Thursday, November 3, 2016

Italian Pilgrimage: Rome, Day 2

Fountain outside the Vatican Museum-the pine cone represents eternal life. 
Our second day in Rome was filled with excursions to view exquisite art work.  We began bright and early with a stop at the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.  The security here was very tight and the crowds were very large.  Our guides were sure to warn us multiple times about the importance of staying close together and not getting lost.  As Patrizia would say, we should be as close as the fingers on a hand.
The entrance to the Vatican Museum.

The Vatican gardens.
The Vatican Museums were absolutely stunning!  For some reason I can't understand I was worried about the battery on my phone and I kept turning it off so I didn't have it at the ready for many pictures which was unfortunate since we were allowed to take pictures at the Vatican Museum but not at the Sistine Chapel.  I think we only saw a small portion of the museum, I'm sure that it might have taken days to get through it all, but what we saw was gorgeous. My favorite of all the rooms was the Tapestry Hall.  Here the ceiling appeared to have white marble carvings covering the entire room.  I was busy marveling at how someone could carve marble into a ceiling so perfectly when our guide told us that it wasn't marble at all, but was a trompe l'oeil painting!  It was impossible to tell that it wasn't real marble which made the ceiling even more amazing! The tapestries that hung on the walls were made between the fifth and the seventeenth centuries and are painstakingly maintained.

The Hall of Tapestries source

 Ceiling detail source

The Holy Family Tapestry source
In the hall of maps we found maps of Italy that were created by Antoni Denti between 1580 and 1583. These maps were astonishingly accurate despite being painted before any modern conveniences were available to ease the job.  The perfection found in the world of art is astounding!  The last stop of the Vatican Museum tour was the Sistine Chapel.  We were given thirty minutes to admire the artwork of Michelangelo while standing elbow to elbow with thousands of other visitors.  I almost feel like a heel admitting this but after all of the art that we had already seen in so many churches and museums I wasn't as enamored of the Sistine Chapel as I should have been knowing the amount of painstaking work that Michelangelo put into it.

Ceiling in the Hall of Maps

From the Hall of Maps.
Next we stood with the crowds in St. Peter's Basilica and took in the immensity of it all.  Patrizia told us, "This is your home."  Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart raced with joy.  I couldn't believe I was actually standing inside of the main worship space of the worldwide Catholic Church!  I didn't think anything could be better than this, but believe it or not, there was something even more spectacular in store for us!   

St. Peter's Basilica

The balcony where each new pope greeted the world.

Mother and Child 

St. Peter's Basilica
Patrizia told us that Bishop Don had received special permission from the Sacristan to say Mass at the tomb of Saint Pope John Paul II!  Bishop Don said it's extremely difficult to receive this permission and it's very rare to be allowed to say Mass there.  We felt like we were really important processing behind the bishop from the sacristy across St. Peter's to the tomb for Mass.  I couldn't contain my tears during Mass, it was so moving!  There were the 80 of us pilgrims kneeling, sitting and standing around the altar that was corded off with ropes, and as soon as Mass started all of the people who were passing by crowded around behind us to join in the Mass.  It was heaven right here on earth!  I prayed for my children here in a special way, especially for my son, John Paul, who carries such a tremendous name, and for all priests and bishops who follow in Saint Pope John Paul's footsteps.

St. Pope John Paul's tomb

Mass at the tomb-the picture above the altar isn't a painting at all but a mosaic!

Mass at the tomb of Saint Pope John Paul II

The elevation of Our Lord's Body...

...and the elevation of the Chalice

Following our time at the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica we had some free time for lunch and adventure on our own.  Paul and I spent that time walking the nearby streets, visiting some gift shops and, just as it started to rain, stopping in a restaurant for lunch.  Something that we found to be amusing in every city we visited, including Rome, was seeing the waiters standing outside of the restaurants inviting those who were passing by to stop and have lunch at their establishment.  They were quite the salesmen!

Come and get it!

The quaint door at the restaurant where we had lunch.
That evening Patrizia took our group of pilgrims to a local restaurant with which she was familiar and she showed us the time of our lives.  It was truly a farewell dinner to remember!  The food was delicious, the wine was flowing and the company of our fellow pilgrims couldn't be beat!  We were surprised when Patrizia introduced some musicians who would entertain us during dinner. Both the guitar player and the singer had us all laughing and singing and really enjoying ourselves.  To cap off the meal, Patrizia had arranged for all to have a delicious sample of Limoncello.  I don't think there were many sober pilgrims in our group by the time we headed back to the bus for the hotel.  What a wonderful night!

Next-Our last day in Rome and we see Pope Francis!!!

The chefs in the kitchen.  Paul and I loved how they almost looked like a portrait on the wall!
Our beautiful entertainer-photo courtesy Rita Fink
And the hilarious and talented guitar player-photo courtesy Rita Fink

Our wonderful guide, Patrizia!

The best spinach ravioli I have ever had in my life!  It simply melted in my mouth!

Light and fluffy cake for dessert.

Bishop Don took a picture of our table.  What a wonderful, holy and fun group!


Each time we'd board the bus, our guide, Patrizia, would tell us stories about the history of Italy, about Italian saints and about the customs of the country she deeply loves.  She even shared her own recipe for making homemade Limoncello with us!  Limoncello is an after dinner drink that is meant to be slowly sipped and enjoyed.

Patrizia's Limoncello Recipe

Start with six pounds organic lemons.  Peel the lemons and remove the yellow rind only, not the white pith.  Immerse the peels in one liter grain alcohol or vodka.  Put it in a glass container and close.  Place it in a dark corner or room for a few months and then filter.  Dissolve 3-1/2 to 4 cups sugar in a liter of water and combine with 1 liter of the alcohol.  Place the mixture back in a dark corner or room for a few more months and then drink!  

(Or, you could just go the liquor store and buy some Limoncello but I'm sure Patrizia's recipe or the Limoncello bought in Italy is much better than what can be found here.)

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