Yesterday, Sunday the 19th, our fifth member finally joined us in Rome. Unfortunate for him, Tom missed a really good day at the Vatican and Piazza del Popolo.
After a morning of catching up on our normal UCG work (essays, deadlines, reviews), we decided to follow the Tiber north, up to Vatican City. With only 0,44 squared kilometres, it is one of the smallest states in the world. It is, however, home to the, in my opinion, most impressive Church in the world. You can see it from miles away, though that is not even the most impressive part. It is when you walk up to it, and see it in its entire enormity, not just size, but history as well. This is even more accentuated by the 284 pillars that surround the wide square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Because of the long lines in front of the ticket offices we did not enter, but maybe we will later this week. After having walked around the small state we returned to the other side of the Tiber, crossing over to Piazza del Popolo. It was full of tourists, and a man making soap bubbles with two sticks and a rope intrigued especially the small kids, though we loved it too.
A little after we returned to our AirBnB Tom arrived and had a very interesting story to tell. While on the plane he met a Reverend and Professor of Bioethics at the Vatican. You can imagine that this combination, Tom being a self-proclaimed atheist, caused for some interesting conversation. Tom made an impression, because the Reverend offered him a ride with his private driver to our apartment, where Tom proudly reported his adventures to us. The kind man even proposed to give us a tour around the Vatican, so we hope to enjoy that on Friday.
This morning, Monday the 20th, we left our cosy apartment and travelled the half hour by foot to the KNIR. How something Dutch could have that southern charm. (If you want to know more about the history of the KNIR, read this: http://knir.nl/nl/locatie/geschiedenis.html). The sun was shining warmly, and it made me wonder how wonderful it would be to work in such an amazing environment, but still be talking Dutch and engage in meaningful research.
We were introduced to the building, the people and their customs (silence in the libraries, professional behaviour, etc.), and afterwards we were free to do our own things until we could check into our rooms in the afternoon. We decided to split up: three of us staying at the KNIR reading up on theory, two of us exploring the public spaces we hope to be researching. Hilde and I were the latter two, optimistically setting out for an hour-long walk to Trastevere, a neighbourhood ‘on the other side of the Tiber’ (literally its meaning). It is misconceived as being a ‘untouched’ local area, though the many shops selling magnets of Roman sites told us otherwise, just as the tourist-overflowing streets. Besides this, it is a very cute neighbourhood with a relaxed atmosphere and cosy streets. We explored the neighbourhood and finally decided to sit on the main square to observe and sketch our surroundings, also known as ethnographic methods.
Five hours after we left the KNIR, we walked back along the Tiber and up the hill through Villa Borghese. We had a debriefing with each other and Margriet, discussing the events of the day, and ended our night with some pasta and risotto: how Italian!