such as herons, flamingoes, and pelicans.
  7. The Tremeti Islands. For the adventurer who longs to go further from the norm, take a hydrofoil boat to the Tremeti Islands in the Adriatic Sea. There you’ll find quite a different experience: natural beaches hemmed by limestone cliffs and a jungle of wild orange and fig trees. You’ll truly feel as if you’re in paradise.
  8. Venice. It may seem like an obvious choice, and while Venice is dirty and overrun by tourists, its romantic appeal is second to none. If you’d like to lounge on a golden sandbar minutes from the lavish hotels and piazzas frequented by such historic expatriates as Lord Byron and Henry James, the “Island of Gold” is ten minutes from the city center.

While you should certainly not limit your trip to Italy to the coastline, it is worth pointing out that here you’ll find some of the finest beaches in the world. And, of course, they come with the added bonus of fresh seafood. As you count down the days to summer, why don’t you put the last of the winter months to good use by taking a look at our Italian courses. Otherwise, send us an inquiry for more information.

3 Powerful Women of Renaissance Italy

Posted on March 19th, 2015 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

With Italy’s culture of machismo and deeply engrained gender roles, it can be difficult to think of women as serving a function beyond homemaker in Italian society.  However, as with many countries, Italian history is filled with fascinating and dynamic women, you just have to dig a little deeper to find them.  Renaissance Italy, in particular, with its focus on humanism and individuality afforded women (wealthy women, at least) the ability to become educated and ambitious.  lucrezia

  1. Lucrezia Borgia. While history remembers her more for the colorful side of her reputation, mainly rumors of incest with her father, Pope Alexander VI, as well as a bout of serial poisonings, these have no historical evidence. What is known is that Lucrezia had a diverse political career, married to three different noblemen, some of whom were assassinated as they fell from the Pope’s favor. Working as a clerk in the Vatican, which was then a hotbed of lavish feasts and orgies, Lucrezia developed into a savvy businesswoman. As she matured, she became a patron of the arts, supporting various poets and artists, and put a lot of money into funding convents, hospitals, and roads in Ferrara.
  2. Caterina Sforza. Alchemist, huntress, dancer, and warrior, Caterina was widely schooled in Latin, the classics, and martial arts at the Sforza court, and she learned from an early age to be bold and imperious. Married at ten years old, she moved to the Roman court as a teenager and quickly became embCaterina_Sforzaroiled in the politics of the time. In the chaos following the death of Pope Sixtus IV, Caterina held her husband’s fortress against intruders. Following her husband’s death, she became the regent of his lands for her sons.  Her ruthless efficiency in ruling (she once ordered a swathe of mass executions and torture as revenge for her second husband’s assassination), as well as her rebellion against the forces of Cesare Borgia when he tried to annex her lands, earned her the nickname “The Tiger.”
  3. Catherine of Siena. Enduring as one of Italy’s patron saints, Catherine was a mystic and theologian of the early Renaissance, named by the Pope in 1970 as one of only four female Doctors of the Church. She began having celestial visions as a child and, following her joining the Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic, she had a prolific career of service out in the world. She became a trusted advisor of many political figures, in both secular and spiritual matters, and is said to have had a mystical marriage with Jesus, which a host of heavenly beings in attendance. The fact that she fasted stringently and is said to have gone for years without eating anything except the Eucharist wafer, may have had a hand in her visions and certainly in her death at 33.  Nevertheless, she was a driven and determined woman, whose writings influenced many and are still read to this day.

If you’re curious to find out more about these amazing women’s lives, contact us for information on Italian courses, or to ask us who our favorite female historical figure is. Alternatively, take a look at our Italian courses for yourself.

