Sunday, March 09, 2008

Pietro: Rome Day 2

Giorno 2 dal giornale di Pietro ...

3/8/08 10:00PM Rome

Well day 2 in Rome is drawing to a close and Giuseppe is relaxing in the room. Gashwin is out trying to find the internet, so I am using his laptop. Today again was incredible. We slept in till 8AM before having breakfast here at the convent. Afterwards we left and went to the Vatican. Before coming to Rome, Gashwin had requested tickets to the Vatican Gardens. Our request was granted and our time was set for Saturday at 11 am.

We arrived at the Vatican and first entered into St. Peter’s Square. WOW!!! How amazing! After many photographs of the Vatican, the Papal apartments, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica, we left and walked towards the Vatican Museum. Having reservations for the gardens we were able to skip the two hour long line and enter into the museum relatively quickly. Soon our tour started; it immediately it was clear that God was watching over us. After having rained all yesterday and being so cold, today was absolutely amazing. The sky was blue and crystal clear. As we first entered the gardens we had a nice view of Rome. From there you could all the way to the mountains, which still had white caps. It is interesting to see mountains in the background with a palm tree in front.

Entering the gardens, we first passed the newest section of the Vatican Museum. From one spot, we could see mosaic tiles from an ancient Roman pool that had been excavated. We then continued on to the Pontifical Academy of Science. This was built in three sections, and only recently became the Academy of Science. Prior to that Pope Pius IIII had created it as an area to meditate. The academy was accompanied by a nice fountain with beautiful mosaics made from river rocks. The view there was breathtaking as the dome of St. Peter’s could be seen through several umbrella pine trees. As H.V. Morton describes in This Is Rome, “This viewpoint is seen just as its architect would have wished.”

Continuing on we passed several more fountains, one of a dragon, symbolizing power (and the Borghese family), and the other of an eagle, symbolizing empire. We climbed to the top of Vatican hill passing Vatican Radio as well as one small residential building. The tour guide asked if anyone knew who lived there. Someone said “The pope,” to which she responded, “He only wishes.” There at the top of Vatican Hill is a small cloister of seven nuns from throughout the world are constantly praying for the world. Pope JPII created this cloister so that their spiritual power could aid us. That is pretty neat.

We stopped briefly for some water at a fountain, which is entirely potable. Water in Rome is easy to come by, then continued on towards a replica of the cave at Lourdes. The actual altar from Lourdes is found. Walking onwards we saw an Italian garden, the Ethiopian college in Rome (the only college within the grounds of the Vatican) and the Vatican train station (Last used for passengers following 9/11 when many religious leaders gathered in Rome before going to Assisi on the train for prayers of peace). We further passed the State offices of the Vatican as well as the papal arms created using plants.

At the back of St. Peter’s Basilica, several large statues of nuns may be found. Our tour guide quickly dismissed them as the important founding nuns of different orders, but of course as he must, Gashwin corrected her on a sculpture of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), noting that she was martyred at Auschwitz and did not start a religious order. We then finished the tour passing back into St. Peter’s Square next to the Basilica. We quickly ducked inside St. Peter’s and looked around but had to leave shortly after so that we could meet some other friends for lunch.

Waiting for us at the obelisk were two other American friends, a married couple Cristofero and Elisabetta. They happened to be in Rome at the same time, so we joined them for lunch at Roberto’s. Roberto’s was very good, and the food was excellent. I enjoyed their roast lamb with patatoes. As always, Gashwin ran into someone else he knew. A nun who led a retreat for him several years before was sitting right across from us in Roberto’s.

As it was such a beautiful day, we decided to try to go to the catacombs. Cristofero and Elisabette chose to join us. We took the metro from the Vatican south of the city to the Collia Albani stop. At the station, I took a picture of Gashwin posing next to these ridiculous ads for “Gas” Jeans. A cop approach and said something, which at first Gashwin interpreted as, “The Metro isn’t working.” What he’d actually said, was “No photos on the metro!” We apologized, and, a few steps later, laughed at silly Italian bureaucracy. From Colli Albani, on our bus ride out to the Via Appia, we sat next to an Italian named Michael. He was happy to converse with us and told us how he loved American music such as the Police. Michael works as a DJ in Italy.

Once we arrived at the Via Appia, we got off the bus and found a small café. They rented bicycles so we decided to try it. It is incredible to ride down the Appian Way on bicycles. As it was already 4 and the bikes had to be returned by 5:15, we were only able to have a short trip, but decided to enter into the Catacombs of S. Sebastian. A funny thing happened as we waited for our tour. An Italian tour was given before us and several kids ran in late. Without paying, they ran ahead and caught up with the previous tour, one of them carrying their dog. Apparently dogs are permitted in the catacombs, however, cameras are not!

Regardless, the site is still incredible. We passed through the catacomb seeing the former burial places of many early Christians and pagans. Soon we came to the former repository of the bones of St. Sebastian. There a small room has been made with the inclusion of an altar over the spot where St. Sebastian was laid to rest. We continued on and saw the tombs of three rich pagans Romans who had individual mausoleums built for them (a pagan necropolis predating the Christian catacombs was discovered at this spot), and then climbed up some stairs to the church which is built directly overhead. Here the relics of St. Sebastian may be found.

At this point it was already 5:30 and our bikes were late, so we rode quickly to the café to return them. Afterwards we returned to Rome to catch dinner at the convent. (Once more God had intervened, while we were down below it must have rained, since the ground above was wet, however when we returned to our bikes it had stopped.) Since it was still early, we stopped at S. Mary Maggiore where Sunday Mass was being held. We only glanced inside so not do disturb the Mass and went into a bar across the Piazza for some limoncello, and then returned to the convent. [G’s editorial note: I have this great photo of Pietro drinking limoncello with the most inebriated expression on his face…]

Dinner was amazing. It was a full four course meal and lasted over an hour and a half. As we are staying here, it only costs 6 Euro. For that price, the meal is incredible. We will definitely be doing that again. As for now, it is going on 11 and Giuseppe is already snoring away. Gashwin is awake and reading the L’Osservatore Romano. I myself am exhausted. Tomorrow is Sunday and a Latin Mass is scheduled at the Vatican prior to the Angelus, so I must be off to bed. Buona Sera!

[G’s note: This is a Novus Ordo Mass in Latin, held every Sunday at St. Peter’s, not the TLM.]

No comments: