Renaissance Exhibition at the Papal Stables on the Quirinale: One hundred and seventy-one works of Italy's most famous Renaissance masters (and some not quite so famous) have been gathered from sixty Italian museums and are now on display at the former Papal Stables across from the Quirinale Palace in Rome (Museo Scuderie Papali al Quirinale -- Via XXIV Maggio 16, tel.: 06-399 675 000). If you want to see Bellini, Botticelli, Bramante, Brunelleschi, Cellini, Corregio, Da Vinci, della Robia, Donatello, Ghiberti, Ghirlandaio, Giambologna, Giorgione, Michelangelo, Perugino, Raphael, Tintoretto, Titian, Vasari, Veronese, and a host of others all in one place, this is the exhibit for you. Great artistic works of the Renaissance are grouped chronologically in ten exhibition rooms to demonstrate the development of Italian pictorial and plastic arts from the 15th through the early 17th centuries. Although many of the most famous works stayed in the home museums, these are by no means minor works: they were obviously chosen to suit the didactic vision of the selectors rather than simply to show off Italy's best known Renaissance pieces. That's not to say that there are no priceless and easily recognizable works: they were initially collected for the sumptuous exhibition of Italian Renaissance art that ran in Tokyo from March through July of 2001, an show designed to lure Japanese art lovers to Rome.

As has been the case with all the exhibitions in the Scuderie since it opened as a museum, the show is elegantly and simply mounted, well lit, and very accessible. Proximity alarms go off if you try to touch anything, but you can easily get your eyes within 18 inches of any of the works. Some paintings are in plastic climate control cases that cause unwanted reflections, but simply moving a bit to the side takes care of that. Smaller pieces are in plain vitrines that you can lean over and touch without ringing bells. A short theme-setting text in Italian and English is on the wall at the entrance of each room and each item is clearly labeled in easy to understand Italian with some English when needed.

With your ticket you get a hand-size Italian-language guidebook that includes a few additional descriptive lines for each displayed item -- more, that is, than the signs on the walls, and you also get a separate sheet with a route of how to proceed through the exhibition. The latter is especially handy because the little guidebook inexplicably labels part of room 7 as room 8. The counting of the floors in the museum is also a bit confusing: both the small guidebook and the route map show the second half of the exhibition as being on the second floor. That's only true if you count the floor where the cafeteria and offices are, above the first, as a mezzanine, but that idea is not reflected in the elevator markings -- in short, if you take the elevator up, punch the "3" button to get to the second half of the exhibition.

The exhibition catalog, with much greater detail, is available (55,000 IL) in the ground floor bookstore, but in Italian only. In addition to the well-stocked (mostly Italian language) bookstore, there is also a small gift shop in the ground floor. AudioGuides are available in the lobby, also only in Italian (8,000 IL). Rather than go through the exhibit item by item, the AudioGuide narration describes the development of renaissance art using some displayed pieces as examples and goes on at just enough length to be interesting.

The Museum opens at 10:20 AM every day (including Mondays, when most museums are closed) and stays open until 7 PM (11 PM on Friday and Saturday). The ticket costs 16,000 IL, but on September 17 all Americans were admitted free as a gesture of solidarity after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

The entire museum is now wheelchair accessible. There are two steps up into the bar at the cafeteria, but burly helpers are available if needed. Elevators run between all floors and front entry has no stairs. There are lavatories on all floors and separate rest areas with seats and benches on the two exhibition floors and in the cafeteria on the mezzanine/second floor. The cafeteria struck me as rather pricey -- 5,000 IL for a Capuchino, but it does have a good view of the Piazza Quirinale and buildings across the street.

The view of Rome from the back exit stairway, down from the third floor, is surely one of the best in Rome. The Museum is just a few hundred or so meters from the highest point in Rome, and the stairway walls are all glass. You get a full frontal view of St. Peter's across the Tiber and can see everything on the Campo Marzio. The derelict building below the window-wall has been renovated, so the view is now perfect.

Internet Links:

Rome Municipality page on the history and renovation of the Scuderie (in Italian):

An Italian Language page with a link to info on the exhibition -- scroll down to 06/07 or search the page for "scuderie":