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In Rome with Sister Debbie

Siblings Behaving Well

This overall blog has some gaps in time and location, but this section I’ve completed.

Saturday 22 June 2013
After enjoying the tranquil hospitality of the Pumphrey’s, Elizabeth dropped me off at the Naples airport, round the corner from Fr Michael’s office, and I caught the local bus to the train station to travel to Rome, and begin the next adventure in the Sabbatical: the arrival of sister Debbie.

At Rome, a bus was supposed to take me right there, but after several conflicting directions from people, I simply hopped into a taxi, and was there in 10 minutes. The apartment is roughly equidistant between the Vatican and the central tourist sites in Rome. It is a two bedroom, two bathroom ‘arts’ apartment with marble, wood and antique furniture everywhere, decorated in old world charm with 12 foot ceilings. Flavia, our contact, showed me where the market is, and I purchased coffee, milk, eggs and fruit for our breakfasts. After a wander about for orientation, I found a shady pizzeria and had a supper of pizza and wine.

Sunday 23 June

After a long catch-up sleep, breakfast and prayers, I walked to the centrally located Piazza Cavour, one block from the Tiber, and caught the express bus to the airport to pick up Debbie. At the airport, I had a sandwich and we got caught up on her travel adventures, then hopped the express bus to the Piazza hear our apartment.

We got settled in, then walked across the Tiber to meet our guide and take the evening Twilight Walking Tour of Rome. Rome is enchanting at twilight, and we saw all the tourist sites (Spanish Steps/Trevi Fountain, etc.) with lots of history and insights the casual observer would miss). Off the Piazza Novano, we found an al fresco restaurant specialising in salads, and shared a good salad and people watched. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/rome/sights/piazza/piazza-navona

On the way home, heard choral music and went into the Narthex of the Rome Museum to find a high school choir performing in the open ceiling courtyard. The audience was filled with what seemed to be parents, grandparents and casual observes such as ourselves. They closed with several American spirituals (sung enthusiastically with Italian accents!), and then we wandered home to our apartment.

What a wonderful first day, with this unexpected gift of music.

Monday 24 June

After breakfast in the flat, we walked to the Vatican Museum.


Kevin and I had taken a tour, but Debbie had arranged a Vatican-sponsored ‘Art and Faith’ tour with a Sister Emmanuella, from Manchester, England. She was full of joy and enthusiasm, and skillfully used the art to teach the faith. The Holy Father has declared this the Year of Faith, and challenged everyone involved at the Vatican Museum to teach clearly the Christian Faith as portrayed through the arts, and Sr Emmanuella was certainly up to the task, speaking openly about the Catholic Faith of the past 2,000 years, but in such a way that was accessible to Protestants and secularists alike. I seriously pondered kidnapping her and taking her back to S. Bride’s for a Retreat, but I didn’t wish to set back Anglican/Catholic relations any further.

After a run through the gift shop, we encountered a high school choir from Chicago, all dressed up for a performance, working their way through S. Peter’s Square. I’m guessing they were going for Vespers.

Dinner was on a rooftop restaurant with a view of S. Peter’s in the distance, recommended by the Pumphrey’s and the USO. We had a whole sea bass which was caked in herbs and mounded with rock salt, then baked. After the waitress said, ‘The chef would like to prepare for you a very special dish’, we gave in and were glad we did. It was so delicious, but Debbie and I regret we didn’t get a picture of it.

Tuesday 25 June

We were up early to walk to the Metro station and activated Roma Passes. These are passes that, for a set fee, give you access to the Metro, and speed-pass entry to most museums. We met guide at Colosseum and toured Colosseum, Palantine Hill and Forum for about 3 hours. Following his advice, we looked for a restaurant away from the tourist areas, and found lunch at a small restaurant with hand written menus, and only four outside tables.

After a rest, shower and nap (it was very hot, and Debbie was still jet-lagged), we headed out once more. We crossed the Tiber, and went down the trendy shopping street, and again past the Spanish Steps. We were hungry, so didn’t stop. We made it all the way to the Pantheon, and to the one restaurant on the Piazza our guide recommended to us as being worthwhile. There, we sat on the sidewalk, stared at the Pantheon and had a good dinner with a bottle of wine; mine was the veal with parma ham. After, we found the gellatoria we had visited with our guide, which has 150 flavours (two days, two visits to the gellatoria). Then it was a slow and rambling walk home in the twilight.

Wednesday 26 June

Because of the very full day on Tuesday, this was a slow morning, as we caught up on sleep; deliberately unstructured. This was the day to go to Barbiconi, the Pope’s tailor shop, to get fitted for new Vestments. I was measured for a new cassock (30+ years a priest, and this was my first custom one); and a new suit and lace cotta and Mass alb.

From there, we cabbed across town to Galleria Borghese & had a light lunch in the museum cafe. Groups are only admitted at certain times for a 2 hour block. Ours was at 3PM, and it started raining as we waited.

One simply can’t describe the paintings and sculptures. Cardinal Borghese, who was from a wealthy family, built this entire gallery to wine and dine the local politicians and movers & shakers. What amazed us both was that every ceiling was painted; like a lessor Sistine Chapel in every room, except that classical Greek mythology was included as well. Particularly, I found the paintings of figures lining the ceiling to be so realistically 3 dimensional that I wasn’t sure if they were paintings or sculptures. Several had feet or toes hanging over the side, and I had to look carefully to ensure it was only a painting. This is one website:

We walked the long way home through the park, took a rest and shower, then headed out to central Rome (Piazza di Populo), and had one last meal in Rome at a quiet restaurant. Then it was one final walk through of the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and a stroll through Piazza Navona on our way home to the flat and to pack. We were off to Florence the following morning.

Posted by stbrides 08:16 Archived in Italy

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