5 of Italy’s Most Popular Saints

Posted on March 4th, 2015 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

cathAs the political epicenter of the Catholic Church and with thousands of years of Christian tradition influencing the culture, Italy is a country where saints are an important part of daily life.  Unique to the Catholic sect of Christianity but serving a similar function as bodhisattvas in Buddhism, saints are people who achieved an extra-holy status during life, whether through prayers or good deeds or miracles, and seen as being able to intercede to God on our behalf .  As such, certain saints are patrons of very specific areas, and if you pray to them directly they will do their utmost to help you with your crisis.  Here are five of Italy’s most widely invoked:

  1. St. Anthony. An old favorite of little old ladies and scatterbrained people everywhere, St. Anthony was a Portuguese Franciscan friar of the 13th century, famous for preaching to the fish of the Italian countryside. His enduring popularity owes to the fact that he is the patron saint of finding lost things; plenty of Catholics worldwide will swear that praying to him is all you need to find your missing glasses, which may or may not have been on your head the whole time.
  2. St. Jude. Less widely petitioned than St. Anthony, Jude was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples who later went on to preach the Gospel across the Middle East. Due to letters he wrote urging people to persevere in difficult circumstances, he is remembered today as the patron saint of lost causes and desperate
  3. St. Catherine of Siena. Catherine of Siena came of age during an age when mysticism and stoicism were in vogue, and as a teenager she joined a convent and started seeing visions of Heaven and Hell. Prompted by disembodied voices, she began to take an interest in the political realm and wrote letters to the leaders of various Italian city-states urging them to unite.  After receiving the Stigmata and surviving an assassination attempt, she retired to a life of prayer and contemplation.  Her letters, written in the Tuscan vernacular, are still read today and she is remembered as the patron saint of fire, sexual temptation, Italy, miscarriages, among other things.
  4. St. Francis of Assisi. Born in the 12th century in Assisi, Umbria, Francis went on to found the Franciscan Order. Originally destined to become a merchant, Francis gave up his worldly pursuits and took a vow of poverty.  Wandering through the wilderness in his iconic brown robe and sandals, he was famous for being able to speak to animals and preaching sermons to flocks of birds.  He is still a great favorite of all animal lovers.
  5. Padre Pio. A more recent saint is Padre Pio, born in the late 19th century and virtually unknown outside of Italy. A capuchin friar, he was famous in the Italian countryside for performing miracles and prophesying, despite Vatican persecution.  He bore the Stigmata (crucifixion-style wounds on his hands and feet) until he died, and many people still claim to have been healed by praying to him.

Learn more about the great figures of the early Roman church by contacting us for information on Italian lessons, or check out our different courses for yourself!

5 Italian Verses To Make Your Significant Other Swoon

Posted on February 14th, 2015 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »


Dante and Beatrice meeting in Paradise

We’re always looking for ways to spice up or inject a little romance into our love life, and let’s face it, Italian is the language made for that sort of thing, being the language of opera and sonnets.  If you think you need some schooling in pretty language to woo that special someone, Italy has its fair share of great poets and lovers for you to emulate.  Here are five of their most poignant and enduring thoughts on love and relationships.

1.  L’amore che move il sole e l’altre stelle. “The love that moves the sun and other stars.” Possibly the most famous line in all of Italian poetry and considered by many to be the most beautiful line ever written, these eight words refer to the vision Dante has of Heaven at the end of his final book of the Divine Comedy, Paradiso.  While the words are technically referring to divine love, the entire work is essentially a love song to Beatrice, the girl he met twice and then obsessed over until he died, and thus fair game to be used in the romantic sense.

2.  Fui preso, et non me ne guardai, chè i bè vostr’occhi, donna, mi legaro. “I was taken, and I put up no fight, my lady, for your lovely eyes had bound me.” When it comes to unrequited love, the Renaissance poet Petrarch knows his stuff.  Like Dante, he was trapped in a courtly love (read by modern standards: creeper) situation with a married woman named Laura.  He wrote a sonnet a day for a year about his love for her, and is considered to be the father of humanism for his focus on individualism.

