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Ventana - An Enchanting Resort in BIg Sur

Summary: I love Ventana. I highly recommend visiting  and exploring the landscape at Lime Kiln and Andrew Molera State Park which I've blogged about here. Please note this is #notsponsored . Yes, that means we paid our own bill! Lots of details in the following review. including a Post Ranch vs Ventana comparison.  Can you tell there's something exciting beyond this beautiful gate? There's something special about Big Sur, a magic in the light, the presence of the Pacific, the cliffs, beaches, redwood forests and the murmur of the surf. It's one of my favorite places in California. I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to be to celebrate turning fifty, because it's a place where there's a sense of nature, space and light and a wide horizon. We've been to Big Sur many times and for a celebration there are two fantastic hotels vying for your attention. The exclusive, modern and very private, cliff top Post Ranch Inn and on the other side of the road the …

Palazzo Farnese and the Villa Farnesina

There are lots of beautiful Palazzi to visit in Rome and I've been doing my best to see lots of them. It was a joy to be able to visit two owned by the Farnese family the Palazzo Farnese  and the Villa Farnesina (above).


At the top of my list was visiting the Palazzo Farnese, also known as the French Embassy! It's a magnificent building (pictured on the plaza below) and the good news is that they now offer three tours a week, including one at 5pm on Wednesdays in English. You'll need to make  reservations in advance but the cost is a very reasonable five euro. It is a fascinating opportunity to see the building and even enjoy a quick look at  the garden. 
The quality of the decorations are extraordinary, as you can see above. It's a fairly short guided tour as you are restricted to the public rooms but it gives you a sense for both enormous wealth and illustrious history of the Farnese family. Viewed from from the Piazza Farnese the building facade is grand but quite austere it is much more decorative and impressive from inside the courtyard or when seen from the back,  looking out towards the Tiber. 
I highly recommend booking the tour if you are interested in architecture. Tickets are bookable here. However, they don't allow you to take any pictures on the tour of the palazzo - so you'll just have to believe me when I say that the frescoes are extraordinary, there's just such a wonderful interplay between the panels, the painted architectural elements and the sculptures. The ceiling is alive with a full cast of characters and mythic beasts.
In contrast I'm please to say that I have lots of picture of  the Villa Farnesina - which constituted the family's country palace just across the Tiber in Trastevere. Initially, Michelangelo conceived of linking these palaces and though this was not realized you can still see the initial bridge which was built over the Via Giuli, but never extended over the Tiber. As in the Palazzo Farnese, the frescoes and interiors here include multiple layers, diverse varieties of decoration and clever tromp d'oeil throughout. As you can see in the photo above, multiple decorative elements, painting styles and works were often combined in a single room.
Here, frescoes by Raphael (above) are combined with later landscape paintings on the walls (below) and a mythological   
 themed ceiling (below).
As you can see in the next room the decoration covers every inch of the room including the marble floor. 
The main walls are covered with paintings of  beautiful architectural elements such as the trompe d'oeuil niche below.
The tromp d'oeuil theme is also see in the  room below where the fabric draped on the walls seems so real you yearn to reach out and touch it.
This is known as the frieze room after the frieze that runs along the top of the wall.
Like the Palazzo Farnese, the visit to the Villa Farnesina only includes a small number of public rooms, however even the stair case is lavishly decorated with a carved coved ceiling.
Upstairs are two magnificent room, first the aptly named "Perspective Room". Here you can again see a combination of different styles and works from the marble floor to the wooden ceiling, shown in the image at the top of the post.

The decorative details are just wonderful as you can see from the photo below.
Painted architectural element predominate combining urban and country scenes.

There are scenic views out through the fictive pillars (above) and through the real windows below. I particularly like the painted shutters which are highly reminiscent of Roman wall paintings.
The second upstairs room was originally a bedchamber and is much smaller, though no less decorative. As you can see below every inch is painted or decorated, there is no beige here!
 
 The ceiling is particularly extraordinary, though it's difficult to see the painted panels.
 I can't resist sharing some of the details...
Tip: The Villa Farnesina closes at 2pm but you'll want to arrive earlier. The last entrance is at 1:40pm but this will give you a scant 20 minutes to look around so arrive earlier.
If you visit the Archeological Museum in Naples you can seem a large number of works from the Farnese collection including colossal statues from the Baths of Caracalla. The collection which passed from Rome to Naples through  Elisabetta Farnese and Philip V of Spain, whose son, Charles of Bourbon became the King of Naples in 1734.


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