It was, indeed, the day to see the Pope’s mass. Myles had heard about this from two people on the train from Milan to Venice; and had read about it in the Lonely Planet guide. On the basis of such deep, rich, structured information, we set off. But first, a quick lap around the market in Campo dei Fiori for dinner. (Something I have failed to mention of yesterday was that we went clothes shopping after dinner and bought some clothes for most of us. We were all wearing our new clothes. For some of us, they were the only clean clothes left.) Paris has fallen in love with eggplant and artichokes. So we stocked up on both, plus some zucchinis and capsicums and good ham from the deli, bread and so on. He was already planning the meal. We dropped our supplies off, and set off again for the Vatican.
Yes, things went wrong. Myles had assumed that the Pope gave the mass in St Peter’s Square and none of the rest of us was interested enough in researching further. It turned out that we needed to acquire tickets to this said mass, and then go through a mystical bronze door (this was all learned later) to attend. As it was, we hung around the square for half an hour, with Myles saying; ‘Gee, it’s pretty empty; do you think he will bother?’, and the only real highlight was, as the bells struck eleven, the police in a golf cart did a lap of the square. ‘How do you get THAT job?’ Paris asked (but not of them …). We finally gave up. Myles was really disappointed. The rest of us were secretly pleased. None of us really wanted to sit through a mass. Zelda and Niccolo didn’t even know what a mass was.
We returned to the apartment to regroup. Then we set out for a few sights and some more shopping. We went first down the Via Governo Vecchio which is supposed to be a kind of cool place to walk (which it was) and then to Piazza Navona. Great sunny skies met us here, and we enjoyed walking around. The people running the local restaurants were charming and there was a performance artist pretending to be the invisible man (Niccolo liked this very much, but told me later he could see the strings …). We went from there to the Pantheon. This is two thousand years old and stands as tall and straight as any building anywhere. There is a huge hole in the room for light (and signs around the building with headings in Italian: ‘But what happens when it rains …’). Here, Raphael is buried. According to the signs, he was bought to the Pantheon as soon as he died, but was exhumed later to verify he was really there, and then reburied. It seemed a sort of overkill (perhaps literally) to me. Umberto and Victorio Emmanuel are also buried here. It is a strange place, now a church, but never built for that; indeed built before Christianity had any kind of hold on Rome. It is split space with a split history; and has an odd energy for that reason. That, and the fact that it is circular. A circular church … I’m sure that is a metaphor worth playing with at some point.
Then we were off to Via del Corso. From spirituality to commerce in a few short steps. But Zelda needed pants badly, and she had not fared well in the shopping trip of the night before. So we found ourselves buying black trousers, and then a series of jumpers and pants for Myles, some tee shirts and cardigans for me, tops for Niccolo and a belt for Paris. And hour or so later and we couldn’t find our way home fast enough. Shopping is very, very bad for the soul. We went via the Piazza Venezia and the huge white palazzo that dominate the place, then back down to Largo Argentina and the sacred remains that casually inhabit this huge space, and back up to Largo dei Librari which is what we call home. We had a date to meet our host at five; she was coming in to help us with some problems; and Paris was keen to get cooking. Our host turned out to be charming and we had tea with her while Paris and Zelda began cooking; he peeled and prepared the artichoke (full marks) and the mushrooms, she cut the eggplant and the capsicums and began cooking them. After the host left (the owner turned up too at some point), it was all stations go. Paris decided to wing the artichokes and cooked them in oil with garlic, thyme and salt (and good they were too), we breadcrumbed the eggplant and fried them, mushrooms in oil, butter and garlic, capsicums slow cooked in oil, tuna from a can, some slices of chicken also bread crumbed and fried, bread from the morning market. Niccolo is toying with vegetarianism, so he was forced to try all these dishes and quite liked them. Zelda was a big fan of the eggplant (my work here is done), and the rest of the dishes we were fighting over for the last bits. Good food: is there nothing it can’t do?
Cards, ‘A Night at the Museum’ on the TV in Italian. Falling asleep with the kids all in bed with me. Happy days.