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Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Side Trip to Italy

In a previous entry, I spoke of a visit with 3 college students. The mother of one of them is one of my closest friends from college and she decided to catch up with her daughter on the Italy leg of their journey. She asked me if I’d like to meet her in Rome and then spend two days in Sorrento. It was a little hard to resist, especially with the bargain airfare I was able to find. (See former entry on travel!) At any rate…On Monday, November 3 I landed in Rome, Italy and hooked up with my friend. Not long after that I was staring at the Coliseum, walking beside the forum, wandering up capital hill, marveling at the Trevi Fountain and admiring the beautiful Spanish Steps. It was really warm in Rome…quite a contrast to the icy chill I’d left in Stockholm that morning. Rome is awesome. I love it, but it beats you up a bit. You have to be vigilant about your belongings as theft is rampant, and it’s just a huge, busy, crowded, heavily trafficked kind of place. Still…I love it.
The next morning we hopped on a train to Sorrento via Naples (Napoli). In order to get to Sorrento from Naples you have to catch the Circumvensuviana train which is a local version of hell. Packed to the gills with likely pickpockets, the first 15 minutes of the journey involved a bit too much local flavor. Wedged between armpits and bellies, we held on for dear life to our belongings and stood our ground when likely thieves began to work their system. We survived in tact and were happy to arrive in beautiful Sorrento in spite of dodgy weather. The town’s shops, narrow cobbled streets, and welcoming coastline made the train journey worth it. We loved our beautiful room with a balcony overlooking the main drag and happily settled in. Good food, good company, good people and good shopping awaited us. It was a relaxing and soothing couple of days out of the bustle of Rome. Authentic wood fired pizza was invented in Napoli and I have to admit, the pizza I ate at Franco’s was quite delicious. Perhaps it was the added treat of watching my pizza being cooked by an actual wood fire that provided added inspiration to my culinary pleasure.
Our last day in Rome was a treat as well. We ventured over to the Vatican City and while my friend made her way to the Sistine Chapel, I decided to spend the afternoon in St. Peter’s by myself. (I had previously been to the chapel.) Wandering around that huge basilica was such a great experience. I entered the sacramental chapel and prayed for our sick friend. I pondered the unbelievable height of the dome and prayed for my mom. I considered that Peter might well be buried on that site and felt a profound sense of the worldwide church. I was lucky enough to get in on a mass, to enjoy the organ and the lovely voices of the priestly choir, and to enjoy the sacrament of communion. Between the Italian being enough like Spanish, and the liturgy being familiar, I could follow what the priests were saying and doing and it was a beautiful respite from the demands of life…to be fed with the broken, redemptive, healing body of Christ in the midst of life’s difficulties was a restorative experience.
Michelangelo’s Pieta, which graces St. Peter, is quite possibly the most beautiful piece of art I have ever seen. The way in which he provoked the marble to limply display the dead Christ lying helplessly on Mary’s lap is nothing short of miraculous. The pain a mother feels in the loss of her son brings you to tears. I loved seeing it again. I bought a post card of it, again. I could look at it for hours and was so happy and blessed to be there again, alone this time, to ponder its beauty. I am not going to post a photo of it. Quite frankly, the only way to truly experience the wonder of the Pieta is to go to St. Peter's and let it move you to tears, like it does everyone else.
We ended our last night in Rome in a great restaurant near the Spanish Steps. I feasted on bread smothered in olive oil and Parmesan and the delights of an anti pasta platter filled with olives, vegetables, cheeses and meats. YUM.
I love Italy. I enjoyed being with my friend and for the unique opportunity that was ours to share in this experience. But I was also glad to get home to my beloved Doug and my dear dog Tanner. Traveling is fun, but going home is awesome. And besides, it was time for us to toast our new President-elect face to face!