Saturday, May 4, 2013

All Roads Lead to Roma, Part I

St Peter's

"Rome was a poem pressed
into service as a city."
~ Anatole Broyard

After spending three hot and humid days in crowded and crazy Rome in 2011, Mike and I pretty much decided that we wouldn't go back again. We'd done most of the historical sites and the Vatican, fought traffic both in a car and on foot, and run the gauntlet of tour and souvenir hawkers one too many times. Suddenly, Pope Benedict resigned, and Pope Francis took over. Cue the mood-changing music.

"So," I said to Mike before we left the States in March, "what are your thoughts on going to Rome for a day while we're in Spoleto?"

"I was thinking the same thing," he replied. "If we're that close, so we should go."

"Should I send the pope an email and let him know we're thinking of visiting? Maybe he'll have us for tea." ;=)

All joking aside, I did want to get to the Vatican at some point because of the new pope. I knew that we had 0% chance of seeing him, but there is something to be said about being "there." I also wanted to pick up a holy card with a prayer from this papacy. (The Catholic in me dies hard, you know.)

The Pieta

After the zoo we encountered in Assisi last week, I was less-than-enthusiastic about going to Rome than I had been. As you may remember, I do not like crowds, and in the Vatican, they are a necessary evil. I didn't bring it up to Mike, but early in the week, he mentioned heading that way on a day the weather forecast was good. I kept an eye on the forecast because I did not want to be standing in line in the rain. At first we thought we'd head that way on Sunday or Monday, but after we had the storms here on Thursday, we decided that today looked good.

Side note: You probably know by now that we tend to have some occurrence (Read: adventure) 90% of the time we do something. Today was no different. Actually, we had more than our share of occurrences today, thank you. I will, however, hold off on them because I need to have a little time between us before I tackle writing about them. At this point, suffice to say that we got to Rome around 9:45 this morning.

The Main Altar under which St. Peter is buried

The Vatican was a zoo. If you look at the first and second-to-last photos in this post, you'll see the square from opposing sides. I shot the top photo while standing in line to get into the basilica. When we joined the line, we were to the right of the obelisk that you see (and as you look at) in the bottom photo.

When we walked into the square, my heart started palpitating.

"What do you want to do?" I asked in apprehension knowing that a certain husband was going to say he wanted to go into the basilica. "We've been in there twice."

"Well," he started, "we should go in. The line seems to be moving quickly."

"Ok." HOLY CRAP. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. "You're right." Like i said yesterday, I am such a wuss.

We shuffled along with everyone else, and for 20-30 minutes, we (mostly I) got jostled along toward the main door of the basilica. Finally, we and about 50,000 of our closest peers were crowding the aisles of the largest Catholic Church in the world.

The Names of Popes

Allow me to digress from the crowd story at this point because it is a story in itself, and as I mentioned earlier, I need a day or so away from it to process it. Do let me ask,though, that should I ever, ever, ever again mention going to the Vatican early in the morning, someone please, for the love of God, lock me up somewhere.

The square from the portico of the basilica

A couple of facts that you might not know about St. Peter's:
* Until recently, it was the largest Christian church. It's still huge, covering over 5.5 square acres.
* St. Peter's remains are buried below the main altar (See photo above.)
* There are 100 tombs in the basilica, including those of both popes and saints.
* You can climb the steps (320) to the dome for 6 euro. For 7, you can take an elevator. We did neither. (See photo below/)
* The basilica does NOT charge for Mass intentions. (No priests in a box here)
* It can hold over 50.000 people (I think they were all there this morning.)

The main dome

I asked one of the guys working in the church how many visitors they get in a day.

"10,000?" I suggested. He scoffed.
"30,000?" He laughed.
"50,000." I was sure I was right with that one.

"No. No," he said shaking his had. "Two hundred-a thousand. At minimum."

It was my turn to shake my head. "Noooo. You're kidding me. Really?"

"SIgnora, I do not-a keed=a you."

In case you were worried, I got my holy card at the Official Vatican Gift Shop before we left the area. We took a bus tour around the city before heading back to Termini (the train station) and the continuing saga of "Fun & Exciting Adventures with Chris & Mike."

Stay tuned.

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