The International SBL meeting starts today in Rome. The papers look no more than moderately interesting, but I really wish I was there. So, to all my friends who are currently residing in the most beautiful city in the world, some tips and hints to make the most of your stay.
1. Coffee: the best coffee in the world is probably to be found in Rome. If you ask for an espresso and the liquid merely coats the bottom of the tiny cup...that is how God intended it. And please, don't embarrass yourself and ask for cappucino after 11.00 am and certainly not at the end of a large meal. Oh, and don't sit down at a cafe, you will pay 3 times as much.
2. Food: get off the beaten track. If it looks like it is full of tourists avoid it. Ask a stranger where there is good food (they will vitually always have an opinion and will never, never reply McDonalds). Try the gnocchi, carciofi alla romangna (artichokes), tripe if you are feeling brave.
3. Sightseeing - NT scholars should make sure they go and see the Ara Pacis (which was closed when I was last there) and Augustus' Mausoleum which is just round the corner, completely uncared for and overrun with cats. If you have to queue for the Ara Pacis you can while away the time by translating the Res Gestae engraved on the side. The best view of the Forum comes from going up the steps to the Campidoglio (taking in the subterranean Insula on your right as you go up) and walk past the Palazzo dei Senatori on the left hand side, drop down the steps and take in one of the most amazing sights you will ever hope to see. I fell in love on that spot - and not just with Rome. The Capitoline Museum is essential for antiquity and the Vatican apartments for the Raphael's alone (plus you get to pop next door to see Michelangelo's Pietà which made me cry when I first saw it). Oh, and they have found Paul's bones down there somewhere, so try and say hello from me.
Damn, I wish I was there. I am sure the conference will be fun as well.