There’s so much to tell from the last four days that I knew if I waited until I returned to London to write again I would forget some of the best stories! I arrived in Rome on Saturday and immediately started touring around after meeting up with Lucas and our friend, Emma. By the time I met up with them in Rome they had already seen the Pope twice and had been to Good Friday Mass. They also got all three of us tickets for Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night and Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday morning. It was a weekend full of church with thousands of other people. I, of course, tried to see some of the typical Rome sights as well, but as it seems with everywhere I’ve gone, we encountered some pretty horrible weather. It rained all Saturday (at least I got out of England where they got snow!!) but we managed to walk around and see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine, the first Jesuit church, and then finished at St. Peter’s Square where we got in line for mass three hours before it started. The time actually went by quickly. The rain held off for a little while, we called a couple friends from GU to brag, talked with the students from San Diego who were behind us and took about a million pictures of the Vatican. As Lucas explained, the Italians aren’t big on making and staying in normal lines, but we managed to get in without a problem and got decent seats with a good view of the seven-story altar. St. Peter’s is RIDICULOUS – the church of all churches. Very impressive. Right before mass began they turned off all the lights as the flame from the Easter candle was passed along to each of our individual candles and then, all of a sudden, these lights that reminded me of being in Safeco Field flashed on and lit up the whole church. Mass was a little over three hours long, with only one passage read in English. The program itself was about 85 pages long. I obviously didn’t follow all of it, but then I could just look around at the church when I couldn’t follow. After getting up at 5am to be at Heathrow for my flight, sitting there for three hours was a bit of a struggle. Luckily, I was in good company, because all three of us completely fell asleep as soon as Pope Benedict began his homily. I would feel bad, except that it was in Italian and I wouldn’t have understood it anyway. I’m hoping to look up the translation online eventually. It was a good little power nap actually that prepared me for the hour walk we had back to our hostel. Our hostel had a good general location near the train station, but we managed to be about as far away from the Vatican as possible. It was very fun though, coming out of the church a little after midnight with thousands of other people flowing into St. Peter’s Square and celebrating Easter!!
So that was all just the day I got there, then we settled in for a short night’s sleep before getting up and going straight back to the Vatican for Easter morning Mass. We got there with everyone else and got pretty good seats. The first hour we waited it was much better weather, really enjoyable and then . . . about an hour before Mass started, the most ridiculous gray clouds moved in and absoluetely POURED, I mean really really really POURED down rain on us. Not just rain either, lightning and thunder also. And just when we all thought it couldn’t rain any harder, it did. It was honestly the most ridiculous thing ever. Everyone’s umbrella was up, we could barely see anything even when standing and every once in a while one of us would stand on our chair and take the risk of being yelled at in Italian by the usher. About an hour after it started raining people started leaving, and some just start laughing, others just stuck it out (like us) just to say that we did it. We couldn’t decide if it was the most amazing experience ever or the most miserable. The lightning and thunder only got more intense as Mass went on and Pope Benedict completely skipped the homily because of the weather, ha! By the end we still managed to have smiles on our faces and trekked back to our hostel in our soaking wet clothes. By the time we emerged from the subway there were blue skies! Unbelievable!! We changed into dry clothes and decided we needed a little nap, so, of course, by the time we got up to go out again, it was raining. We had slept through the entire eye of the storm and ventured out just in time to get our dry clothes wet again. We found our way to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain before we really needed some good Italian food. We picked out a really cute place for dinner where we had our Easter meal. It was my first real Italian meal and it was amazing!! Gnocchi is a definite favorite! After dinner we cruised by the Spanish Steps and, of course, had to have some gelato (even though we already had tiramisu for dessert, but it was Easter!!) .
Finally, on Monday we got up in hopes that we could make it to the Vatican Museum, but it was Easter Monday and we knew some things would be closed, so unfortunately the museum was closed. So, I didn’t see the Sistine Chapel and some of the great art that’s in Rome, but fear not! I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain which is supposed to guarantee me a return trip to Rome sometime. I know I didn’t see everything that a tourist should see in Rome, but I experienced a weekend there that was incredibly unique and I’ll make it back sometime to see the sights I missed.
So Lucas and I said goodbye to Emma and went to the train station to go to Florence. We had planned to leave a little later in the afternoon, so we weren’t sure of the train schedule, but the fast train left in about four minutes, so we quickly bought tickets and then ran down the platform to make the train. Ha, I hadn’t run to catch a train yet in Europe and it seems essential to the European travel experience, so I was glad to check that off my list. Hopefully won’t have to do it again, especially with my thirty pound pack on! So we left sunny Rome and traveled to Florence where it was gray and then it snowed!! Ok, it lasted about ten minutes, but Lucas and I could honestly not believe the weather. As we stood there in Lucas’s room planning where to go first in Florence, a huge streak of lightning flashed across the sky and brought on the snow/hail.
Fortunately, today was beautiful here in Florence, amazing spring sunshine! I had a great day seeing some friends from GU, saw the David at the Academia, walked along the river to the Piazza Michelangelo and had a picnic lunch with Lucas overlooking the city, toured the Duomo with a GU student who volunteers there, climbed to the top of the Duomo for some incredible late afternoon views and get to spend some more time with friends tonight. I’m enjoying seeing Italy and the places I’ve heard so much about. There are so many tourists out everywhere that it provoked an interesting discussion between me and Lucas regarding tourism vs. travel. I’m seeing a lot of incredible things, but it’s not a very unique trip, tons of other people are doing the same thing (but for good reason, there is some amazing stuff here). Anyway, tomorrow we’re headed to Siena for a little afternoon trip, then Cinque Terre on the coast on Thursday (hopefully some decent weather there) and more time around in Florence in between it all! Better run along, but just had to update on the recent adventures! More to come, love to all!
me: “What’s that building?”
Lucas: “I don’t know, but I feel like it’s a big deal.”
me: “Everything here is a big deal.”
Emma: “You just walk around and see like 50 big deals!”
me: “When in Rome… OH, my gosh! We’re actually in Rome!!”