On Monday, we mailed a package from the Vatican Post Office in Rome. I got out of the car this time, and was distressed to see the marvelous piazza of St Peters chock full of chairs and barriers. It is one of those incredible spaces that depends on its pavement to be open or peopled, not looking like cattle pens. I have a book with an etching by Piranesi (1700s) of this very site, and he has people scattered throughout, and it is just right.
We went back on Saturday to have lunch with Artnotes friends from Cleveland. We walked across the plaza this time, and it bothered me less. In fact, the avocado wood barriers didn’t bother me much at all, but those black chairs (I would estimate 750 or so) were still a distraction. This time I could see other things. I could see the triple rows of columns, with the light bouncing off, filtering through, casting shadows.
Three nuns in mouse grey and cream habits were perched on a column base, eating a “to go” lunch. One, maybe a little older than me (or was it just the wire-rimmed glasses?), was hanging out over the sidewalk, try to avoid a drip on her wimple. There was a certain charm to it. This day, I saw many nuns and priests, the latter wearing their “Roman” collars, many quite young with earnest expressions.
We were early for meeting our friends, so we wandered around the Vatican neighborhood. There is almost a visible line where the souvenir shops end (12 rosaries for 10 euros), and neighborhoods begin. We stopped at an antique store at the very cusp and bought an item I’ve been seeking for some time- it will be a Christmas present.
We found our restaurant, which was in the souvenir district, and it was quite nice. It was small, the owner was a young-ish woman. She recommended I try the beef, which was prepared in a modern way. Everyone else had pasta, which they all seemed happy with. The restaurant had a back room, where people with children sat and ate while the kids tried to catch their fingers in the sliding door. It was marvelously normal, and we got to know and really like the friends who treated us.
Our friends took pictures of the food, and of us altogether. We hugged and hoped to meet again.
Walking away, Blair and I passed a bench with three refugees sitting on it. One was sneezing madly, to the point I finally exclaimed, “Salute!” The three, formerly invisible, looked up and smiled wildly at the acknowledgement.
Ps. painting side-by-side at Santa Severa