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Monday, 28 June 2010


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Karl Steel

HURRAH! Great story. The wife and I depart for Italy on Wednesday, and, inter alia places, we'll spend a week in Rome. I hope my adventures end so well. Noi anche non siamo the Vatican, so far as we know.


Scott, I've gotten to used to your stories and was looking and waiting for that one final turn of absurdity and despair. I thought I'd found it when you wrote that you threw all of your change in as a donation. All of it! There it is, I thought. He's going to get back to the train on time, rushing and huffing, but be out of change and by the time he gets change, train is gone.

But, I'm happy to be wrong.


I was recently in Rome for one day. I had asked around for tips on what One Thing I should try to see, since clearly one cannot see Rome in one day, and someone had suggested visiting the Caravaggio exhibit that's going on now. He pointed out that all the marble men will be there when I eventually return to Rome, but that one won't have the chance to see all those paintings collected together again. He told me the name of the museum.

I forgot the name of the museum. I saw signs hanging on streetlights advertising the exhibit, but I was on my way to look at just a few marble men, and didn't make the necessary mental note. I walked a route much like the one you have above and eventually found myself in the park surrounding the Galleria Borghese. I stopped in one of the museums there to ask if they knew what museum I was looking for. They didn't (strangely), but directed me to the Galleria Borghese. But of course I hadn't reserved a ticket.

I kept wandering through the lovely park. As it did for you, it started to rain. Sheltering under a small marble rotunda, I met a Belgian woman who was on her way to see paintings by Caravaggio. What luck! We set out together in the rain, pausing for a coffee and shelter, and made our way to the Galleria. The rain had driven away the crowds, so we got in. Sadly most of the Caravaggio's were removed for the exhibit elsewhere, but the sculptures by Bernini made up for the lack.

Afterwards she persuaded me to come see the museum showing Canonica's sculptures. That museum also preserves his workshop and apartment, and my companion had a great time getting stories out of the docent.

Full of art and a little lost, we stopped at the contemporary art museum to wait out another bit of rain. She bought me another coffee, and as we watched a complete downpour, she told me that she had been grateful for the company, because her son had died only a month earlier. She showed me his picture and the program from the funeral and said that having someone to talk about art with had made it easier to face all those Christs crowned with thorns. We talked for a while about things big and small, watched the rain pour down, and thought about the soldiers who had been lining up for a parade in the park and were now probably soaked. I thanked her for the coffee and confidences and we parted ways.

I am glad to read your story, and I hope mine is welcome. It seems a quest for Caravaggio will run roundabout, yet it will get somewhere worthwhile in the end.


Emily, thanks so much for that story. I love encounters like that -- it's what I end up feeling deepest about when I travel, the passing encounters with people. You open up more because you know you won't see the person again. I'm setting off for some travels alone in a few short months and this reminded me of something else to look forward to in it all.

Karl Steel

Lovely stuff, Emily.


What a great story! I'll look it up again if I ever make it to Rome - someday soon I hope! - since I'll be hunting for Caravaggio too.
– win a copy of Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose at

Bourgeois Nerd

In one of The Little Professor's novels, this incident would have led to your immediate conversion to the Roman Catholic Church and your dedication to the nearest monastery. Then you'd die from the pneumonia brought on by the rain, wherein you'd die (after an appropriate exhortation to your friends and family to find the One True Church) with a smile on your face, assured of holy eternity.

The Necromancer

This is a great story. The sight of these hidden Caravaggios in 2003 was a highlight of my lengthy Roman tour, and I sometimes thought to transcribe my travelogue from this experience, but this story is a billion times better. It makes me wonder of Baroque beat.

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