Postcard from Rome, Italy: Cleaning out remaining museum photos

Three months ago this blog took you to MACRO, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, to view the “mortal remains” of Pink Floyd, but totally neglected to invite you into the men’s room. The long bank of illuminated wash basins offering multiple reflections of your cleanliness habits in both the men’s and women’s bagni are must-stop spots in the museum housed in a former Peroni Brewery.

Apologies. The strange introductory photo is offered as a distraction because this grouping of museums makes no sense, aside from their location outside of the main tourist grid.

As this begins with the contemporary art scene, we might as well hop over to MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts. Even were the museum devoid of art, people would make the pilgrimage to MAXXI to view the striking design of the late Iraqi-born British architect, Zaha Hadid.

Following Hadid’s 2016 death, Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times wrote:

She was not just a rock star and a designer of spectacles. She also liberated architectural geometry, giving it a whole new expressive identity. Geometry became, in her hands, a vehicle for unprecedented and eye-popping new spaces but also for emotional ambiguity. Her buildings elevated uncertainty to an art, conveyed in the odd ways one entered and moved through those buildings and in the questions her structures raised about how they were supported.

The other trio of museums belong together, as they are all located within the 33-acre park of Villa Torlonia. The property originally was a farm and vineyards owned by the Pamphilj family, whose palace we visited earlier.

At the end of the 18th century, a banker to the Vatican, Giovanni Torlonia (1755-1825), transformed the former farm into a luxurious garden-like setting for his newly acquired mansion. The elegant Casino Nobile was renowned for lavish parties thrown by the Torlonia family. The palatial residence attracted the attention of Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), who purportedly paid the princely sum of $1 per year to acquire it for his residence from 1925 to 1943.

With parties often occupying the main villa, princes in the Torlonia family needed a villa to escape the throngs. An underground passageway connected the Casino Nobile to the smaller Casino dei Principi, or House of the Princes, guarded by a stately pair of sphinxes.

The third of the Villa Torlonia Museums is the Casina delle Civette, or House of the Owls, possibly because of the owls depicted in the stained glass above the entrance. Originally designed to resemble a rustic Swiss chalet, later architectural alterations added an assemblage of small balconies and turrets, more of a petite medieval hamlet look.

The entire Villa Torlonia compound was purchased by the city of Rome in 1978, which subsequently restored numerous of its buildings and opened the grounds as a public park.

Postcard from Rome, Italy: Following Pink Floyd down the rabbit hole

He slipped on his headset and headed off through the swirling psychedelic lights. Egged on by the pied piper (“…at the Gate of Dawn”) playing in his ears, the Mister eagerly followed Alice traipsing down a rabbit hole of a time machine to his high school days.

Pink Floyd definitely was not on our minds when planning our daily agendas in Rome. In fact, if you had asked me, I could not have recalled when Pink Floyd was last on my mind.

But there we were. All comfortably fed and wined after a nice lunch. Standing at the door of MACRO, Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Roma. And there it was. The ticket counter for “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains,” fresh from its debut at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

We considered walking away. The price tag for entry to the half-century retrospective was double that for most museums in Rome. And Pink Floyd? Fifty years of Pink Floyd?

But, then again, maybe we needed a vacation break from all those churches, ancient sculpture and Renaissance art. And other tourists.

Standing in the lobby, this exhibit certainly resonated loudly as a major escape. So we paid up and donned our headsets and started wandering back to sounds not heard since much more youthful days.

Five minutes in, even I was happy we had. I never had any Pink Floyd albums of my own and was surprised to be reminded of how much of their music was playing in the background of my world during the 1970s and 1980s.

The sound system was amazing; completely absorbing you; shifting as you wandered to different points in the exhibit at your own pace; fading in and out pleasantly, not abruptly. It left you free to move back and forth at will, and the Mister and I, while never standing more than 15 feet apart, structured two entirely different agendas.

We both watched portions of concerts, but the Mister parked himself in front of guitars, amps, mixers, and soundboards, growing increasingly more complex through the years the band played. I assume he was listening to soundtracks from albums on which they were used.

On the other hand, I was drawn to the stories. Interviews about Syd Barrett’s mental illness leading to his expulsion from the band in 1968; about songwriting; about album design; about set design for concerts. All were fascinating.

We stayed in the time machine for about three hours and easily could have slowed our pace. So, quick. Hop on a plane to Rome. You have until May 20th to catch the exhibit there.

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines. Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.

“Time”/”Breathe,” Roger Waters, Dark Side of the Moon, 1973