Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


IT IS PERHAPS coincidental that my copy of Hare’s Walks in Rome was published in 1905, only five years after the premiere of Puccini’s Tosca at Rome’s Teatro Costanzi on January 14, 1900. Yesterday in Part 1, Hare introduced us to this eternal city. Today, we visit three Roman locales featured in Acts 1, 2, and 3 of Tosca’s 1800 Rome. The Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, Palacio Farnese, and Castel Sant’Angelo are touristic attractions to this day.

Castel Sant’Angelo is toward the upper left, about 1/2 mile east of St. Peter’s. The Palazzo Farnese is about 5/8 mile south of Sant’Angelo. The Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle is just across the Campo di Fiori from the Palazzo, perhaps 1/8 mile to the east. Map from Walks in Rome.

With these locales in mind, Hare begins this walk in Rome with Tosca Act 1’s Church of Sant’Andrea della Vallee.

Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle. Image by Jensens.

The Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, according to Hare, is “So called from a slight hollow, scarcely perceptible, left by a reservoir made by Agrippa [c. 63 B.C.–12 B.C.] for the public benefit.” Frescos in the church includes works of Lanfranco, Domenichino, and Calabrese. Hare warns that Domenichino’s Flagellation and Glorification of S. Andrew has “the usual group of the mother and her frightened children. This is a composition full of dramatic life and movement, but unpleasing.”

I’ll bet.

Palazzo Farnese, mid-18th-century engraving by Giuseppe Vasi.

Act 2’s Palazzo Farnese, Baron Scarpia’s residence, is “the most majestic and magnificent of all the Roman palaces,” writes Hare. “The materials were plundered partly from the Coliseum and partly from the Theatre of Marcellus, and the columns of verde antico were brought from the Baths of Zenobia near Bagni.”

To put Scarpia in perspective, he was sort of an 1800 Donald Trump, only less buffoonish.

Castel Sant’Angelo. Image from

Act 3’s Castel Sant’Angelo, according to Hare, was “built (A.D. 130) by the Emperor Hadrian when the last niche in the imperial mausoleum of Augustus had become filled by the ashes of Nerva.”

Apparently another tale for another day, Hare provides no footnote on Nerva. He does, however, explain, “It was in 590 that the event occurred which gave the building its present name. Pope Gregory the Great was leading a penitential procession to S. Peter’s, in order to offer up prayers for the staying of the great pestilence which followed the inundation of 589 when, as he was crossing the bridge, even while people were falling around him, he looked up at the mausoleum, and saw an angel in its summit sheathing a bloody sword3, while a choir of angels chanted with celestial voices the anthem, since adopted by the Church for her vesper service.”

Hare’s footnote 3 reads, “It is interesting to observe that the same vision was seen under the same circumstances in other periods of history.”

In something of a Tosca reference, Hare cites, “On the roof, from which there is a beautiful view, are many modern prisons, where prisoners used to suffer severely from the summer sun beating upon the flat roofs.”

Giovanni Battista Bugatti, papal executioner between 1796 and 1861 offering snuff to a condemned prisoner in front of Castel Sant’Angelo. Original uploader Briangotts at English Wikipedia.

Not a worry for Cavaradossi and Tosca, though: His double-cross execution and her leap took place at dawn. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: