On the trail of the French in Rome

abside della chiesa di Sant'Ivo dei Bretoni

If you are looking for an original itinerary to admire the beauties of the Eternal City, the districts Campus Martius and Sant'Eustachio offer an interesting idea related to symbolic places of France. In fact, it is around this area that the main reference points of French culture gravitate, starting with three (of the five) French churches present in Rome - Holy Trinity of the Mountains, Saint Louis of the French, Saint Ivo of the Bretons – continuing to the historic French Academy, where, since the time of the Sun King, young French artists gathered in Rome to carry out their artistic apprenticeship.

There are also many established artists and French historical figures who have fallen under our fascination. And on the other hand, what other city, if not Rome, so rich in wonders, the undisputed cradle of antiquity, could have inspired characters like Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin, Nicolas-Didier Boguet And Stendhal, just to name a few.

Artists who lived in Rome and fell in love with Rome, so much so that in some cases they spent a large part of their lives there, leaving traces that are still appreciable today.

Traces that we are going to discover immediately!

French yes... but Roman by adoption!

Nicolas-Didier Boguet he should have stayed in Rome for six months, but ended up staying fifty-six years, until his death in 1839. His friend Chateaubriand defined him as the "master of French painters in Rome"; for Stendhal he was “the best student of Claude Lorrain”.

The latter, who arrived in Rome at a very young age, is considered together with Nicolas Poussin, the most famous landscape painter of the seventeenth century. TO Doria Pamphili Palace it is possible to admire one of his works, Landscape with figures dancing [www.doriapamphilj.it], created on the occasion of the wedding between Camillo Pamphilij and Olimpia Aldobrandini. Lorrain is buried in San Luigi dei Francesi, while Poussin, among whose most important works he figures The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus in St. Peter's Basilica, rests in Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.

Among the French writers literally bewitched by Italy we find Stendhal, a great connoisseur of Italian art (author, among other things, of one History of painting in Italy) and a frequent visitor to Rome, where he lived for more or less long periods, between 1811 and 1831, staying, not surprisingly, in the Sant'Eustachio, Campomarzio and Colonna districts, close to his native France.

L'Academy of France at Villa Medici

Reaching the hill of Pincio, a stone's throw from Villa Borghese, you cannot fail to visit the suggestive one Villa Medici, home of theFrench Academy, perhaps one of the most tangible testimonies of the bond that has been created over the centuries between French and Italian culture.

With the foundation of the Academy, which took place in 1666 at the behest of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Charles Le Brun and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, King Louis XIV he intended to strengthen the supremacy of the French monarchy in Europe, and to do so he decided to draw on the enormous artistic and cultural heritage of Italy and Rome in particular.

But how? Well, the sovereign decided to send some French artists to Rome every year who, following a strict discipline imposed by him, had to dedicate their stay to the creation of the greatest possible number of copies of ancient and Renaissance works of art - of which Rome she was obviously rich – to then be brought back to France to expand the royal collections of Versailles and at the same time enhance the public image of France.

Today the Academy, open to the public through guided tours, offers a rich cultural program which includes exhibitions of artists and researchers currently in residence, concerts, literary meetings and reviews of former Academy fellows, including François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Hubert Robert And Jean-Antoine Houdon.

Saint Louis of the French

In the heart of Sant'Eustachio, between Pantheon And Piazza Navona, we find the national church of the French community of Rome, Saint Louis of the French. A place that would leave you breathless just for the mere fact of hosting the pictorial cycle on Saint Matthew created by Caravaggio – The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, Saint Matthew and the angel, Vocation of Saint Matthew – kept inside the Contarelli Chapel and a fixed destination for thousands of visitors every year. Yet, San Luigi dei Francesi is much more than this.

It is a true celebration of France, of its saints, of the magnificence of the great figures who made its history, starting with the statues of Charlemagne, Saint Clotilde and Saint Louis that stand out on the facade. The church houses, among others, the tomb of Pauline de Beaumont, who spent her last days in Rome, before her death, together with her beloved René de Chateaubriand in a small house on the Pincio, near Piazza di Spagna, surrounded from an enchanting orange garden.

The well-deserved stop

Our itinerary in the footsteps of the French was fascinating, but also challenging!

It's time to enjoy the enchanting family atmosphere of Campo Marzio, with its Renaissance and Baroque buildings, its contrasting aspects, between high fashion boutiques and antique shops, its alleys dotted with delicatessen shops and restaurants.

Mandatory stop at Piazza Augusto Imperatore, Where 'Taste will welcome you to pamper you with quality food, relaxation and a priceless view of the extraordinary beauties of Rome!