Arrivederci Roma

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November 2008

My Stories

Granner

Putting on the Ritz

Granada and Sevilla

Amsterdam

Tuscany and Umbria - 1

Tuscany and Umbria - 2

Driving in England

Dwelling in England

A Dozens Reasons

In the Hamam

Istanbul Greece Diary

Pearl Harbor Team

Old Girl

Paris

Provence

Grandpa's Cabin

Pay-It-Forward Latte

England and France

N. Italy - 1

N. Italy - 2

N. Italy - 3

N. Italy - 4

Lessons from 4 Corners

Mexico

Going to the Dogs

Don't Embarrass Me!

Letter from Siena

Arrivederci Roma

Joining the Matriarchs

Living History

Newlywed Game

Chaos Theory

Zach on the Road

Huckleberry Season

Stanley & the Sunbeam

I Dare Say

Middle School Relay

Grad Party

Yellowstone

Moving On

Newlywed Couches

Visitors

Old Faithful Inn

Snowbound

Sweet Potato

Mother Bear

Two Blondes in Iberia

Revisiting Spain

Curly's Truck

Old Buildings

Chelsea's

Split Seams

All Nighter

Talent Show

Tomorrow we begin our long journey home.  Thanks mucho to those of you who helped hold down our fort the past two-plus weeks, making it possible for us to enjoy this trip without worry.  Since I’m pretty sure I’ll be somewhat useless for a bit when we get back home, I thought I’d send out my thoughts on our last days in Italy now… 

Jim overlooking the Forum; Jean by doors at San Giovanni in Laterano; Roman Forum

Rome’s slightly more international than Salem, Oregon.  We’ve been mistaken for Germans and have befriended Brits, Australians and Canadians.  I think I fooled one Canadian couple into thinking I actually knew what I was doing when we’d arrived at Pompeii and our friends to the north couldn’t get off the train.  “I can’t open the door!” Canadian wife cried.  I reached over and pushed the large yellow button with the word EXIT and remarkably, the door opened. 

But greater challenges awaited, for we had taken a different train than Rick Steves prescribed, one that deposited us in the actual town of Pompeii and not the ruins of ancient Pompeii, also known as Scavi (excavated) Pompeii.  (Did you know that there’s another Pompeii?  We didn’t.)

Jim in Pompeii; Remains in Pompeii

I talked our Canadian friends into sharing a cab with us to the ruins, and we found a gregarious older Italian guy to drive us there.  I sat in front and practiced my exclusive dialect of Span-talian with Cabbie.  He told me I spoke great Italian--what a lying schmoozer.  Jim just rolled his eyes.  My best Italian still relates to food, like when I point to a pastry and ask if there’s chocolate inside.  Oh, yes there is!  But I digress.

Pompeii was bigger and more fun than we’d anticipated.  On a scavenger hunt, we located points like the pizzeria, the public bathhouse, and the brothel.  The brothel had beds and pillows of stone and small frescos depicting services offered.  We got the lay of the Pompeii puzzle so well that the Canadians and Australians began asking us for directions.  All in all, our grand detour to Naples and Pompeii was well worth the trouble.

Rome: Jim and the Boxer at Rest; Jean and the Discus Thrower

But easily the grandest site was back in Rome at the Vatican.  We toured the massive Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel on a rare day with no lines.  Then, exhausted, we staggered into St. Peter’s Basilica.  I’d waited for months to see Michelangelo’s Pieta’, and there it stood.  Even through protective glass, the sculpture humbled me in ways I hadn’t expected.

Mary held Jesus’ limp body, her face lovely even in sorrow.  She cradled him tenderly.  Jesus, broken and crucified for me.  Grazie, Gesu’.  

Because of our off-season schedule, we got to see Peter’s tomb in an underground Basilica tour called “Scavi.”  The Church allows just twelve people per group.  Our Vatican guide, a solemn but gracious young Italian, spoke rapid English with a heavy accent.  We had to pay careful attention.  “Are any of you having claustrophobia?” he asked before we started.  We all shook our heads. 

The Vatican

We couldn’t touch walls, take photos or wander off, or alarms would sound.  Our guide punched multiple keypads in a series of glass doors as he led below the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica.  He described how church and historical records had long indicated the exact location of Peter’s grave.  During the years of World War II, the Vatican hired four archeologists to work in secret—they worried that Hitler would get wind of the project and claim Peter’s remains for himself.  The archeologists found the tomb precisely where records indicated. 

As we neared Peter’s tomb, we heard voices of church pilgrims overhead.  Looking up through vents, we saw Michelangelo’s massive dome and part of the inscription:  Tu es Petrus…  “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…”  (Matthew 16:18)

One at a time, we each got to peer around the corner at the tomb.  Peter’s bones lay in a shallow open box on a small rocky shelf.  There he was, Jesus’ friend, Peter, the rock upon which Jesus built his church.

Our Vatican guide hesitated.  He searched the faces of our group of twelve.  “Are you all Christians?” he asked.  Everyone nodded.

“Let’s say the ‘Our Father,’” he instructed.  And we did. 

“Thank you, St. Peter,” our guide whispered. 

Thank you, Jesus, I prayed.

Grazie, Gesu’.

Jean in Vatican Museums; Michelangelo's Pieta'