I traveled to Rome for the first time in 1992, and I have not been back since 1997. On previous visits, I spent time at the University of Rome with a group of demographers. I made two presentations regarding my work in business demography, and commiserated with several people about some joint work as well. I also met for the first time my cousin Addie Ciampa. Addie was born in the U.S., but now lives in Rome. She gave me a tour of the city on the back of her motor scooter. It was great fun, and exhilarating, especially when a four lane road turned into ten lanes of cars, motorcycles, buses, and motorbikes all trying to see who could get away the fastest from a stoplight. And, five of those lanes of mayhem were coming in our direction. It was like a quarter mile drag race, except that no one drove in one straight line. We moved quickly darting in and out of traffic, slipping off to narrow streets filled with shops, restaurants, and people, everywhere. I saw places that are not on the publicized top ten, twenty, or fifty “things to see” lists, the best way to view a place when you know so little about it. Thank you Addie.
But, as noted in a previous post, this trip was different. I really enjoyed traveling with my cousins, even when we were worn out at the end of the day and a bit cranky. Meeting up with our two Rome cousins and their families was the bomb. We ended up eating (that’s what Italians do) at one of my cousin’s neighborhood restaurant haunts. There we were, over 20 of us sitting at a long rectangular table hearing family stories about the past and present and eating great food. Our lives have gone in many different directions, and I hoped that the night would not end—we had so much to talk about. It was a Ardovino (our common family home) infestation.
Our first Air B and B arrangements in Rome blew up, and we were left scrambling to find another place to stay. So, Janet stayed calm and just made things happen, as she often does. She found another B and B, this time in Via Stazione Vatican. Yes, we were the Pope’s new neighbors, just across the street from St. Peters. Below is the first Vatican City picture I took from the window of our family room. The across the street entry way to the Vatican was very busy most of the days with a steady line of cars and foot traffic. As might be expected, the odd tourists, usually in groups of two, or three would walk up to the guard house, probably asking if they could come in and stroll about. They were turned away gently, but firmly. The night picture of our view was taken by my cousin George. Keep in mind what you have read about Pope Francis and his living preferences. He has deemed the usual Pope digs as too fancy for his tastes, and bunks in another part of the Vatican. I suspect that his bedroom was no more than 200 yards or so from our Air B and B.
On Wednesday’s, the Pope holds court at the Piazza San Pietro. During our visit, the crowd began to gather up quite early, in part because Pope Francis gets the show going before the scheduled 10 AM start time. You can see the gathering of the crowd below, as well as a picture of a member of his Swiss Guard. About 9:40 AM, the Popemobile began to make its way along the pathways/aisles leading up to the stage. At various points along the way the Popemobile stopped, and Pope Francis got out to shake some hands, to bless the sinners, and to kiss a few babies. There was a sense of excitement and awe as he made his way through the audience. If you go to Rome, I suggest going. Even for the less religious, the event is spectacular.
On the Wednesday we were there, and perhaps on other Wednesday’s, Pope Francis gathered up newlywed couples and had them seated next to the stage where he was positioned. Couples who participate sign up well in advance. These couples had great side-row seating for all of the prayers, proclamations, songs, and guest entertainment for the day. For example, that day they watched up close a Korean Taekwondo group give a snappy performance to the song, Ave Maria (two versions)—a bit odd, but when in Rome… My cousin Jared and his wife Jackie are kind of newly married, and signed up early so they were near the stage. Jared was able to take some great pictures of Pope Francis as he shook hands and had brief exchanges with members of the newlywed group. I am including several of his pictures for you to see.
No trip to Rome (well, at least the first trip) is complete without seeing the usual sights, the Coliseum, the Forum, Circus Maximus, and the Vatican. Yes, I had seen those places before, but I had not been in St. Peter’s Basilica or the Sistine Chapel. The combination of art and architecture in each location is magnificent. While I will pick a different time of year to visit Rome the next time I go (too many tourists in late May/early June), the crowds did not lessen the beauty of what we saw.
One more observation. As many of you know, for much of recorded history humans have relocated or re-purposed art and building materials and some of the best examples can be found in Italy. Got a coliseum that has seen better days and is not used so much anymore? No problem, we can take that marble and other stone off your hands to build a church or a house. Got some art from Constantinople or Egypt that looks like it might want to live elsewhere? No worries, we’ve got the museum, church, or private collection for you.