Italy's Great Seductor of Women

Italy’s Great Seductor of Women

3.  L’amore è un divino fanciullo che aborre la vergogna. “Love is a divine child who abhors shame.” Not surprising coming from a man whose name has come to be a synonym for “womanizer.”   However, Giacomo Casanova was also a famous writer, adventurer, and alchemist in his time, and over the course of his life came up with a wealth of witty (and surprisingly progressive) quips about life, love, and relations between men and women.

4.  Ella si va, e par che sia una cosa venuta de cielo in terra a miracol mostrare. Dante again, from his collection of love sonnets, La Vita Nuova: “She walks on, and seems to be something come from Heaven, appearing to be a miracle on earth.” If you’re looking for something of a more conventional chat-up line, this is both tasteful and classy to quote at someone in a nightclub.

5.  Non c’é amore amore più sincero di quello per il cibo. “There is no love more sincere than that for food.” Possibly the most honest and straightforward notion on love there is—especially true in Italy, where sumptuous meals are a fundamental part of their culture.

Whether you’re spending your Valentine’s Day with your partner, a new love interest, or a delicious sandwich, a few words of Italian will make it memorable.  Contact us to learn about classes we offer, or check out our course page.  Buon San Valentino!

Top 5 Venues For Great Pizza In Naples

Posted on January 1st, 2015 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

pizzaWhen it comes to pizza, Italy is the place to go for the real deal, and any aficionado will know that Naples is the place to go the best of the best.  But if you really want to sample the ideal slice from the heartland of pizza, you’re going to have to narrow down your options.  Should you find yourself in Naples with a craving for a Margherita, here are the five best restaurants to check out.

  1. Pizza Starita. Boasting a proud heritage of traditional pizza-making since 1901, and featuring in the Sofia Loren film, “L’Oro di Napoli,” stepping through the doors of Pizza Starita is like stepping back a century. Their recipe is rigorously true to the craft, baked in wood-burning brick ovens with only the finest of ingredients.  Located in the neighborhood of Materdei, Starita is so beloved by locals that they have recently opened a New York site as well.  Go here for a melt-in-your-mouth menu as well as the culture you’ll experience.
  2. Da Michele. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Da Michele is not much to look at, their menu is basic, and its no reservations policy can be inconvenient for some. But if you’re patient enough to wait out the long lines, you will be rewarded by possibly the finest Margherita and Marinara pizza you’ve ever eaten.  Family run and using all-natural ingredients, there is a reason this place is always so crowded.
  3. Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro. If you want a little more variety in your pizza experience than the previous pizzeria offers, try the Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro, a three-story restaurant with traditional as well as more imaginative options. With a menu of 29 different toppings, one of their specialties includes Italian sausage paired with a type of broccoli plant local to the Naples countryside.starita
  4. Da Ettore. For a picturesque eating experience right on the Neapolitan waterfront, this restaurant is located on the Santa Lucia boulevard, which has a reputation for being rather posh. In addition to its amazing pizza, it also provides a more diverse menu of local favorites, including a flavorsome stew of fried vegetables, the typical rice-ball dish arancini, and, of course, fresh seafood.
  5. La Notizia. If you’re looking to get away from crowds of tourists, head to La Notizia on Via Carravaggio, which is somewhat removed from the more trendy area of pizzerias. Although it’s only open for dinner, it provides a somewhat more relaxing mood as you enjoy your meal as well as a taste of genuine Naples.  Their menu is delightful as well, with classic wood-fired pizza as well as a wide range of fresh salads.

No matter what venue you visit in Naples, chances are you’ll be sampling the best pizza you’ve had in your life.  But don’t let yourself be constrained by this list—get out and explore Naples for yourself and come to your own conclusions of which pizzeria is truly the best.  Contact us for help navigating the language barrier during your travels, or take a look at some of our Italian courses.

