Sunday, August 1, 2010

Rest day

Sorry this post is a bit later than usual - turns out this new hostel is a fun one, and what started with cooking dinner in the kitchen became hours and hours of talking, laughing, and a crazy card game. I'm going to try not to throw my schedule off too much the next few days, and I'll get my posts finished earlier.

Yesterday I decided to take a rest day. I had been planning on doing this even while Charlie was here, because I've noticed that the pain in my knees, ankles and feet is just not going away by morning, and I wanted to give my joints a chance to relax. Then Charlie left, and it took more out of me than I expected. It took me forever to pack up my things at the hotel yesterday morning, and I found myself walking very slowly. But enough of that.

My new hostel is only a few blocks from the Vatican, so I started my day of rest by looking at my guidebook under Bernini's colonnade in the Piazza San Pietro, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places. While I was sitting there, I suddenly heard Pope Benedict's voice, so I rushed into the piazza, and saw him, after a fashion:

He was giving his Sunday morning audience in a nearby enclosed courtyard, and they piped the feed into the piazza for everyone to see. He started with a short sermon (I think), which was in Italian, so I didn't understand any of it, then led the crowd in his courtyard in several Hail Marys in Latin, then addressed different groups in the crowd in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Italian. It was really neat to see - the guy has some real moxie, and he knows how to work a crowd. Our video feed had some crowd reaction shots, and it was interesting to see how the people reacted to him - part religious experience, part Elvis or Brad Pitt or something. The whole experience was pretty cool, and I'm glad I got to see him a bit, because I've been thinking about him a lot.

After the audience was over, I stopped for lunch:

Pizza and beer for 8 Euros isn't such a bad price, and it was a pretty good pizza. I'm really enjoying the outdoor seating in restaurants.

After lunch, I went off in search of some quiet place where I could start reading The Marble Faun. I found a spot in the park next to the Castel Sant'Angelo. Here I am enjoying my bench in the shade:

It was really interesting to read The Marble Faun again. I tried reading it a few years ago, but stopped about halfway through because the story is kind of slow-moving, but this time I think I may actually be able to finish it. I don't remember whether I've talked about this before, but The Marble Faun is Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel about four young people in Rome, at least two of them Americans, and three of them artists, and some of the characters are loosely based on American expatriate artists that Hawthorne met on his travels to Rome in the mid-nineteenth century. For instance, there is a sculptor, Kenyon, who is based on William Wetmore Story, and a description of Story's Cleopatra figures into the text. When the book came out, it was valued as a travelogue as much as a novel, and lots of people carried it, made notations in it, and scrapbooked it on their Grand Tour travels. So I'm reading it now, and it's fun to see what has and hasn't changed.

One of my favorite lines early on concerned the cobblestone streets, which Hawthorne describes as "those little, square, uncomfortable paving-stones, that make it a penitential pilgrimage to walk in Rome." Well put! I'm glad I'm not the only one who has problems with them. I wonder what kind of shoes Hawthorne was wearing when he walked around Rome.

But anyway, Hawthorne's take on sculpture is fascinating. His writing on Cleopatra is often mentioned, but there's also a long passage about sculptural methods and assistant carvers that should be required reading for anyone planning on studying nineteenth-century sculpture. So I'm glad I know about that.

Here's one last shot of the Castel Sant'Angelo:

And I'm off to start my day! I'll be exploring churches in Trastevere today, including the Tempietto.

1 comment:

  1. Painful knees, ankles and feet plus heavy heart and backpack, oh my. No wonder it took some time to get to your hostel. I must say that its proximity to the Piazza San Pietro is a neat reward though. Glad you got to hear and see the live feed of Pope Benedict. Hope it's in person the next time.
    Tasty looking lunch and a great looking Sarah!
    Add me to the list of cobblestone sufferers. I associate them with Philly.
    You have me interested in "The Marble Faun" now. What a great place to be reading it.
    Eagerly waiting for your post on the churches of Trastevere.