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‘Angels and Demons’, and a Resto’s Second Chance

May 15th, 2013 · No Comments · Paris, Rome, tourism


One of the best-known works pertaining to Rome and the Vatican and Rome from the past few decades is, sad to say, Dan Brown’s very schlocky popular novel: Angels and Demons.

The book came out in 2000, and the Tom Hanks movie in 2009.

I began to reread the book, just ahead of coming to Rome, and today we did a sort of Angels and Demons mini-tour.

A curious reality of Dan Brown’s stuff is that readers often want to see the locales he writes about — often not quite correctly. (Or quite incorrectly.)

In Rome, more than a few professional outfits run Angels and Demons tours, here in the city. (Here is one.) I wasn’t ready to take it to those lengths, but it shows how people internalize the fictional “mystery-thriller” novel (which Brown insists on presenting as based on facts) and connect it to the real world. (He did the same to/for Paris in The Da Vinci Code.)

In the interest of warning off any of you who have not read the book nor seen the movie, but plan to, I’m going to write about some of the events in the next few paragraphs. Yes, a spoiler alert.

The book focuses on an election for a new pope after the previous holder of the office suddenly died. It involves weapons’ grade anti-matter — which apparently has never existed — and a famous Switzerland-based research center, but eventually it shifts to Rome and Vatican City, and the protagonist, Robert Langdon, chases around the Eternal City in about six hours of utterly unrealistic mania.

Along the way, four cardinals thought to be candidates to be elected pope at the conclave … disappear and are murdered at four prominent sites, and at each site clues are given to where the next murder will be carried out by a shady terror group.

Santa Maria del Popolo church and, specifically, the Chigi Chapel inside. (Didn’t actually go there; not yet, anyway.)

–The obelisk in Saint Peter’s Square, which we have been close to twice, but the area around it is cordoned off, at the moment.

The Pantheon. No murder happens here, at the oldest church in the city, but the Langdon character mistakenly believes one will, and he spends time poking around inside (above, with bonus nuns).

–The church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, in the upscale Barberini area of Rome. We found it on our second try. No obelisk inside the church, that we could see, but Dan Brown was intrigued by the sculpture entitled the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, which he suggests is more carnal than spiritual. Well, maybe. I stared at it for a minute, and it didn’t leap out at me. Anyway, cardinal is killed there after being suspended above a stack of pews, which are set afire. The pews are not fixed, so I suppose it would be possible.

–The Piazza Navona, near to the Pantheon. One of the murders occurs in the Fountain of the Four Rivers, in the piazza. Brown describes it as “waist-deep.” It’s barely knee-deep. And it is impossible to imagine the protracted struggle that goes on there, in the book, to go unnoticed by hundreds of tourists, even at 11 p.m.

We saw the Pantheon and Piazza Navona today. We got within 100 yards (it turns out) of the Santa Maria della Vittoria.

I have read Brown’s books, but I do not take them serious. Still, they broach interesting topics.

So, the searching, especially for the church over in the Barberini neighborhood, meant for a really long bit of walking, and we were thrashed by the time we got back to Trastevere, perhaps some six kilometers later.

After an hour of trying to rest … we decided dinner probably was a good idea. Something quick and easy.

We were headed for a pizzeria when I felt a few drops from an incoming storm, and decided to return for an umbrella. It’s a bit of work to get to the apartment (fourth floor, no elevator), so it was decided that rather than go up there … we would return to the Antica Osteria da Giovanni — the restaurant we hated the night before.

Two concepts drove us there. No, three.

–Ultra close; 10 feet from the front door of our building.

–The discovery that numerous people who went there liked it, plus the significant local crowd the night before.

–It is inexpensive.

The place was, again, crowded. We took the last table in the front of the place. And at least a dozen people came in after we did, and several tables were turned.

We decided to focus on the basics. Soup and pasta.

And it was fine. Nothing special. Fine. I had fettuccine and pasta fagioli (white bean) soup, and Leah had spaghetti and eggplant with red sauce.

Not great. Not memorable, but the neighborhood resto can do pasta, and not charge much for it. And the locals love it. So, if you go with limited expectations, seems as if you will not be disappointed.


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