Monday, March 29, 2010

March 22

We awoke on Tuesday in sunny Roma. Happy to be in a more balmy climate, we ate a hearty breakfast at the hotel and began the long walk to the Vatican. Like many pilgrims before us, this location was of the utmost importance to our spiritual journey.

We crossed the Ponte S. Angelo and then entered the beautiful Bernini piazza in the Vatican complex. Here, we took note of the extremely long lines of fellow pilgrims that we were able to deftly pass as we went to the exclusive VIP entrance to the Scavi. There we met Caterina, our big-haired, smooth-talking guide, for our journey down to the tomb of St. Peter. We went down through the level of the Constantinian church (today that of the so-called grotte) to the ancient necropolis which is more than 40 feet below the floor of the present church. Here, we observed many well-preserved mausolea with both pagan and Early Christian imagery. As we went along we couldn’t help but think about the burial space of the great martyr himself. Caterina had built up the suspense surrounding the tomb (a word she pronounced with a very heavy ‘b’) of St Peter himself. Finally, we arrived at the spot. Caterina directed our attention to a light faintly illuminating the red wall of the tomb—not quite what we were expecting, but interesting nonetheless.


As we left the necropolis and made our way up to toward the ground level, we stopped in the grotte to hear the rest of Blake’s presentation on the shrine, or confessio. Here, we were once again reunited with the suffocating crowds of the Vatican which provided for some extreme people-watching opportunities. In the basilica, we were in awe of the both the immensity of the space and attention to detail. This sparked many a discussion of “how the heck did they do that???” As we left the Vatican, Sarah put the papal complex in context with her discussion of the history of the area that surrounds the Vatican — the Borgo.


All this spiritual awakening had whetted our appetites as fifteen famished pilgrims began the trek to lunch. Along the way, Will and Sophia gave us more history on both the welfare provisions of pilgrims and their experience in Rome. At last, we arrived in Campo dei Fiori and had a pizza lunch. We shared a fountain in Piazza Farnesse with an equally hungry seagull munching on a pigeon carcass before we were chased away by the polizia. Our itinerary then led us to the Ghetto where we scoped out dinner spots — food was often a prime concern. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped in the Pantheon to see the building that has been a main feature on many of our Art History and Architectural Studies exams.


Many pilgrims next went to the ultimate Roman shrine—the Superga store. Here we browsed a rainbow of colors that would both soothe our aching feet and make us all look stylish.
We completed the day with yet another delicious meal with fried artichokes, fried zucchini, carbonara with zucchini, spaghetti cacio e pepe and a lovely pastry with nuts.

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