My love of Caravaggio should be no secret—I did have the entire history of painting to choose from and went with that—but apparently I've never shared the story of Scott's Great Caravaggio Hunt. It starts like this:
Scott and his wife were staying with friends of hers outside of Rome. Scott's Italian was laughably poor, but because he had been in Italian-speaking parts for a while, it approached passable-for-a-tourist. Still, when venturing about in Rome, he allowed his wife—who speaks it, among many other languages, fluently—to do all the talking. On the day he and had wife had dedicated to seeing the Caravaggios, their last in Rome, his wife took ill.
"Now I'll never get to see the Caravaggios!" he moaned.
"Pish-posh," she replied. "Go on your own."
"On my own?"
"You have the map. There's no reason for you to stay cooped up in this apartment with me on our last day in Rome," she replied.
She was correct. He did have a map of Rome on which he'd marked all the Italian museums and churches that contained Caravaggios. He wouldn't even have to use any Italian because everything he needed was on the map. So he packed up his backpack and had their friend drive him to the train.
"Remember, the 4:30 p.m. train from Rome is that last one that stops here," their friend told him as he exited the car. He waved and did the math: it was 9:00 a.m. now. Forty minutes on the train gets him there at 9:40. Half an hour to walk to the first museum; twenty from there to the second, and so on.
"I should be fine," he told himself as he boarded the train. "After all, I have the map."
He did not have the map.
The map was on his bed, where it had been placed to make certain it would be remembered.
"No matter," he told himself. "I was going to start with 'The Deposition of the Christ,' which is at the Vatican, and surely I can find the Vatican."
He could not find the Vatican.
After nearly an hour of wandering around with his newly purchased map, he decided to brave mockery and ask someone where the Vatican was.
The very first person he asked—a tiny, gentle-looking older lady—pointed at his head.
"No sono the Vatican," he replied.
She gestured him to the side and pointed again, so that despite her tiny stature, he would realize that she meant, not his head, but the giant building behind him, which was the Vatican. Which he and his wife had already been through. Which meant that the Caravaggio there must have been in one of the many corridors and wings then being renovated.
"Nerds!" he said to himself. He knew the next place he wanted to visit was the Church Santa Luigi dei Francesci, as it not only housed his favorite painting, but he thought he remembered how to get there.
He did not.
When he did eventually arrive at where his map said it should have been, it was only after he had spent hours tracing a pattern across the city not unlike this:
Moreover, although he had arrived at his destination, he had no clue which of the various buildings was the actual church. That's because churches in Rome look like this:
Which basically means they look like most of the other buildings. So there Scott was, standing in front of the building pictured above, when a door opens and out comes a priest. "That has to be the church!" he thought to himself. So he runs up to the priest, and in an Italian in which, after a day of constant miscommunications, he now had little confidence, said:
"Io sono cerco Santa Luigi dei Francesci." ["I am looking for Saint Louis the French."]
The priest paused, turned to Scott, and said: "I am sorry my son, he has been dead a very long time."
Scott was momentarily baffled. Did his Italian just reach some new plateau, or had that priest just responded in Eng—
"But," the priest continued, "the church dedicated to him is right here."
Victory! It may be 3:30 and he may have wasted his Day of Caravaggio not seeing any Caravaggios, but at least he'd be able to see the one he most wanted to—
"However, if you're here to see the Caravaggios, I'm sorry to tell you this, but the church is closed for repairs."
Defeat! It must have shown on his face, too, because the priest asked him what was wrong. Scott started telling his tale of futility, and as he did so, it began to rain.
"And now, to top it all off, it's raining," Scott said. The priest looked at him, then at the sky, and said:
"Come with me son, let's get out of the rain."
"But I have to get the station," Scott replied.
"I will make sure you do not miss your train."
The priest led Scott into the door from which he'd just exited. While Scott wondered whether priests really have enough pull to stop the trains from running on time, it being Rome after all, the priest directed him into this room:
Which looked, at the time, remarkably like that, only slightly darker because of the rain. It was only then that Scott realized where the priest was leading him. He started sputtering something, but the priest cut him off:
"So long as you leave a donation," he said, gesturing toward a box of some sort.
"Yes sir," Scott replied as he rooted all the change from all his pockets. With each coin he deposited in the box, a sharp metallic clank would rattle from wall to wall, around the room, as if the coin were being ferried around the church through a series of rusty pneumatic tubes. The sound pierced his ears, but it was accompanied by a flicker of footlights and there, tucked in a corner, Scott saw: