The whiplash from the red dirt and poverty of Africa to one of Europe’s most iconic cities was surreal, plus we were exhausted from our all night flight. We had booked an apartment on AirBnB and were met by a sweet older lady who spoke not a lick of english to show us around the apartment. Her heart came through loud and clear with her waving, nodding and pointing and after a few minutes and a hug, we had a delightful small 3 bedroom apartment in the north west side of Rome, about 15 minutes from the train. Rome was a quick 3 day visit, here are some highlights:
Treats: Italians are absolutely the reigning kings of treats. Holy Smokes! Cappuccinos and Gelatos are phenomenal. I think we ate gelato every day that we went exploring. ‘Give us this day, our daily gelato.’ Some days we prayed that prayer twice. Also, I wish America would adopt Italy’s portion size. American treats are huge and expensive in money and calories. Italian Cappuccinos, for example, are 4oz or 6oz and right around $1.50 USD. Gelato was about $1.30 per scoop. Italy served the best coffee and ice-cream I’ve had. In heaven, no doubt, the Italians will run the treat stand. And the crazy thing is, the smaller the treat, the more it feels like a treat. A Venti Starbucks feels like an inalienable right. That tiny italian goodness that is a lavazza cappuccino feels like you’re the most spoiled guy on the planet.
Could this be the problem with us in the west? Too much of everything and we now feel like we must have it or we demand it when it isn’t just right. Anyway, enough philosophy, here’s a pic of the family gelato:
Rome, of course, is packed full of historic monuments, churches and piazzas. It is literally impossible to see it all, but I’m grateful that my friend Dave Runyon suggested we stop in the Church of St John Latern. It is the official Basilica of Rome and became one of my trip highlights. As you approach the Basilica, you’re greeted by Jesus and the 12 apostles on the roof, and then inside, each apostle stands huge as a 20’ statue in his own section of the church. Also, as my son Andrew noticed that the ceiling has frescos of Bible authors, so as you look around the huge ceiling, you find a painting of Isaiah and Amos and Nahum etc. Incredible. You could sit through the most boring sermon and still have a powerful worship encounter in this church. Maybe we should get some frescos for Discovery….
Here is Peter, holding the keys to the gates of Hell:
Here is my favorite of them – Thomas, reaching out to touch Jesus’ hands and holding a ruler because he needs “proof.”
And here is Andrew with St Andrew:
Vatican. I didn’t understand until we arrived that the Vatican is two different sights – the Basilica and the Museum. We started at the museum, which, it turns out, is the largest collection of art in the world. I am not an art buff, but I very much appreciate people who worship through the arts. Seeing paintings, mosaics and tapestries created to tell the story of God was very moving and many paintings were breath taking.
Kaylee is our family’s Egypt enthusiast, so she was thrilled to discover that the Vatican had a huge Egyptian art exhibit.
Bustling and hustling near thousands of people took the Vatican experience down a few notches, but I’m so glad we made the effort. The Sistine chapel is difficult to describe in words, but is a deeply moving encounter. The grumpy cashier in the cafeteria, not so much. I thought all employees of the Vatican were supposed to be nice!
Having seen the museum and Sistene Chapel, we made our way to the Bascilia, the actual Vatican and St Peter’s Square. It just so happens that Pope Francis declared this year as a Jubilee year which means that Basilicas all over the country literally knock down a walled off area of the church and open the “Holy Door” which is a special entrance opened once every 25 years. 2016 is technically not 25 years away from the last Jubilee Year, but Pappy Franky isn’t one to stick to the rules, so as we arrived, we discovered a way to bypass the huge line and walk right into the Holy Door. Apparently those who walk through the Holy Door have their sins forgiven. We didn’t know any of this context at the time, we were just told by a local to find the people in yellow jackets and they’d get us in the door. We did and they did. Our sins were actually already covered by Jesus, but it was great to use the door none the less.
Finally, we stopped by three sights we were very excited to see:
The mighty Colosseum – just a masterpiece of ancient design and of course a powerful metaphor for the might of Rome. We loved listening to our kids teach us about this era of the Roman Empire. Quick shout out to Prospect Ridge and Core Knowledge!
Constantine’s Arch. Was Constantine a true believer in Christianity or just a clever politician? We’ll never know, but by the time of his rule, followers of Jesus had gone from a few dozen to fifty percent of the known world. Staggering, considering it only took 300 years or so. That is the power of the message of Jesus. Here is Connie’s Arch (as his friends coin it) representing his power and faith:
Finally, I was very keen to see Mamertine Prison, where Paul and possibly Peter spent jail time. I had visions of reading some prison epistles while visiting the prison, but it was closed for renovation, so I had to settle for a picture of the entrance. Its a good excuse to plan another trip to Rome one day as we barely scratched the surface before it was time to head north….
Rome was a wonderful introduction to this amazing country. Our final morning, Andrew and I took public transport to grab a rental car and drive back to our apartment. Load up fam and luggage and off to Assisi. I’m proud to report that I missed hitting every scooter driver in spite of their best effort to the contrary. Italian driving….that’s a whole ‘nuther blog post.