Yesterday afternoon we were in the National Gallery of Umbria with works by the famous Umbrian artists, most notably the Renaissance master known as Perugino (his real name was Pietro Vannucci (for whom the Corso Vannucci is named), Piero della Francesca, Caporali and Pinturicchio. This is mainly medieval and Renaissance religious art � crucifixes and altar pieces etc. There were also a few pieces by Luca Signorella worth seeing. After a while your eyes sort of glaze over on this theme but the museum itself is worth seeing, especially the terrific way the Italians have of taking these wonderful ancient buildings and showing off the space and the art in modern ways that complement both. Crucifixes painted on crumbling wood are held in place by metal forms that outline the art and almost disappear. Artifacts are held aloft in this cavernous space and the effect is quite stunning. Some of the walls of the museum still hold frescoes that are partly deteriorating. The vaulted ceilings are made of this pinkish brick and are incredible against the pristine white walls and the often faded and still brilliant colors of the art.
We had only made it through about half of the museum by around 6pm (the museum is open from 9am until 7:30pm) when we heard bells pealing. On our phone we get these instant news messages from Reuters, which indicated that a new pope had been elected (remember the phone is Italian and while all the functions etc are in English, these text messages come through in Italian!) But it was clear to us that something was happening and so we left the museum to see if we could find out what was going on. The entire city vibrated with the sound of bells. It felt as if every campanile (bell tower) was chiming at the same time and it was amazing. We tried to call our family on the cell phone but couldn't reach anyone and decided to sit on the steps of the Cathedral to just listen and watch. It was quite surreal. The sky was turning stormy and huge black clouds circled and swirled with the sun peaking out and streaming down every now and then with the sound of the bells pounding and people everywhere on their cell phones and mostly just
wandering around. For some reason there was a large open area in front of the church and 3 dogs were chasing each other around and around a large Irish setter leading the pack, looking back to see if the other two were following and still the bells went on chiming and chiming.
The bells rang for a full 30 minutes and by then the weather was becoming very threatening but we didn't want to just go home. We walked around to an Irish bar called Shamrock near our apartment, down a tiny side street, in a dark little nook owned by an Irish woman named Marty to see if we could catch some of the goings on on her satellite TV (it broadcasts in English). And sure enough she had the TV on and a few others straggled in to watch with us and we saw the new pope introduced to the world, Pope Benedict XVI, broadcast live in front of us in an Irish bar, drinking Guiness in an Italian city!
The skies opened up and poured down as we made our way home complete with hail, thunder and lightening. Someone upstairs was expressing an opinion one way or another. The reporter on the news said that the new pope would be called PapaRazzi (Papa is what the Italians call the Pope and Razzi for Ratzenburger) (ha-ha). No one in the bar laughed, except me.
Today the sun is streaming through my kitchen window and we are trying to decide what we will do. I hope you are having a great day, wherever you are.
Rosemary & Bob