Tuesday, 6 October 2015


We went to Italy last week. We used to own a house there and returned to some of our old haunts. For the first week we stayed in Lazio and visited the Villa Farnese, a beautiful 16thC palace constructed by a Cardinal, who later in life became Pope Paul 3. It’s a strange pentagon-shaped building on five floors, although once you are inside the five-sided form isn’t actually used; all the rooms are rectangular. Not all the rooms are open but some of the ones that are are very beautiful with still-colourful frescoes on the walls and ceilings. One room is decorated on the walls with large maps of the known world: Italy, obviously; China and what is known of Africa and North and South America. South America is actually labelled Peru. Central Asia is labelled incognito. I was quite surprised at what they did know of the world, much more than I realised. It is almost too much to take in and all incredibly well preserved. The main staircase up to the Cardinal’s private apartments is quite amazing: the two photographs don’t begin to do justice to the effect of standing there, looking up.

The gardens are famous with fountains and water-spouts and cascades, mostly still functioning.
Not the least amazing thing was that it was only e5 to get in. We also went to Villa Lante and that was only five euros and to Tarquinia to see the Etruscan tombs and that was only 5 or 6 euros entrance fee. When we went to the Alhambra in Granada last year, I think the tickets were e25 each. Really, the Italians need to get a grip; how can you properly maintain not only the Villa Farnese but all of the Italian treasures if you are only charging e5 to get in. We were there almost all day . . . a Tuesday and if there were fifty people there, I would be surprised so I am sure if they charged say ten euros, they wouldn’t get fewer visitors.

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