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A brush with Raphael’s Rome: Following the painter’s trail from the Vatican to the Barberini

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A break in Rome might be bad for you. The cobbled streets across the Forum and the Colosseum are waiting to show an unwary ankle and five minutes within the jostling crowd craning up at Michaelangelo’s famed ceiling within the Sistine Chapel is an actual pain within the neck.

Happily, there’s a better method to appreciate the wonders of central Rome. Michelangelo was an early sixteenth Century genius but so was his great rival Raphael, and you may follow this maestro’s trail to find a less crowded Everlasting City of Renaissance palazzi, hidden-away churches and peaceful gardens.

Start by squeezing out from the Sistine throng and up the Vatican stairs to see the frescos in its 4 Raphael Rooms. Unlike Michelangelo, Raphael painted much of his work at eye level. You won’t need a ladder to get as near extraordinary works like his The Deliverance Of St Peter.

Michael Hodges followed Raphael’s trail to find a less crowded Everlasting City of Renaissance palazzi, hidden-away churches and peaceful gardens. He began on the Vatican, which has 4 rooms decorated by the maestro. Pictured is the ceiling of considered one of the rooms 

Afterwards, go to the riverside Villa Farnesina for a glimpse of what Rome was like – if you happen to were wealthy – when Raphael and Michelangelo were battling it out. 

Set in an urban oasis of formal gardens, shaded benches and walkways, the villa was built by fabulously wealthy banker Agostino Chigi in 1510 to entertain princes and popes. 

Inside its fantastically decorated halls you’ll find Raphael’s fresco, the Triumph Of Galatea, where the attractive nereid is carried across the waves in an open shell surrounded by mythical creatures.

The Chigi family’s glory days are long gone – their villa now belongs to the state – but one other great Roman family, the Pamphilj, still own a palazzo. The Doria Pamphilj was purpose-built to indicate off their power and fantastic art collection. 

Previous visitors include Madonna and the Queen, and among the many masterpieces they admired is Raphael’s 1517 Double Portrait of two friends in conversation, turning towards the viewer as in the event that they have interrupted their conversation.

Resting place: Pictured here is the Roman-era Pantheon, where Raphael was interred. Michael says the domed temple has been a must-see for 1,900 years

Resting place: Pictured here is the Roman-era Pantheon, where Raphael was interred. Michael says the domed temple has been a must-see for 1,900 years

Masterpiece: Michael visited the 'fantastically decorated' Villa Farnesina where he saw Raphael’s Triumph Of Galatea (pictured)

Masterpiece: Michael visited the ‘fantastically decorated’ Villa Farnesina where he saw Raphael’s Triumph Of Galatea (pictured) 

How good was Raphael? Well, he was the primary artist to be interred within the Pantheon. This Roman-era domed temple has been a must-see for 1,900 years and, in comparison with, say, the Colosseum, visiting is hassle-free with no entry charge.

Later, wander along atmospheric side-streets behind the grand Piazza Navona and search out the church of Santa Maria della Pace, scene of considered one of art’s most audacious hit jobs. 

Five hundred years ago, when the Sistine chapel was half-finished, Michelangelo went away on business and Raphael sneaked in and checked out the sketches. 

You’ll be able to see the result on the precise as you go into the church. The solid of Raphael’s sublime fresco, The Five Sybils Receiving Instruction From Angels, appear to have stepped off the Sistine ceiling.

Raphael was open about his pleasures. His famous portrait of his favourite mistress, La Fornarina, hangs within the gallery of ancient art, housed in one more palazzo, the Barberini. 

Openly erotic fairly than enigmatic, just like the Mona Lisa, La Fornarina (The Baker’s Daughter) is even easier to see straight away because it is a star of the sensible once-in-a-generation Raphael show on the National Gallery in London, which runs until July 31.

If by this time you’re all out of puff, Francesco Borromini’s famed wide-stepped stairway to the Barberini Piazza is designed to ease visitors on horseback as much as the highest in a delicate spiral. 

Treasure trove: Villa Borghese (above) houses Raphael’s The Disposition Of Christ, the painting which established his genius in public in 1507

Treasure trove: Villa Borghese (above) houses sculptures by Bernini, works by Caravaggio and Raphael’s The Disposition Of Christ, the painting which established his genius in public in 1507

Raphael designed the Chigi chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo (pictured). Michael says here you can enjoy his work without having to jostle for space

Raphael designed the Chigi chapel within the church of Santa Maria del Popolo (pictured). Michael says here you may enjoy his work without having to jostle for space 

It really works on foot too. The slopes are also easy-going on the gentle hill to the Borghese Gardens. Get a Metro to Flamino and wander as much as 198 acres of landscaped woodland, lawns and fake temples. 

At its heart, you’ll find the seventeenth Century Villa Borghese, with sumptuous interiors, sculptures by Bernini, works by Caravaggio and Raphael’s The Disposition Of Christ, showing Jesus being taken from the Cross, the painting which established his genius in public in 1507.

Come back down the hill towards Piazza del Popolo, then step out of the sun into the quiet cool of Santa Maria del Popolo. You’re back with Raphael, who created the church’s Chigi chapel (yes, them again). Within the chapel’s dome, a mosaic of God The Creator, designed by Raphael, looks down on the sinners below. Gaze up and revel in. Nobody goes to jostle you.

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