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Roma

April 5, 2013

I’ve been in Rome a few days and am totally exhausted. If I have to walk down another cobbled street again it will be too soon.  But I’m still in love with the place.

Easter breakfast at Arte Studio Ginestrelle

Easter breakfast at Arte Studio Ginestrelle

Of course, it was sad to leave Arte Studio Ginestrelle.  We had a fantastic Easter breakfast there, with traditional cheese bread and a shot of fortified wine. I’m seriously missing the breakfasts there!  I managed to get up to the fifty thousand mark on my new novel there which I was pretty impressed with.

Last night here in Roma, I went up to Ganicolo Hill, which is just behind the hostel here in Trastevere, to watch the sun go down over the Eternal City. I took a bit of cold pizza, even though I’m sick of it, I’d bought in a Trastevere bakery, some salad, which I’ve been desperate for, and a little bottle of prosecco not only as a farewell drink but also as a little celebration as Vanity Game is released in France today.

The day before I was feeling a little depressed as last time I came here I was DSC_1382twenty one, was with my best friend, Liz, and had free interrail tickets. Eleven years later and I’m not spending my nights on the Colosseum Pub Crawl, but going out with my camera to take pictures of the sights in the dark. I went up to St. Peters and found that the Via della Concillazione is lined with drunkards and vagrants at night. I was a bit paranoid I was going to get mugged, which would have been quite embarrassing as Vatican City must be the most absurd place you could get robbed. Then I went to Piazza Navona, which eleven years earlier was scene of the end of that famous pub crawl. Last night I almost stood in a pile of vomit as I lined up my long exposure shot of Bernini’s fountain. Bernini’s fountain was the last thing on our minds back when we were twenty one. Anyway, tonight, sitting there watching all the lights come on across the city with my plastic mug full of prosecco getting some funny looks from the passing couples who’d come up there for a romantic schmooze, I thought ‘fuck it’, back when I was twenty one I wouldn’t have had the balls to do that, the sense to bring a plastic mug with me, or or have the appreciation for fine wine (well, not that it was that fine).

The Caravaggio Odyssey

Diligent readers of the blog will recall that when I came to Rome on a day trip a couple of weeks ago I mistakenly went to the wrong church in my search for Caravaggio’s The Calling of Saint Matthew. Well, I looked up the right church and went off to find it on Tuesday. It’s in the San Luigi of Francesci church, but I got there too early and found it was shut. ‘oh well’, I thought, I would continue my Caravaggio odyssey with a trip to the Palazzo Barberini. As I trekked along the Via Tritone the sky turned decidedly grey and by the time I got to Palazzi Barberini and was being told that it was, in fact, closed today, it was chucking it down. I ended up going to the Carpuchin Crypt instead, which is the weirdest fucking thing I have ever seen. First, you walk through the most boring museum in the world, which tells you how, amongs other things, how pious and holy the monks are, then you enter into the crypt, of which the thing is that a couple of hundred years ago some monk decided to dig up a load of his dead colleagues and arrange all their bones into various ‘scenes’, like the ‘chapel of the pelvic and thigh bones’ and such, plus some full skeletons dressed in monks habits. There were even lampshades fashioned out of human bones. To make things even more disturbing the whole thing was prefaced by a quote from the Marquis De Sade. Sadly, pictures were not allowed. It mad me feel a little bit sick but after I’d traipsed back to the Pantheon I’d worked up quite an appetite. I was browsing the savoury counter in Caffe Giolitti when the heavens really opened. There was a waterfall thundering off the awning of the cafe and I had to shout my order over the thunder.

When the rain eased I went back to the church of San Luigi. There were the Caravaggios over several banks of pews! I began to walk towards them, elated that I was finally in the church, when a grumpy warden came and shooed everyone out, as the church was closing for the lunch time interlude. By now, as you can imagine, I was feeling rather fed up. I wanted to go home and put Alice in Chain’s ‘Dem Bones’ on really loud, but I don’t think my hostel dorm-mates would would have appreciated it.

Caravaggio's The Calling of St Matthew, Finally!

Caravaggio’s The Calling of St Matthew, Finally!

Wednesday was better though, I got to the church and it was open and no one threw me out and I spent a wonderful few hours in the fully open Palazzio Barberini. If Galleria Borghese was sexy and a bit sleazy, Palazzo Barberini is a cool, stylish beauty. None of that gawdy pink and peach interiors here, just some subtly decorated rooms chronicling art through the ages, up to the perfection of Caravaggio and a little afterwards, when it went down hill again. It was so quiet, I had Caravaggio’s Narcissus all to myself, to bad he was too absorbed in his own reflection.

To get up to the second level a polite sign asked if you would ‘Please take Bernini’s staircase…’

What a pleasure this was, walking up those pure white marble steps, between the graceful columns in complete solitude. It was such a contrast to the rowdy scenes outside the Colosseum where I walked earlier in the day, with the hordes of tourists and the tour hawkers.

 Kitties

I went and saw a load more sights today, including the Largo Argentina, whereDSC_1426 there are a load of ruins, including the place Julius Caesar was murdered. It’s also a cat sanctuary. Those who know me will know that I find it hard to resist stroking a cat should one be unfortunate enough to cross my path, so I couldn’t resist the sign inviting my into the shelter. All the cats were so friendly and very cute. There are over two hundred and though I didn’t meet them all I managed to maul quite a few. I left with a ten euro fridge magnet (ten euros?! And I don’t even have a fridge) but had the sense not to adopt a cat.

Food

Oh, yes, this blog is supposed to be about food, right? Well, what can I saw… I’m eaten so much ice cream I don’t think I could bear anymore. I think my favourite was the chocolate one I had from Cremerie Montefortie near the Pantheon. The best pizza I’ve found is served at Pizzeria Dar Poeta on Vicolo di Bologna in Trastevere. So good, I went back twice which is probably why I’m sick of pizza too. And the coffee… well, Caffe Sant’ Eustacio likes to think it’s the best, but I wasn’t that impressed by their two euro odd ‘gran caffe’. The mini-brioche filled with cannolo-like sweet cream cheese was delicious though. For coffee, though, I preferred the bitter espresso at the unassuming but highly-rated Caffe Tazza De Ora – and it was only ninety cents.

Now it’s onto Croatia on the overnight ferry. No idea if I suffer from seasickness, I guess I will find out though.

Transport so far:

63 bus from East Dulwich to Kings Cross, Eurostar to Paris, Paris metro to Odeon, bus to Gare du Lyon, overnight train to Florence, train to Assisi, car up the winding roads to the artist residency.

4×4 back down the mountain, Assisi to Rome train, the notorious number 64 bus, number 23 bus.

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