An irrepressible and revolutionary genius, Hector Berlioz truly bloomed in 1830 when he won the prestigious Prix de Rome. Despite his feeling of being exiled, the year spent in Italy (when he was just 27 years old) was an enduring source of inspiration – as shown in Harold en Italie, Roméo et Juliette and Benvenuto Cellini.
In the company of Bruno Messina, we offer you a delightful Italian journey in the master’s footsteps. The marvels of the Sistine Chapel, the Palazzo Farnese and the Villa Medici will be revealed in his eyes, in a new light… In the country of Verdi, Rossini and Puccini, isn’t it wonderful to also celebrate one of the greatest French composers? And to find, in the love of art, the most beautiful principle of Franco-Italian fraternity?
Director of the Berlioz Festival, Bruno Messina is a great specialist on the composer to whom he has devoted a biography published by Actes Sud. A former lecturer in ethnomusicology at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris and lecturer in art, civilisation and music history at the CNSMD of Lyon, he is the ideal companion to make the most of this Roman trip.
Key attractions of the eternal city
A few iconic locations in Rome will hold our attention – we will strive to rediscover them from Berlioz’s perspective.
After lunch on the Piazza del Campidoglio, where we will listen to Bruno Messina with a spectacular panoramic view of the eternal city, we will first visit the sublime St. Peter’s Basilica. That is where Berlioz had his most intense artistic experience in Rome, described emphatically in his memoirs: “It’s so tall! So noble! So beautiful! So majestically calm!” That is where he liked to spend his days during the hot summers, enjoying the cool interior and religious silence.
At the Vatican, we will receive an exclusive tour of the Sistine Chapel, the marvel of marvels painted by Michelangelo, where a musical surprise awaits us.
In addition to discovering the famous Piazza Navona, together with the nearby Church of St. Louis of the French, which Berlioz mentions in his memoirs, we will also step inside the Villa Torlonia for a guided tour. Built in the early 19th century, it houses three exquisite museums today.
The “French” palaces of Rome
Two superb palaces in Rome symbolise the Franco-Italian friendship.
The Palazzo Farnese, first and foremost – a marvel of the High Renaissance and luxurious setting of the French Embassy – where we will enjoy a guided tour followed by a concert. We will dine in the Carracci dining room, famous for its monumental frescoes by brothers Annibale and Agostino Carracci, who decorated it between 1597 and 1608.
The Villa Medici houses the very famous French academy in Rome where Berlioz was one of the most prestigious residents. But the composer can describe the space he inhabited after his Prix de Rome in his own words: “The Villa Medici, in which the students and director of the French Academy live, was built in 1557 by Annibale Lippi; Michelangelo later added a wing and some ornaments; it stands on the side of the Monte Pincio that overlooks the city, from where we you can enjoy one of the finest views in the world.” A great connoisseur of the master, Bruno Messina will share with us his erudite knowledge and emotion at celebrating Berlioz in such a place. We will then have lunch in the company of the young artists currently residing in the villa.
The surroundings of Rome
On our way to Tivoli, we will stop to discover the superb Roman tomb of Cecilia Metella, where Berlioz states in his memoirs, with amusement: “it is customary to awaken the echo until you are hoarse, so as to have an excuse for moistening your throat with a coarse black wine, thick with midges, in a neighbouring tavern.”
In Tivoli, our focus will turn to the Villa d’Este. Its spectacular gardens make it one of the great masterpieces of the genre, copied multiple times in Europe since the 16th century, and fully justifies its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Not far, Saint Benedict’s Monastery in Subiaco was built on the very spot where the hermit lived as a recluse in a 6th century cave. Concert by “Pifferari” – those street musicians whose “mystical savagery” Berlioz appreciated in Rome.
Our final tour will be devoted to the small Hermitage of San Germano, built in the heart of the mountain during the first decades of the 15th century.
Double room package: 3 990 €
Supplement for single room: 230 €
The price of this trip includes: the Paris / Rome return trip in economy class • double room accommodation with breakfast for 3 nights • tourist tax • the tours and transfers mentioned in the program • all meals (beverages included) • le concert tickets • repatriation assistance.
The price of this trip does not include: extras.
A guide will accompany you on this trip.