• Walking

Art trekking in Rome: from the Diocletian’s Baths to Botero

"Wink of Rome" leads you through the beauties of the Capital, for an active holiday under banner of art. First goal the Colombian artist' exhibition at the Exhibition Palace

Veronica Piraccini

Art trekking in Rome: from the Diocletian’s Baths to Botero

Enjoy the Eternal City with an art trekking, walking with the artist through the city on foot! The navel of the world becomes more than ever present history, showing its glorious past with contemporary creativity. Just three simple golden rules: look, walk and contemplate.

The artist, with his talent, accompanies and indicates to travelers the events not to be missed and to be reached strictly on foot, important routes and healthy walks for active holiday’s lovers. The art of travelling, or the travel through art, are basic ingredients.

Our first approach to the art trekking in Rome begins with the arrival at the Termini Train Station, for those who arrive by train. We travel on foot, beginning a journey through time and space, ancient and contemporary.

First arrival "stage" is the Fernando Botero' traveling exhibition, called Via Crucis, at the Exhibition Palace in Rome from February 13th to May 1st.


The train station, designed by the architect Salvatore Bianchi, began to work in 1870 and it is a particular architecture work located in an ancient Roman territory area, as shown by the archaeological excavations of the ancient Diocletian’s Baths, built in 306 BC on the Esquiline Hill, today the district of Castro Pretorio.
In fact, out of the train station, we are in a large open area of ancient excavations where stands in front of us the nineteenth-century neo-Renaissance style National Roman Museum, which houses one of the most important collection of classical art in the world: sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, coins and works of goldsmiths about the Roman’s artistic culture evolution that you must visit it.

In a few hundred meters we arrive in a beautiful big square, it originates from the great Roman Baths’ Esedra: today’s Piazza della Repubblica. At the center stands the beautiful and sensual Naiadi fountain with huge jets of water and circular waterfall of 1901, bronze and marble by sculptor Mario Rutelli from Palermo.

Around the square there are porches, hotels and cinemas, and another absolute wonder, the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs, converted from a wing of the Roman Imperial Baths by Michelangelo Buonarroti. He had the idea to create a large Greek cross church, which was then completed in the seventeenth century by Vanvitelli: a perfect place to take a break after this first part of urban trekking and enter into ecstatic contemplation.

After the rest, we leave the Basilica and we take the famous Via Nazionale, proceeding a little downhill at a fast pace passing by clothing and footwear stores. At about half-way of Via Nazionale, on the right, we see the Basilica of San Vitale, ancient and very charming church which is reached by steep stairs, it was Rione Monti’s first century temple (reconstruction of the end of 1500). On its left stands an imposing white building, raised, with stairs and columns: it’s the Exhibition Palace, built at the end of 1900 in neoclassical style and home of art exhibitions.

Our first stage of the Roman trekking stops right here. In the Palace there is in fact a beautiful exhibition, very original, of the painter Fernando Botero, which from February 13th to May 1st draws enthusiasts on the Via Crucis theme during the Jubilee year of Mercy. An event not only for pilgrims but also for all art’s lovers.


The master Fernando Botero, internationally renowned Colombian artist, choose to return to Rome after 25 years with a traveling exhibition, donated to the Museum of Antioquia in Medellin because it was exhibited all over the world.

Among ancient iconography and modern suggestions, the evil emerges powerfully in Botero’s art - almost to contradict the obese and opulent bodies of his painting - in a very delicate subject: the violence suffered and the faith in the love word thanks to the immortal Christ, the Via Crucis’ Passion transposed in 27 large, medium and small size paintings.

In addition to these oil on canvas’ paintings, stand out about 32 sketches, drawn on graphite paper with charcoal and pastels (sometimes with watercolors too). Everything is present in a color catalog published by SilvanaEditoriale, curate by Ana Piedad Jaramillo Restrepo and texts by Conrado Uribe Pereira.

The imperious oil on canvas’ works communicate the innocence’s pain and the evil’s coldness, in a never mannerist painting faithful to itself as the Master has accustomed us. The painter is closer to the strength of the sense than to the painting draft, therefore no virtuoso distraction.

The visual impact is huge. The artist’s style emerges and evolves, as the body of Christ is more powerful than fat, even with the anatomical imperfection and the timelessness of history. The Son of God is always in the foreground, surrounded, supported or struck by expressively awkward, vulgar and grotesque people: the composition is a memorial fifteenth century painting, as in the Christ with the crown of thorns or bearing the cross by Hieronymus Bosch, as in some suggestions of more contemporary works (dramatic war bodies by George Grosz) or, on the contrary, in the stillness of the repetition of the noble concept taught by Giotto and Piero della Francesca.

Sometimes Jesus is instead supported by his mother Mary, heavyset, purple-red dressed remembering purpura, flooded with tears in certain close-ups, she has bloodshot red eyes as in the Christ with the crown of thorns by Beato Angelico.
Cruelly on the cross, the Lord's body is placed on the ground with the shiny blood gush and He has a contrary position to that of the flying crucifix by Dali, for example.

All the people painted demolish yesterday and today’s time of sequence: the past and the present are together and the different ages go in and out from history.

The entire system of the paintings, always in full light, is in total brightness. We recognize Colombian landscapes and other countries like the United States, in an updating of the city of New York in Central Park, where the crucifixion took gigantic dimensions in the sacrifice of the good, to show how today, more than ever, love is slain.

To notice that in this cycle of paintings there is often the figure of Santa Veronica, with the marked veil of the Holy Face: the sixth Station of the Via Crucis is one of the most famous icons of the true image of the living God who has always attracted artists; in the exposition the subject is repeated several times.

Finally, it is natural for us to reflect on the humanity of Fernando Botero. Even if he has a positive and joyful character, a deep faith and great generosity (as demonstrated by the considerable donations that he gives mainly for art's sake or for truth’s sake) with his Via Crucis we think that he want to communicate a feeling of resignation and sadness, as well as high spirituality that yearns for Mercy in the Jubilee year.

As if, in the figure of Christ, there is the contemporary man, without hope in the awareness to try pain and joys in his life - that certainly coexist within each of us - that reflect the deeper reality of the artist himself, who lived the painful loss of his son Pedro to which is dedicated an art hall in the Museum of the city of Medellin in Columbia.

The artist says that art is history when it takes strong positions. And so be it.