Today was the big day for the opening reception of my art exhibition in Italy! We planned to arrive at the gallery around 5pm, leaving at 3:30pm, so that we had some time in the morning to see some of the sights in Rome. We started the day with breakfast up on the rooftop in the cool of the morning. Then my father and I aimed to get to Vatican City early, around 8:30am so that we could get our Omni/Roma Passes and get ahead of the lines.
We took a taxi there, and then we looked for the store where we could pick up our Omni/Roma Passes. The last time I looked for this place it took 3 hours of getting lost with wrong directions so this time I knew the correct general area to look for the shop. We stood in a short line to wait for it to open at 9am, checked in with the tour group, and headed with the group immediately to the Vatican Museum, where the Sistine Chapel is located. We were able to avoid the long, long lines since we had the special pass and group entrance.
We made a beeline to the Sistine Chapel, following signs for Sistina Cappella. Even though we skipped the longest of lines, there were still a good amount of people in the museum. So my father and I went as fast as we were able to, given the fact that we had to just get shepherded through by the museum guides, along with the other tourist sheep. We passed many a Roman marble sculpture, many portraits of a popes or cardinals. We went up stairs and then down stairs and then up and down stairs again in order to get to the Sistine Chapel. Once we entered, the room opened up with the really high ceilings, and we could take in the grandiosity of Michelangelo’s painstakingly detailed creations on every wall and ceiling surface, even curtains that looked transparent!
It was interesting for this to be my second visit to the Sistine Chapel within 6 months. While the paintings on the walls and ceilings were the same, the crowds of people were a bit thicker and more crowded this time around. We were herded towards the middle of the room by a waving security official, like a parking attendant at a music festival directing us to which patch of grass upon which to park our vehicle. Speaking of parking, this time there were no open bench spots upon which to park ourselves to sit and rest to take in the artwork, only standing in the middle. All the while the security and museum administrators kept periodically yelling “Silencio!” Aand “No photo! No photo!” This time around seeing the Sistine Chapel was also nice because then I could see how my father reacted to seeing it all for the first time, asking questions and noting his own observations about it.
Once it became a bit too crowded for us, we left out the exit towards the Basilica of Saint Peter the Apostle. We had to negotiate the strange configuration of entrances and group entrances but we eventually located it. We walked counterclockwise around the outer small mini-altar areas of the Basillica until we came to the very large sculpture of the altar of St. Peter.
This time around I noticed the swirly, twisted texture of the columns, steady but not boring. Also a first time for my second visit to the Basillica, my dad and I followed a line of people that looked like they were descending some narrow winding stairs directly adjacent to one of the many saintly statues. As we went down the stairs we realized that we were entered the papal grottos, an underground network of vaults that housed the remains and memorial statutes and sculptures of popes and royals. It was nice and cool down in the grottos, and there were a lot of statues of sleeping men.
After we returned upstairs from the grottos, we continued on with walking around the basilica, snapping photos and taking photos of many of the things we saw. After the basilica, we walked for a little bit until we found a little cafe to get a coffee and do some people watching. From there we walked back towards where we saw that we could get a coffee then we did that until we hailed a taxi to bring us back to the hotel by the Spanish steps. We tried to hail an Uber but our trips got cancelled and rescheduled multiple times just in the 10 minutes we were waiting.
Upon returning to the hotel, I showered and got all prepped for my big night of the opening reception for my solo exhibition. I took some time to briefly write out my artist talk in English and then used Google Translate to translate it paragraph by paragraph into Italian. At around 3:30pm we were picked up by car to be driven about an hour out to Frosinone, where my show was being held at the Galeria Dei Villa Communale di Frosinone. We arrived about a half hour after we had anticipated arriving because of traffic, but we were not late for the official opening time, at least. There were only a few people milling about, and the musician was just setting up for the concert in the main gallery room. I found Alfio and touched base about the program schedule for the evening and when I would be giving my talk about the artwork.
After the accordion concert of traditional Italian folk music, along with some experimental ambient symphonic sounds, it was then my time to shine. Alfio gave a brief introduction of me and my artwork, all in Italian, and then it was my time to give a brief talk about my art. I had prepared a brief talk in English, which I then translated using Google Translate. My parents advised me to drop doing the speech in both languages, so I settled for giving only the Italian version my best efforts. I asked the crowd forgiveness in advance for any mispronunciations or wrong words that I might use.
I had practiced pretty fine in the taxi on the drive to Frosinone, but it’s quite another when my nerves get going while up in front of an audience. I stumbled over my initial introduction, but then I feel like I got into some better momentum with the language pronunciation the more I went, asking every few lines if the audience could understand me. When I finished everyone clapped, so I’m assuming that they understood me or that they were just being polite.
After I finished my talk, people got up and walked around looking at the artwork, and then a few people came up to ask me questions (in Italian) about my process and about my inspiration, or to give some words of encouragement. It was quite challenging to answer their art questions about my process using only the few Italian words and phrases that I know, and they helped to fill in some of the proper art terms in Italian. My parents were beaming with pride and smiling at me throughout the evening, helping me with their encouragement and their very presence here, and I was grateful for their support and love.
The evening flew by and finished up around 8pm and then Alfio’s wife drove my parents and I to the train station to catch the train back to Roma Termini, where we then took a cab back to the restaurant. We arrived back to the hotel and then went up to the rooftop deck for a glass of wine and some cheese for a late dinner, since the reception actually didn’t have any refreshments as we thought maybe they might. We laughed and debriefed about our experiences at the art opening. There was live music happening in the Piazza Spagna that we could hear up on the rooftop deck which gave a really nice ambience to finish off the night before we headed to bed.