Quirinal Stables -- New Exhibition Space: The Stables stand on the peak of the Quirinale hill, directly across Piazza Quirinale from the main entrance to the Quirinal Palace, and were built by Baroque architect Alessandro Specchi for Pope Innocent XIII Conti. They once housed over one hundred and twenty horses on two levels for the Pope and his guests. The completely renovated building, which had been closed and semi-abandoned for years, opened to the public on December 15 with an exhibition of 100 impressionist masterpieces from St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum. The exhibition is scheduled to remain through June.

The exhibition spaces are well lit: white walls, indirect lighting, minimal glare and reflections. Easy-to-use CD players, with comfortable earphones, are available to guide you through the exhibition in several languages (I.L. 7000). There are strategically placed sitting rooms/rest areas, but no chairs in the picture galleries. The bathrooms on each floor are spotless. The first floor bookstore is well stocked with books, cards, t-shirts, and the other usual "Museum Store" things, including a large variety of items specific to the current exhibition. There is a nice small café between the first and second floor with a view over the Piazza Quirinale -- it would be a good place from which to view the Sunday afternoon military band concerts (4 PM every Sunday) on the Piazza. The building is semi-accessible to wheelchairs -- one of those long, winding, stepped ramps designed for horses between the ground and first floors (two strong helpers needed for the chair-bound person) and an elevator between the first and second floor galleries.

The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to admire modern masterpieces including Mattise's Dance, Monet's Woman in a Garden, Cèzanne's The Smoker, and Picasso's The Absinthe Drinker, as well as Gauigin's Polynesian landscapes, Pissarro's Parisian Scenes, and Rousseau's tropical jungles. "From Monet to Léger, visitors will be able to trace the entire evolution of painting from 1870 to 1920, a period crucial to the birth of modern art."

The biggest crowd at the museum was on the top floor of the back exit stairway, where a glass wall offers a spectacular view over Rome toward St. Peter's dome.

Every day: 10am-7pm; Wed-Fri-Sat; 10am-11pm

Tickets: 12.000 - 15.000 L.