Patrons have a round gold pin the size of a tie tack. I clipped mine high on my shoulder since hoodies lack lapels. It’s my Get In Free card, one the guards know at a glance.
I packed my Longchamps bag (waterbottle, sketchbook and pencil case, iPad, lip balm, change purse) and walked to Caffetteria Ruberto, a local Roman bar and my source of espresso. I chose it for proximity and its 7am opening time. I would have made the effort to go a few more blocks to the venerable Sciascia Caffè, Via Fabio Massimo, 80/A, but it doesn’t open until 8am.
I liked Caffetteria Ruberto’s vibe right away. A case filled with fresh, hot croissants, pastries, panini, and tramezzino ran the length of the bar.
Two men behind the bar got it all done; one lined up cups and saucers, pulled shots and frothed milk, the other tonged up the pastries and took money. On my second visit, the espresso boss slid my double shot cappuccino in front of me as soon as I bellied up to the bar. He seemed to know everyone’s preference. Customers streamed in and caffeine was flying out. This was the place for me.
At the museum doors at 7:58 I blew past the tour crowds, navigated security and Patron Will Call, and headed straight to the painting gallery like an art seeking missile. No one was there but the guards on their iPhones. Time to create a usable map. I numbered rooms as I went, took an establishing photo of each room with my phone, and noted works of particular interest. There were icons aplenty.Salvaged fresco fragments, like this angelic musician, playing the triangleI indicated which rooms have chairs or benches. By the time I got to the Raphael gallery, I was comfortable enough to draw an identifying thumbnail sketch (the much-copied kneeling Magdalene)
I looked a long time at this painting of Saint George slaying the dragon. The face of this St George was so specific it was nearly a portrait, not just generically heroic. I also found him beautiful. Robert in armor, amirite?Bottom right was a corpse holding his head neatly in the crook of his arm, the dragon’s Happy Meal dinner.There wasn’t much of a crush until after 11:30. They’re all stampeding toward the Sistine Chapel. Good news for me!
I saw a large work being prepared for transport. I held my breath when the workers hammered on the frame. They had half a dozen eyes on their every move; guards, white lab-coated restorers, and suit and tie supervisors. They must have cojones of bronze.
Around noon I went back to the octagon courtyard and drew this guard dog on a postcard. Cave Canem! Though the guards noticed, no one seemed to mind.
I checked out the museum of carriages. The usual gilded and carved overthetop conveyances that shriek romance to a girl raised on Disney. What was more interesting was the Pope’s white jeep (including white leather seats) from a visit to the Holy Land. Seems counterintuitive, like having a white trowel. Oh, right. He’s got one of those too. I wandered around some more, trying to understand the layout, to prepare for tomorrow. Three of the listed museums were closed for the duration, but there was still more than I can say grace over.I took lots of photos, and managed not to get caught in the Sistine Riptide.
Around 2pm, I walked 20 minutes or so to Velavevodetto ai Quiriti Piazza dei Quiriti, 4/5 for lunch. It was fancy in a stuffy, velvet banquet, white linen, arched doorways, lots of wine bottles for decor kind of way. The amatriciana was oddly flavorless, just tomato-y and pasty textured pasta. Not the place for me. Back at the apartment by 4. Fell asleep sitting up. That won’t do. I gotta turn out the light (turn off the iPad) by 10pm tonight.