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Modern Nan Goes Nonna

I’m not going to lie. After the way that Florence stole my heart, Rome had a lot of stepping up to do, and I was reluctant to let it in. But between meeting family for the first time, finding new gelato flavours, and following in Tom Hanks’ Angels and Demons footsteps, it was hard to frown at Rome for long.

The very first thing we did was visit the Vatican museums. Although we had been there during our cruise visit to Rome, it was a rushed visit that showed us only a fraction of what was there. This time, we wanted to do it right. We had booked tickets for one of their earliest entry times, and stayed for at least four hours. I saw more than I could ever possibly describe, but I think I can best sum it up with a few points:

  • Marble statues amaze me. That a person can take a chunk of stone and turn it into something so fluid and fleshy, so real that I can see the flow of the fabric, so lifelike that their hand might squeeze mine back, is beyond my comprehension.
  • I saw a mummy. He was from Thebes.

    Van Gogh
    La Pietà and me!
  • Without knowing beforehand that it was there, I accomplished a goal in my life by seeing a real life Vincent Van Gogh painting. I almost cried and definitely stared at it for about 20 minutes.

We finished, as all Vatican tours do, in the Sistine Chapel. The by’s were guarding the heck out of it, herding people like cattle so you could barely get a look at how glorious and amazing all the art that surrounds you is. But if you plant yourself in the center of the room and look around you, it really is a wonderful thing. The Creation of Adam fresco is such a small fraction of what Michelangelo accomplished in that one room alone.

The Pantheon
The Pantheon

Another adventure we took on throughout the week was for Jenn‘s birthday gift. Since finding Tom Hanks (though she meant Robert Langdon) was running joke for her on our last visit – and in the weeks leading up to mine – I decided to visit each spot on the “Path of Illumination” and take a picture, pretending to look for Tom Hanks. We visited the Pantheon, Santa Maria Del Popolo, St. Peter’s Square, Santa Maria Della Vittoria, Piazza Navona, and Castel Sant’Angelo. (Tom Hanks was not in any of these places. Although he was in Florence while we were there. We just didn’t know it until it was too late.) Once I came home, I compiled the pictures with some rhyming verses I made up, and gave it to her as a book!

Habakkuk and the Angel
Habakkuk and the Angel, Santa Maria Del Popolo

I look forward to never being able to achieve that level of gift awesomeness ever again.

My mom being a moderately religious bay woman, we spent some time around St. Peter’s Square. We saw the Pope’s Sunday address (of which I didn’t understand a word), and got to attend a weekday mass in St. Peter’s basilica. The basilica is huge, and every inch is ornate and intricate. You can go below the floor and see the tomb of St. Peter, along with several other former popes. It really is a beautiful and fascinating place.

The one thing we didn’t count on in Rome was our plans being overcome by weather to rival Newfoundland’s rdf. We got up each day with a plan, mentally prepared for surviving the heat we weren’t accustomed to, only to step out into 15 degree weather, and downpours that caused us to hide in apartment building foyers. As a result, our plans often got shagged up, and we didn’t accomplish everything we had set out to do.

What I’m embarrassingly trying to say is, we didn’t see the Colusseum. I know, I know. How could I miss it? Things happen sometimes. Or more aptly, things don’t happen sometimes. At least I have a reason to go back.

Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps

I did get to experience some cool things though. I had a home cooked Italian meal at my Dad’s cousin’s home. I got to watch my mom (finally) learn why you don’t encourage street vendors. (fyi the “free” flowers that man at the Spanish Steps wants to give you “for good luck” aren’t actually free. Needless to say, he got the flowers back.) I got to see the Trevi Fountain – under repair. I got to stumble upon a service at the Santa Maria Del Popolo and watch as a woman sat quietly with her old, regal, spaniel, took the pup to the altar for communion and shared her offering, then blessed the pup’s head with holy water before they left. It may have been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

In the end, there was too much beauty for Rome to not win me over. And the excitement of meeting new family members was just a preview of how overwhelming visiting my Nonno’s hometown would be.

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