There we understood the problem. This is Culture Week and many museums offer free entry. So 10,000 people have booked to go into the Villa Borghese instead of the normal 2,000 (so the staff on the ticket desk told us) and no tickets can be booked for another seven days.
Disappointed but not despairing, we photographed the statuary outside in the villa gardens - the great caryatids in Assyrian style, the grotesques around the water-features, and the pigeons paddling in them - and set off across the park towards the Museum of Modern Art. We met with many diversions, including a huge equestrian statue of Umberto I flanked by a sad cloaked lady, panels depicting cavalry battles and two enormous scowling gorgon-like female heads at the base. Then we found the Fontana dei Cavalli Marini - spirited mer-horses leaping out from under an overflowing bowl of torrential water.
A little further on we saw the Museum di Pietro Canonica, the villa which this sculptor was given in 1927 to work in until his death aged 90, in 1959. It first attracted us by its lovely little courtyard garden, full of orange trees and wisteria. Inside, the work was very good, especially the busts of women and children and the large panels in relief, where parts of the compositions emerged into full three dimensions, in the manner of renaissance sculptors like Donatello. Canonica's studio was on view, with some of his paintings. Many pieces on show are plaster models of commissions in bronze or marble. It was a beautiful exhibition. The occasion was further improved when we began talking to two ladies from Canada who were waiting for a guided tour (in Italian) - Chantal, who is herself an artist, and her friend Lina.
On we went, meeting as travelling companions a Russian couple who were also aiming to find the Gallery of Modern Art. We had to leave the park and cross the road, opposite an unexpected exhibit of railway trains - a modern streamlined engine and a classic steam engine.
The Modern Art collection improved as we climbed to the higher levels. The special exhibition was of Burne Jones and Rossetti and we skipped that, having seen most of the exhibits before, in London. The most interesting work was on the upper floors - the Futurists are well represented by Balla and Boccioni, and there are excellent works by de Chirico and a lot of Guttusi (whose work I didn't know before). A Klimt caught our attention, too, for we have seen little original work by him in Britain. The more modern Italian artists - Burro, for exmple - are also well represented
We caught another bus back, a number 3 which took us a very long way round to the Colosseum, so we saw a lot of Rome outside the city wall that runs round the historic centre. Donall had used up all his digital memory card before we got home - Rome is a very visual city.