So the hotel breakfast buffet turned out to be a bit mono-thematic; there were options other than pastries and breads, but they were limited and, really, with twelve varieties of patisserie to choose from (including sugared ring doughnuts), why would you?
That said, they have a sheltered terrace adjoining the dining room and we enjoyed scrambled egg, sausage, fruit and yoghurt and, yes, pastries in the cooler air out there. We couldn’t linger over the coffee though as we had a three-line whip to be at the Colosseum by 10am in order to join the group walking tour.
Brett had to remind me in the Metro that I was no longer a tour guide and that this wasn’t my group. I eventually suppressed the desire to direct and shepherd people along.
But then I spent three hours gritting my teeth as old Giuseppe randomly droned on about this and that in a monotone without giving people any context or framework into which to place what they were seeing. While it was certainly a walking tour, it wasn’t at all informative.
Without learning much more about any of them, we took in The Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the various Roman Forums, the modern Italian Parliament, the Capitoline Hill and the Pantheon, ending up in the Piazza Navona for lunch with a small group from the chorus.
We couldn’t have timed it better because, within fifteen minutes of sitting down, there was a massive crack of thunder and the heavens opened. The crowded square rapidly emptied as the tourists ran for cover, the street artists covered their wares and huddled under their awnings and the pervasive selfie-stick vendors suddenly transformed into umbrella-and-poncho salesmen (where do they keep their stock to switch so quickly!?)
So we had a leisurely lunch, covered by the restaurant’s awning and mostly untroubled by the thunderstorm. When it eventually abated and the sun came out again the streets dried incredibly quickly and the square resumed being a mass of happy tourists and associated industries.
We headed through the now very humid air to a nearby bus stop and thence back to the hotel. Brett had a quick shower before joining the rest of the chorus for a mid-afternoon rehearsal while I had a bit more leisure and spent the afternoon going through my photos and preparing the first few blog posts. We met up with the group again for an 18:30 coach transfer to the Piazza del Popolo, ready for Constanza’s evening concert in the church of St Mary.
We had some time to kill before they were ready for us in the church and it was nice to be able to hangout in the evening sunlight in the square for a while. The central obelisk was curtained- off for restoration but there was some attractive statuary and terracing around a fountain at one end. The guy doing electric-guitar-karaoke covers of Pink Floyd and Queen was a bit incongruous, but on the whole it was a pleasant half-hour.
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo is a beautiful piece of architecture; quite grand, carved and gilded and it turned out to have a lovely acoustic; supportive but not overwhelming. The choir got themselves organised in front of the chancel, rehearsed a few points in their programme (see a brief video excerpt here) and then dispersed to the waiting area while the audience got themselves settled ahead of the performance.
There seemed to be a fair number of family and friends along for the concert, but there were also locals in evidence, both seated and passing through. The sound of the choir was excellent throughout, although I did notice a moment of confused timing during The Lamb.
Afterwards, we were back to the coaches (partly alongside the route of a 10k run which had kicked off outside the church during the performance!) and on our way to a buffet supper being provided for us by a Roman choir. No-one seemed entirely sure why this choir was hosting us to dinner or what their relationship with the group was but, hey, free food and wine!
The venue for the supper turned out to be a pleasant garden on the side of the Aventine Hill in the grounds of the church (convent?) of San Alessio. There were some panoramic views north-west to St Peters and the Vatican. Our hosts had a buffet of pasta, rice salad, cheese and pizza laid out for us and a selection of wine – which, in fine choral style, we soon finished.
It was a really lovely conclusion to the day; a temperate evening, an enclosed garden with a pergola to one side covered in fruiting grape vines, a low wall along the long side looking down on the Tiber and into the heart of the city, as much food as we could eat and a relaxed sociable atmosphere. There was even music audible from what we assumed was a wedding party in a nearby building.
It only lasted an hour or so though, as the hour was getting late and we needed a good night’s sleep; tomorrow is reserved for the Vatican.