One of the many things I enjoy about travelling is the way that it forces me out of my routine and out of the ruts that I so easily slip into at home. For example, I always have my stereo tuned to CBC radio, Canada's public broadcaster. And most of the time, I listen to its news and current affairs programming, except Saturday Afternoon at the Opera (if I'm at home doing chores.) In my defence, private radio in Canada is pretty awful, mostly stations that play Top 40 music or "classic rock" programming, which essentially means all Led Zeppelin, all the time.
So, on my first day in Rome as I was fiddling with the dial on the small stereo system in my rental apartment, I paused on a station playing English-language music and, painful as this is to admit, a style of music that would be generously classified as "adult contemporary" or "easy listening." And here I've stopped. It's kind of mesmerizing. I couldn't believe my ears when I came out of the shower this morning to hear Air Supply whining, I'm All Out of Love. Holy Moly! Flashbacks to the 1970s, not an era I usually like to visit. Yet, I keep listening, wondering what the station will come up with next. At least until I hear the Bee Gees, or anything disco. That might propel me to start twisting that dial.
I listened a bit too long this morning and was late leaving the apartment for my morning tour with Context Rome -- Baroque Rome: The Age of Bernini. We were meeting on the steps of Bernini's Baroque church Sant' Andrea al Quirinale, and since I was running late, I decided to catch the #116 electric mini-bus that careens through the old centre of Rome. Man, it's a rough ride! I was bouncing around like a cork inside this tiny bus and I'm sure the maniacal driver was laughing at me as I tried to keep my balance long enough to punch my bus ticket. Lucky for him I didn't barf -- I'm still drinking too many strong espressos in rapid succession every morning, and this ride made my stomach churn.
Nausea notwithstanding, our Context Tour was great and docent Sara Magister tried very hard to help the three of us in our little group understand the roots of the Baroque movement, which was born in part as a response to Martin Luther and the Reformation. For four hours, Sara walked us around the Quirinale Hill, focusing on three major Baroque churches before finishing at the fantastic Palazzo Barberini, where she explained the incredibly dense symbolism in a handful of Baroque paintings. I hadn't understood before the roots of the Baroque movement, or just how intellectual it was, combining emotion with serious thought. A really great tour of the art and architecture of the period, which was dominated by Bernini.
But after four hours, we were all pretty tired, thirsty and chilled (those marble churches really hold the cold!) During the tour, I discovered that one of the other members of the group was Lexi, a newcomer to Slow Travel who had been posting about here solo trip to Rome, and so we made plans to get together later in the weekend. I then headed off for some pizza and a couple litres of water, and a stroll around the Quirinale-Via Veneto area. Three hours later, my feet were killing me, rain showers were just starting and I was ready to head home. After I passed the remarkably quiet Trevi Fountain, another stroke of luck. Several of the vendors who line the street between the Trevi and the Pantheon were selling Handsome Priests calendars. Praise Be! Ever sceptical, of course, I bought just one and ripped it open right away to make sure that there really WAS a Handsome Priest for every month. The calendar portion is useless, just a long, horizontal string of numbers representing the dates of the month -- but that's not the point. I must go back tomorrow and buy several more of these as gifts. My Mom just got word that she can finally move into the senior citizens' home where she wishes to live (Mom is 82 and her health has become a bit fragile) I think she'll love displaying a Handsome Priest calendar; it'll make her the most popular lady in the Manor House!
Oh no, I now hear Lionel Ritchie singing "Say You, Say Me." Time to cut the stereo and get out my Ipod......