Europe19: Passing through Rome

May 6, 2019 | 4 Comments

Here we go – the first mega-article from my big 3 month remote working trip in Europe!

On Monday, Mike Botton and I headed on an early morning flight to Rome. We had 1.5 days there before starting our prep for the Palladian Odyssey Umbria Tour.

Here is a summary of our adventures – warning it’s a long post!


The A4 portrait format moleskine sketchbook was much better to use on the plane – it was actually narrower that the tray in my A380 seat.

We arrived at the hotel at 10pm, dropped our bags and went out to get a bite to eat. We just so happened to pass my favourite Baroque building – San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane by Borromini. I had to stop and sketch even though it was after 10.30pm and I was very much sleep deprived! It was fun to have Mike with me, and that he pulled out his sketchbook as well.

Ah! it’s great to be in Rome again.


The first thing we did the next morning (after a mobile phone shop) was to visit an art store (this was Mike’s request) and then a coffee and pastry two doors down.

Here is my first spread from Rome!

We managed to wander through a local area and then a quiet park with lots of Roman Pines – I love these trees so much!

Oh look – there is the Colosseum!

We did want to sketch it, but it was not the right time of day for the best view.

So we ended up sketching the Arch of Constantine instead. Oh ah! this was fun.

Mike randomly found a great local deli to have lunch (he is such a good tour director even when he is off duty!) and then I had to have a gelato, didn’t I?

We wandered along the side of the forums , enjoying seeing more Pines of Rome.

And I did a super quick sketch while Mike was answering a call.

There is so much I could sketch here, but we didn’t really have the time. Instead we just had a little chat about classical details and we compared these ruins with the entablatures of Palladian buildings.

Note: An entablature is the horizontal band above the columns, and I believe it’s important to know a little about them so that it’s easier to draw classical architecture.

The classic view of the Forum which I will sketch next time I visit Rome.

There is just too much to see and sketch, but we did stop at the Capitoline Hill to sketch the grand buildings/space by Michaelangelo. These are very special buildings to me and I was thankful that Mike was happy to sketch here.

I initially did a quick sketch of the end of one of the side palaces showing it’s relationship with nearby buildings. I really love the random layout of this part of Rome.

(Note: On this spread you can also see a quick line drawing from lunch. I am determine to sketch during the in-between moments this trip)

Then I joined Mike for a view of the whole piazza. I placed my sketch in an awkward position on the page (still getting used to the vertical format) and so I had to do some creative page design!

Here is the final spread.

That evening, we met up with Roman Szmal – the creator of Aquarius watercolour. He was passing through Rome after a big watercolour event in Fabriano. He had his full range with him so I could test some more colours, and we had a wonderful conversation over dinner about pigments and making paint.

It was really great to meet him again and play with his paints (although we didn’t have much time). I’m very impressed with this range. More about it here.


At breakfast time, Roman gave me a copy of his colour chart and took a photo of my reaction when I opened it!

Wow! It is printed on watercolour paper and it is hand-painted – with backruns! It is truly a work of art in itself.

We were headed to the Pantheon but on the way we popped inside San Carlo (by Borromini). And hey! this little fellow, came out of hibernation for a photo!

How many of you remember Borromini Bear? This building is the inspiration for his name.

I also did a quick 2 minute sketch…

And took a few photos.

Just a little bit down the road is another centrally planned (circular/ellipse shaped) church by Borromini’s rival Bernini. No time to stop and sketch.

It was a public holiday (May Day) and there were so many people in Rome. There was a long but fast moving line to get into the Pantheon. Despite the moving line, I did a quick sketch. Sorry it is so blurry!

The interior blows me away every time I visit. More entablature chat and then we went in search of somewhere we could sit and sketch.

BTW It was really nice to visit three round buildings in a row, finishing with the original inspiration.

Piazza Navona was also very crowded (and noisy). I didn’t even bother to try and take a tourist free photo!

(Note: The day before we easily found something to sketch, but on this day it was a challenge.)

We ended up leaning against a wall sketching a flat view of St Peters (see my sketch below). It was crowded and noisy and not relaxing at all! But we still had fun.

It was then time to get ready to leave Rome.

Here is the page of the little sketches I did during the morning.

After a quick lunch it was time to pick up a car and head to Umbria. I just had to share one final photo of a pine of Rome, didn’t I?

What a great start to my big trip! And if you were wondering, I am absolutely loving the portrait format moleskine.

I have a busy two weeks teaching two Palladian Odyssey Umbria Tours coming up, but will try and post summaries when I can.

However, I am posting regularly to Instagram and doing a lot of stories which disappear after 24 hours. You can see the current ones here.




  • Emily says:

    Ah, Borromini Bear! I’m so glad to see him again!
    Your sketches are fabulous, Liz! Definitely inspiring for me as I do more travel sketching (and sketching in general!).

  • Nicki Haldane says:

    Love the Arch of Constantine! Well done Liz. Enjoy!

  • Jo says:

    Lovely and inspiring Sketches Liz. Ah! I remember this art store pretty well, I don’t recall the street name but I clearly remember what it looked like when I visited in 2017. There is a really nice Bakery/cafe a block away from this store which is very much like Brunetti in Melbourne. Have a lovely time and Safe travels.

  • Barbara Gabriel says:

    I’ve been leisurely going through your ‘architecture’ posts as I think about and sketch buildings. I am learning so much and look forward to taking your Buildings course in the new year.

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