Thursday, July 02, 2009

Rome Travel Diary 3

Second full day at the SBL International Meeting in Rome and this time I had the good sense to walk through the streets from Trastevere to the Pontifical Biblical Institute with a t-shirt on and then to change when I got there. Another warm day. I seemed to meet lots of people at the conference today, old friends and colleagues, a real pleasure. The academic highlight was the afternoon session on the Bible and Visual Culture, organized by Martin O'Kane. Ian Boxall (St Stephen's House, Oxford) was up first with a wonderful presentation on "Visualising John’s Island: Patmos in Botticelli and Burgkmair", with nicely illustrated colour handout. As it happens, I ran into Ian Boxall later on just in front of the Pantheon and we managed to get a quick photo (left).

The other papers in the session were Nicoletta Bonansea (Universit√† degli Studi di Torino), "The Role of Jonah in Christian “Imaginaire” Between the Third and Fourth Centuries", Linda Sue Galate (Drew University), "Secondary Signals II: Beyond the Symbol Specific in Ante Pacem Art" and Laura Carnevale (University of Bari), "Job: Iconography and History in the Middle Ages", all also fascinating and, for me, educational. I suspect that these kinds of sessions are going to be the most richly rewarding at the meeting. Those speaking were experts in materials with which I am not familiar, and the session was friendly and fascinating. It was held in a little old fashioned wooden classroom, with the speaker sitting proud in front of a wooden-framed blackboard, like teacher, at a raised desk. I have made a strong mental note to go to more sessions like this in the future, not least because I stayed awake almost throughout, which is something of an achievement for me.

I also made it to much of the Pauline Epistles section again, where 25-30 people were squeezed into a small, claustrophobic whitewashed room, much less pleasant than the one previously mentioned. There were seven hours of Pauline epistles today, three and a half hours this morning and three and a half hours this afternoon, both with 30 minute breaks half-way. I wish I could boast that I had managed to stay awake through these sessions too (with no disrespect intended to the excellent speakers in these sessions).

In the evening, we took in the Trevi Fountain and then the Pantheon, when the evening thunderstorm began, as on each of the previous evenings. We tried to take cover under the awnings of a nice looking restaurant in Piazza Della Rotonda, but soon the rain and wind was so heavy that we had to run inside the restaurant. We had a lovely meal there and several in our party thought it the best of the week; my seafood pizza was good but not as good as I have had in Trastevere on other nights this week, and of course we paid tourist prices in the centre compared to the cheaper food in our area.

After the storm, we walked through streets from the Pantheon back towards the Trevi Fountain, taking in an ice cream at San Crispino on the way. San Crispino is the best Gelateria in Rome, so they say. I enjoyed walking through the alley-ways in this area -- lots of Italians and, I suppose, tourists eating pasta and pizza and drinking wine on the streets. A nice place for a romantic weekend away.

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