Thursday, 3 March 2016

Stalking the Borgias: a walk around the Rome of the Reinassance between Legend and History

So, time for another walk in Rome dedicated to its popular personalities-- Today I'll go with you around a suggestive walk to spot the location of one of the most gossip-inducing family of the Rome of the Reinassance, the infamous Borgia's!
You can check the GoogleMap to access the spots right here.

So, we'll start our walk from the suggestive slope of the Borgias part of a manor where once lived Vannozza with her sons, Lucrezia, Giovanni and Cesare, guests of the Orsini family, their relatives (Adriana, wife of the Orsini's head, Ludovico, was a cousin of Pope Alexander VI Borgia).
The huge building was built by the Montanari family, later on it was enlarged by the Margani's, and it was acquired by the Orsini on the XV century. On 1571 the place was sold to the Cesarini's and on 1622 friar Pizzullo bought it to convert it into the Franciscan monastery servicing the close-by Church of Saint Francis of Paola.

The design of the balcony, suggestively covered in ivy, dates from the XV century, and it's said that Lord Byron loved to imagine Lucrezia looking down on him from there.
The slope is way steeper than it looks, so be careful!
It's said that Giovanni was last seen running from here to the house of one of his lovers on the day of his death. --The spot sure has an intriguing mood itself!

Once on the other side, you can check out the Basilica of Saint Peter's in Chains and take a good look at the tower of the Borgias. This was actually built by the Margani's, and later on converted into a towerbell by the friars-- So no actual scary story is connected to it. Maybe--

Proceeding on our tour we reach the Basilica di San Marco in Campidoglio, located in Venezia square.
We stop here 'cause at the entrance of the church is preserved a stone of the tomb of Vannozza once located in Santa Maria del Popolo, where she was buried together with her son Giovanni on 1518, before both tombs were desecrated and mostly destroyed during the sack of Rome of 1527; the remains of her headstone were collected and placed in here, but both corpses were lost.

This is not the last disturbing stop.
Next is the turn for a walk in the Jewish ghetto of Rome on the traces of the now disappeared Giudea square, where Giovanni was probably killed, some said by his own brother Cesare as the instigator.
The places is located on an unnamed little square placed by the streets of Santa Maria del Pianto and Portico d'Ottavia.
Some said that the actual place of the murder was by Piazza Campo de' Fiori, but all of them are rumors from the witnesses of the time-- The only sure thing was that Giovanni's corpse was found in the Tiber a few days after his disappearance.

Since we mentioned Piazza Campo de' Fiori, let's go there to find "Vicolo del Gallo 13", the old address of the Osteria della Vacca, one of the many properties of Vannozza, who used to rent them to gain rich profits.

On top of the arc, you can still spot the coat of arms of Vannozza, sporting the heraldry of her husbands.
On top-left you can recognize "The Walking Bull" of the Borgia's.

Let's keep on walking around these tiny roads 'til our next stop, the Church of Holy Mary in Monserrat of the Spaniards where we can find the tomb of the two Popes of the Borgia's family, Pope Alexander VI and his predecessor, Pope Calixtus III.


Our last stop is supposed to leave a nicer aftertaste, as we're heading towards Fiammetta square, to see the House of Fiammetta, the residence of one of Cesare's lovers, Fiammetta Michaelis:


We know about this popular courtesan and her relationship with Cesare because on her testament she called herself "the woman of the Duke of Valentinois". The coat of arms on top of the house is that of the Bennicelli's, who bought the house at the end of the XIX century and restored it at the beginning of the XX century.
As today, this is the only case in Italy of a square dedicated to a courtesan!

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