(click photos to enlarge)
After the week in Tuscany, I spent a day and a night in Rome, where I met up with Michael Mele, his husband Andy, and his old friend Antonio in Piazza Navona.
With his friend Pier Paolo, Antonio has started a business giving guided tours (see romearoundrome.com) — two of the couples from That’s Amore! hired him for their introduction to the Eternal City.
Just walking around the neighborhood with Antonio is a treat — he pointed out that in the Baroque era, street lights couldn’t just be lamps — they had to have painted portraits and putti and wrought-iron embellishments.
We stopped into a church nearby, Basilica di Sant’Agostino, that just happens to house a famous and controversial Caravaggio painting “Madonna of Loreto” — controversial for three reasons: 1) smack in the center of the picture is a pilgrim’s rear end; 2) his dirty feet face the viewers; and 3) the Madonna is hanging out in a doorway dandling her infant like a common hooker.
We took a walk across the bridge to Castel Sant’Angelo, the tomb of Emperor Hadrian — opera buffs know the location because Tosca leaps to her death from the ramparts.
Antonio pointed out the statues along the bridge, all created by students of Bernini and reflecting his extremely sensual style — swirling dimensionality, bared flesh, ecstatic facial expressions that verge on orgasmic.
Walking to dinner in Trastevere, Antonio pointed out one of the oldest synagogues in Rome hidden away on a side street, detectable only by the Hebrew lettering still visible on the middle column (click photo to enlarge).
At dinner friends showed up from all over, including Dino and Michael from That’s Amore!
Our friend Graziano showed up on a motorcycle with Andrea, who had just spoken at Rome’s Gay Pride Rally.
And then a bunch of us met again for breakfast in Piazza Navona before I headed off to the airport to fly back to New York saying “Arrivederci, Roma!”