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Searching for Caravaggio

I’ve been searching for Caravaggio for years now – all around Italy! It’s a bit like a personal treasure hunt for me.

If you don’t know who Caravaggio is, he is a famous Italian artist who lived in the 16th century. I discovered his paintings one year in Rome and there was something about his work which was way ahead of his time in terms of his use of light and shadow that fascinated me.

Also, if I am totally honest, it is the story of his life that attracted me also – who doesn’t love a real-life story of a tortured yet brilliant artist?

Caravaggio was a prolific artist from an early age and one of those people whose life revolved around their work. He was born in 1571 somewhere around Bergamo or Milan and or perhaps even the town called Caravaggio up in northern region of Italy. His parents died when he was quite young. He struggled as a poor artist in Rome in his early 20s and around the age of 24 he met a Cardinal that became a benefactor of his work and he rose to fame in artistic circles for his work.

The interesting part of his life story involves his reputation for constant fights, brawls, duels and scandals and he was reputed as having an ‘untameable temperament’. In 1606, history has it that he unintentionally killed a man called Ranuccio Tomassoni in a bar brawl in Rome over a bet.

It is said the guilt and grief from this incident plagued and tortured Caravaggio for the rest of his life. I think that trauma or grief is often reflected in the faces of the characters in his later paintings.

Caravaggio fled from Rome to Naples for a year then continued south to Malta for a couple of years until the news of his reason for fleeing from Rome caught up with him. From Malta he landed in Sicily spending time in Palermo and Siracusa, all the time hoping for a Papal pardon for the homicide of Tomassini.

He grew tired of being in Sicily waiting for a pardon for his crime and headed back north to Rome and sailed to Porto Ercole where he fell ill with Malaria and died in July 1610. What he did not know at the time of his death was that the Papal pardon he so longed for had been granted after all. How tragic!

So, every year when I come to Italy, I make it one of my travel goals to see one or two more works of Caravaggio that I have not yet seen.

This year I have seen:

The Crucifixion of Saint Peter painted in 1601 at the Basilica Santa Maria del Popolo - right on the piazza at the end of Via del Corso in heart of Rome.

Then a couple of weeks ago in Siracusa I went for a little walk for several kilometers out of Ortigia to Chiesa Santa Lucia in Siracusa. The painting is called the Burial of Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia).

Last year I saw the one in Palermo called The Nativity in Chiesa di San Lorenzo. There is an interesting story about the painting and in fact it’s not the original work but a copy. The story goes that the original painting was stolen from the church in 1969 by mafioso and wrapped up in a carpet and then somehow it was destroyed, perhaps thrown in the river.

There are actually 32 of Caravaggio’s paintings you can see in Rome alone! Some of them are in churches and absolutely free to visit others in galleries where you will pay a small entry fee. Two of my favourites in Rome are Narcissus in the Palazzo Barberini and the David and Goliath painting in Galleria Borghese.

I am still chasing down a few I have not seen and there is one in Messina that is next on the list!

So, if you are on a mission in your travels and searching for something like the best pizza in Italy or the most beautiful beach, enjoy the journey and whatever it is you are searching for, I hope you find it!

Safe travels!

Catherine x



Our company is owner operated by Nino and Catherine Santoro who both have their own successful careers involving travel and people-centered work.  Nino and Catherine love to travel and love their countries of residence, Australia and Italy.  Their travel experience and adventures over the years led to many people saying ‘Take us with you next year please!’ they did! 


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