La Befana, Zampogniari, and other Christmas Traditions in Italy

Posted on December 18th, 2014 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

presepeIt should be no surprise that Italy has thousands of years of traditions surrounding Christmas and Advent.  As the Italian culture is one that relishes its rituals and superstitions, many of its typical Christmas customs have been honed to a fine art over the years.  Perhaps you have even seen some of these adapted into your culture as well.

  1. The Presepe. The presepe, a sculptural depiction of the birth of Jesus in a stable, has been a common way of telling the story of the Nativity since nearly the beginning of Christianity. However, it was first popularized in the Mediterranean regions by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century after a pilgrimage to Bethlehem.  Typically, presepes are displayed on the 8th of December, but the manger remains empty until the 24th.
  2. St. Nicholas and Babbo Natale. Italian children are lucky, and have many different mythical figures bringing them gifts throughout the holidays. St. Nicholas, whose saint day is December 6th, brings fruits, nuts, and small toys to good children who hang up their stockings, while Babbo Natale is the more modern “Father Christmas” who brings presents on Christmas Eve.
  3. La Befana. A more unique gift-giver is La Befana, an old witch who flies around the world on her broomstick on the night before Epiphany (January 6th), leaving toys for good children and a lump of coal for naughty ones. She dates back to an old Christian legend about a woman who was invited by the Magi to pay homage to the Infant Jesus, but was too busy cleaning her house to go.  In penitence, to this day she is still searching for him with her sack of presents.Befana
  4. Panettone. As iconic to an Italian Christmas as fruitcake is to an English one, panettone is considerably more delicious, and easier on the teeth. It is a sweet, bell-shaped bread filled with candied fruits.  Originating in Milan, it is usually enjoyed with hot chocolate or amaretto, and a Christmas dessert is unthinkable without it.
  5. A Vegetarian Christmas Eve. Like many Catholic cultures, Italians don’t eat red meat on Christmas Eve, as it is a holy day by the Church’s calendar. As such, December 24th is often known as Esta dei Sette Pesci, or “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.”  Symbolically, this is thought to stand for the seven sacraments of the church, and popular dishes include cod, clams, calamari, sardines, and eel.
  6. Zampogniari. A custom peculiar to the Abruzzi region, the zampogniari are public bagpipers and flautists who represent the shepherds who visited the newborn Jesus. They are often joined by children singing traditional carols in exchange for small treats.

No matter what sort of winter holidays you observe, if you know an Italian family you’re sure to be showered with a healthy dose of festive cheer, not to mention lots and lots of delicious food.  Express your appreciation by telling them, “Buon Natale!” (Merry Christmas!) or “Buona Festa!” (Happy Holidays!)  To learn some more eloquent season’s greetings, take a look at our different Italian courses, or send us an inquiry for more information.

Your Top 6 Universities For Studying Abroad in Italy

Posted on November 29th, 2014 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Are you looking to study in a country with a strong literary, political, artistic, and historical legacy, where the weather is perfect and the food is amazing?  Head to Italy, where you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to some of the world’s most renowned universities.  As the world’s second highest destination for international students, Italy will offer you a strong social group of international students from the get-go, as well as welcoming locals.  If you’ve already decided to head to Italy for school, here are some of your best options for universities.florence

  1. University of Bologna. This one is at the top of the list simply by virtue of being the oldest university in the world, dating back to 1088. Astonishingly, it has remained one of the best schools in the world for almost a millennium, and currently ranks as one of the top 50 law schools.
  2. University of Florence. If you’re pursuing a major in any of the humanities, Florence is the city for you. The University of Florence dates back to 1321 and has a stunning natural history museum and architecture that spans centuries.  Plus, you’ll be studying in the birthplace of the Renaissance, at an institution that has boasted such lecturers as Giovanni Boccaccio of The Decameron fame.
  3. Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute. This is the university for those who dream of Florence but aren’t fluent in Italian, as Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute offers classes in English. The campus is located right in the center of the city, offering a fantastic opportunity for international students to immerse themselves in the Florentine culture.
  4. University of Rome. More commonly known as La Sapienza, or The Knowledge, the University of Rome has been ranked one of the best 200 universities of the world, and it offers more than enough to distract students from the sites of the city around it—no easy feat. It offers Masters programs entirely in English and a diversity of sports, literary, and theatrical societies for students.
  5. University of Pisa. If you’d prefer a more laid-back city where half the population is made up of students, head to Pisa. The surrounding culture is perfect for young academics, and the campus consists of a state of the art sports center and plenty of libraries for your convenience.milan
  6. University of Milan. While Milan is famous for its fashion scene—and the University of Milan, generally referred to as Statale, tends to be the default choice for textile artists and fashionistas—there is so much more to their campus life. One of Italy’s best schools, both in terms of academics and extracurricular life, the University of Milan excels especially in its Law and Humanities schools.

