Shoulder to shoulder, I jostle for position in a small crowd. I take my photo. The well meaning, do-gooder beside me with an ‘oh dear’ smile looks at me and points to the other wall, …that is the Caravaggio.
Slightly indignant I give a little nod. I want to convey I know that,… I just like this one as well,… I know what I am doing here.
Truth is, I had no idea which was which and couldn’t have recognised a Caravaggio from Adam. I know now.
The first time I went to Rome years ago, (mumble 2014), I didn’t know the significance of St Peters, the Pantheon, or even could tell the Trevi fountain from Piazza Navona.
I hadn’t done my homework. I hadn’t been interested in Italy before. I had been living my life with my head buried in health and sciences in New Zealand.
My parents knew. They had had several trips to Italy and loved it. My mother told me once Italy was the country of their soul. They have Italian country side scenes on their walls; their dog called Rocco; Italian books and maps line their bookshelves; my mother dresses in her Italian loafers and handbag and they voraciously read anything by Donna Leon.
I didn’t understand their passion and used to think their repeated trips were a terrible waste of money. I tutted about how the money might be better spent. That is as much a clear demonstration of my ignorance as not being able to recognise a Caravaggio.
I am about to go on my 4th trip to Rome. My father is dying and now I wish with all my heart he could be planning his next return too. Every cent returning to Rome is never wasted. It is for the education of our minds, hearts and soul. Ti amo Papa.