Rome Sabbatical – Day 10

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I am a bit late getting today’s blog in (actually it is 7:30 AM in the next day, 1:30 AM EST). Quite frankly, I was too pooped last night to even think about what I needed to write down. I think my haphazard sleep patterns, stress of getting lost everyday in the city center, and trying to communicate with my southern-fried-Italian is starting to catch up! Nonetheless yesterday was a good day.

It began normal enough with a walk for my morning cappuccino and cornetto. The typical way to have a cup of coffee at these places is to stand at the bar and drink alongside the locals. Sitting at a table is for tourists, school children and the elderly. Still, I feel a bit out of place standing at the bar sipping and eating and trying not to look conspicuous.

Afterwards I did a bit of shopping at one of the many fresh produce stands all around and bought a few essentials for the day and week, including more of that delicious asparagus and wonderful strawberries (they are red all the way through).

Back in the apartment I sat down and read and wrote for most of the morning. Amy commenced on various household chores that she knows I either loathe or will ignore. Soon Clark was up and he commenced to fixing his own breakfast of fresh eggs, prosciutto and espresso. He is fitting in nicely. Aaron, by and large, misses breakfast because he would rather sleep.

The family decided they would not join me for the day’s itinerary – visiting the historic (which is a redundant word in Rome) National Gallery of Modern Art). This was just fine with me since it was going to involve a lot of walking to a museum that would not be on the top of their taste list.

Since bus times and travel times can very wildly (think the worst of Atlanta traffic, but all the time) I left a bit earlier than necessary but arrived with time to spare. I meandered through Campo de Fiori pizza which daily hosts a colorful outdoor market selling fruits, vegetables, olive oil and olives, cheeses and meats, fish, flowers and racks of what looked to be rather cheap clothing. Since it was about lunch time I bought some pecorino sheep’s milk cheese and two cookies sprinkled with pine nuts.

At 12:45 precisely I met up with the class and all of the ASU faculty. In addition to Dr. Michael Schwartz who is teaching the art and architecture portion of the study abroad, there is Dr. Clay Shotwell, a musicologist, and Dr. Karen Aubrey, a humanities professor. Dr. Aubrey brought along her husband Phil, whose father emigrated from Italy in the 1930s. It has been a treat not only getting to know these students, but the other faculty as well.

We walked for about an hour and a half to get to the Museum and when we arrived a sign on the entrance door greeted us. It read, and here I will simply summarize, closed for a staff meeting; will reopen at 3pm. It was 2 pm and there was really nothing to do but sit on the steps and wait, which turned out to be a pleasant time of resting and catching up with one another.

Once inside the museum Michael stressed, repeatedly, that the “National Gallery of Modern Art was a world class museum which parallels the Museum of Modern Art in New York.” He wasn’t exaggerated – this was some place! Even if you think you are one of those who doesn’t like or get modern art (like Amy and Aaron), you cannot help but appreciate its collection of Cezanne’, Van Gogh, Degas and Monet. There were many more great names: Gustav, Klimt, Mondrian, Coubert, Chrico, Duchamp, Miro and Klein – just to name a few. I was also introduced to some less familiar artists that I walked away appreciating including Birsilli (who reminded me of Gaugin), Bargellini, Klein and Fontana. Michael’s explanations on the works of the latter two were most helpful.

While some of the art could have been categorized as “sacred” in some broad sense, many were essentially exhibition pieces, art becoming its own sphere. On some level, however, if an artist is inspired (which in the Greek usage it implies “God-breathed”) cannot it not also be sacred? I guess it depends on whether or not the response is inspiring. I found many such paintings and a few sculptures that day inspiring.

On the way back home Michael reminded me that I had not yet seen the Caravaggios in Santa Maria del Popolo, so just as it was starting to rain we darted in this church and made our way to one of its chapels. One painting depicted the crucifixion of Peter and the other – on the opposing wall – was a painting of the conversion of Paul (in spite of the title which uses the name “Paul”, “Saul” was not called Paul until after his conversion; the first occurrence is in Acts 13:9). Both are powerful and illuminating works and I will not belittle them with feeble attempts of description. I was, however, mulling out loud to Michael why did Caravaggio choose seemingly two disparate stories (one non-Biblical and the other Biblical) to use in this chapel. Michael shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know; maybe it is because both were dying to something.” Exactly! Now I am wondering who actually went to theology school.

By the time we left the church the drizzle had turned into a steady pour and I was thankful that Amy reminded me to pack my rain coat, which has been a trusted item on many backpacking hikes. On my long walk back to the bus stop my upper half remained dry and warm but from the waist down I was soaked. Around 7:15 PM I stumbled back into the apartment and was greeted by my beautiful family with supper waiting. Amy prepared not only the asparagus I bought that morning, but made a nice fettuccini dish with garlic, pancetta, and a dash of red pepper and parmesan.

After supper and my cerebral energies were fairly well depleted so we all watched the movie “The Anchorman” on my laptop! It was a good day all day.

Thank you for blessing me with such days. Peace be with you,