Whether you’re looking for a semester, a year, or a full degree, without a doubt Italy offers some of academia’s finest choices for you to advance your education.  While all of these schools will offer Italian lessons for foreigners, your best bet is to get as strong a foundation in the language before you go.  To get started, send us an inquiry or check the different levels of Italian courses we offer.

Rome’s Top 5 Most Famous Works of Art

Posted on November 17th, 2014 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

For art lovers across the world, Rome can be a sensory overload.  Located at the heartland of the Renaissance, it has some of the western world’s most stunning and legendary pieces of art, which manifest themselves as paintings, sculptures, and buildings.  The city has more art museums than anyone could visit in a year, and the enormous amounts of sites to see and galleries to look at can be overwhelming.  If you need some direction in what you absolutely have to check off your bucket list, here is some of Rome’s most famous artwork.

  1. 440px-Santa_teresa_di_bernini_03The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. A baroque masterpiece in marble sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, this is a very dramatic piece representing a mystical religious frenzy as described by the Carmelite nun, Teresa of Avila.  Melding the erotic and the spiritual, the statue depicts a swooning St. Teresa being attacked by an angel bearing a lance – considered by art historians to be Bernini’s iconic work.  Location: Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria
  2. The School of Athens. Painted in 1509 by Raphael, this fresco is a depiction of the philosophers of Classic Greece, idealizing reason and human knowledge as was in vogue at the time of its creation. The trompe l’oeil design gives the painting a sense of depth and perspective, and its collection of all the great thinkers of the ancient world makes it one of the Renaissance’s finest homages to the society it venerated.  Location: the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican
  3. La Pieta. Another sculpture by Michelangelo, this statue of the Virgin Mary holding her son’s body is considered by many to be the artist’s finest work. Not only does it have astonishing detail in the folds of the subjects’ garments down to the depiction of veins and musculature in their arms, but the sense of tenderness and sorrow is perfectly captured.  It is also unusual for the surprising youth and beauty of the Virgin Mary.  Location: St. Peter’s Basilica
  4. Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius. If you have more antiquated artistic tastes, check out the larger than life statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Over four meters tall and riding horseback, this bronze statue gives a forceful impression of the godlike status held by Roman emperors.  The original is on display in the Capitaline Museums, but you can see a contemporary replica in the Piazza del Campidoglio. Sanzio_01
  5. The Tomb of Pope Alexander VII. Less universally renowned than other Renaissance opuses, this elegant sepulcher is nevertheless a prime example of the skilled and highly lavish of the type of work commissioned in the Renaissance. Designed by Gianlorenzo Bernini, it is a metaphorical depiction of the Pope surrounded by figures depicting four virtues and Death.  Sculpted in marble, jasper, and bronze, it still serves as an especially dramatic memento mori.  Location: St. Peter’s Basilica

Whether you are an aficionado of Renaissance art or not, each of these five works is such an important addition to Rome’s cultural heritage that it would be nearly a sacrilege to miss out on them.  Prepare yourself for your trip to Rome, whatever your motives are, by checking out our various levels of Italian courses, or sending us an inquiry for more information.