(Incidentally, we arrived in Milan a couple of hours back, and are in a hotel -- a 3 star hotel with free wi-fi! [Insert squeal of delight here ... :)] Pisa and Ravenna were fantastic. Pietro has written daily blogs for the trip, which will slowly get uploaded on here, with photos by yours truly.]
On Wednesday, we had another early morning as we both had to leave the convent as well as get to the Vatican for the Papal Audience. The sisters let us leave our luggage at the convent, while we went to the audience. Gashwin has an amazing ability, thanks to his call, of getting amazing tickets to the audience. We were able to get into the reserved section of the audience. However getting there was amusing. After fighting through a large crowd of yellow cap wearing Italians from St. Francesca, Gashwin and I were able to successfully make it through security. Giuseppe had gotten stuck behind one other person though, and as I grabbed my bag, the guard asked if the bag behind was mine. Apparently he felt that there was a knife inside. Gashwin sent me in to the Paul VI hall to grab seats while he waited on Giuseppe. The knife ended up being a shoe horn.
In the Paul VI hall, we were able to get amazing seats, Row 5 seats 5, 6 and 7 from the center aisle. We were within the area where the Pope could see us if he looked. We got in by 9 am and had amazing seats. During the audience, the Pope spoke in French, English, German, Spanish, Portugese, Polish and Italian. The audience was on St. Cassiodorus who was an early church father that wrote about the Trinity.
(Just made it to Bologna and have made the transition to our train to Ravenna, the train to Bologna was late but made up time so that we caught our train to Ravenna) Following the audience, the Pope greeted the one Cardinal present, and then all the Bishops. Next he met the handicapped before coming to meet those in the special section on the left. As he came down to greet them he was less than 10 feet away. It was amazing!!! We took several amazing photos of the Pope and screamed “Viva Il Papa!!!” After a bit, he left and we returned to the convent.
We checked out of the convent and took a taxi to Roma Termini where we grabbed a Eurostar to Firenze Santa Maria Novella before transiting to a Regional train to Pisa. On our last train, there were a group of Italian teenagers. One of which would not be quiet and talked the entire ride, as Gashwin’s friend Paul would say, he was a “Shatterbox.” Once we arrived in Pisa we waited outside for Gashwin’s friend Paul. Paul was late, so we sat down for a while and watched some loud Americanos. As we left the station, a guy obviously from New York yelled across the station to his three friends getting into a taxi, “NO I asked a guy inside, and he said that we should go this way.” He then held up a bus, and yelled, “Hurry up!!! I’m holding the bus for ya! The bus is leaving.” The Italian driver got upset and left. So 20 minutes later they tried getting a second bus. Once more the New Yorker held the bus up as the driver got up. The New Yorker yelled once more to “Hurry Up!!!” So the two girls traveling with him ran to the bus, and one slipped and fell flat on her butt. It was rather amusing and I am sure many Italians were laughing. Italians are much quieter and don’t yell in public so the New Yorker really stood out.
Finally Paul arrived and took us to our Hotel. Giuseppe and I stayed at the Hotel Astor, while Gashwin stayed directly around the corner at Paul’s house. Paul’s house was very nice, but it was extremely amusing as Gashwin had to sleep in a loft. Seeing Gashwin try to climb up is worth a million euros (more than a million dollars). Paul was worried as he said, “I hope it doesn’t break, the maximum capacity is 200 kilos.” Since Gashwin had already been in Italy for a week and a half, he really had to do laundry, so we all went to a local Laundromat. After putting the clothes in the wash we ordered pizza to be delivered at Paul’s house. We walked around Pisa and then changed out the clothes into the dryer. I was tired so I returned to the Hotel and slept until dinner was ready.
Gashwin woke me up when dinner was ready. My pizza was delicious, having olives, two types of sausage and mushrooms on it. After which I returned to the hotel and immediately fell asleep. While Thursday was a long day, we didn’t do a lot but had a good time.