Oh my, this post is is going to be long & filled with photos because all roads lead to Rome and a piece of your heart is left in this beautiful, holy city!
Our second country that we visited was Italy and, my oh my, it did not disappoint! When we arrived, there were mopeds & cute little cars buzzing about and the romantic Italian language wafting through the windows of our Airbnb. Did I mention that there was a cafe down the street with opera music floating up to our bedroom windows and gorgeous cafes & churches dotting the streets? Breathtaking.
Rome was was exactly what I hoped it would be and everything that I dreamed it would be. It was incredibly magical!
The Trevi Fountain doesn’t disappoint! Rome is currently going through a drought and a couple of weeks ago, the fountains were turned off to conserve water. We had made it just in time to see the magic! We all took turns throwing in a coin over our left shoulder to ensure that we’ll make it back one day & take in the beautiful sites once again. I’m happy to report that we all made the coins in – no man left behind!
The Spanish Steps
We went to see the Spanish Steps and David and I tried to recreate an Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck moment with our gelato, but we were promptly told to get off the steps (absolutely no food!). Ah well, we tried! The steps are totally worth seeing and it’s surrounded by fabulous gelato, designer stores and beautiful fountains. At the top of the steps, there is such a breathtaking view of Rome. When I say breathtaking, I mean it. You can get lost studying the architecture and daydreaming about the history of the city!
The Ecstasy of St. Teresa
One of my favorite sculptures by Bernini that David and I were able to see in Rome was in Santa Maria della Vittoria. This sculpture was under much scrutiny because it was based on the writings of St. Teresa of Avila regarding the ecstasy of Christ’s love piercing her heart. St. Teresa described an angel carrying a fire-tipped spear, which pierced her heart repeatedly and sent her into a state of spiritual rapture. She writes, “The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness it caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul then content with anything but God.” (The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, Ch. 29).
The Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Ghetto is a hidden gem of the city with its tragic & rich history. I don’t say gem lightly because I think that this is a location in Rome that truly caused me to pause and think about the tragedies of WWII and the reconciliation extended by Pope St. JPII on behalf of the Catholic Church to the Jewish community. We did a lot of Rick Steves Audio Tours on our trip (he’s awesome!) and we walked through the neighborhood learning about the history and the buildings. We stood in the square where Jews were required to gather and were promptly taken away to concentration camps to be tortured and killed. As I stood on the cobblestones and looked around, I closed my eyes for a moment and visualized families, parents, elderly and children, weeping, looking horrified, never knowing if they would ever see their loved ones again. My heart ached and it gave me chills to think how horribly these people were treated and the ramifications of such decisions. The very cobblestones I was walking on and romanticizing were the very places that individuals stood, fearing for their lives, for their families, for their futures. To be standing in the place of such martyrs… there are no words. Pope St. JPII extended reconciliation to the Jewish leaders and community on behalf of the Catholic Church and apologized for the tragedies that took place and that the Catholic Church did not do more to protect and care for the Jewish community in Rome.
The Vatican Museums & Pope Francis
The Vatican Museum Tours and the Scavi Tour were a great way to better understand Catholic Church history. The Scavi Tour takes place in the basement of St. Peter’s Basilica. We were running around trying to find the entrance (it was a hot mess of misinformed directions) and when we arrived, I thought that it would be cool most caves, but the temperature was incredibly warm and not at all what I had expected. The space is kept warm to preserve the Roman mausoleums and to protect the structures that were excavated after the building of the Basilica. We closed the tour with looking at the bones of St. Peter, where the tour guide finished with the poignant verse: “You are Peter and upon this Rock, I will build my Church (Matthew 16:18).”
Well, we didn’t meet the Pope, but we totally went to The Angelus on Sunday and were able to see the man himself. It was totally surreal to see Pope Francis and to see so many people gathered around to hear the words of this man who leads the Catholic Church. It made me very aware of how we need to pray for him and world leaders to lead with mercy & love. It is so important!
We went on an incredible tour with John Noronha of John & Ashley Tours and it was incredible! John knows so much about art, architecture, Church history, Roman history, theology, philosophy and the inner workings of the Italian government and Vatican. We went on a 5 hour walking tour throughout Ancient Rome and it was wonderful to walk in order to take everything in and to tangibly experience where early Christians walked, where the Romans participated in community life and how the Catholic Church impacted the changing history of Rome.
St. John Lateran, Scala Santa & St. Mary Magdalene’s Foot
The last morning of our time in Rome, David and I decided to get up early to go to see St. John Lateran, crawl up the steps of the Scala Santa and see the bones of St. Mary Magdalene’s Foot. St. John Lateran is a beautiful Basilica that has the heads of Sts. Peter & Paul (WUUUT) and was the first Basilica to house the Popes in Rome (before St. Peter’s Basilica was built). The space is incredibly gorgeous and the intricate frescos, gold trim and side chapels are so beautiful. It’s surreal being in a space so large & so detailed in its architectural structure and design. David and I were blown away because this was the very place that Constantine was baptized!
We went to see and crawl up the Scala Santa, which are the very steps taken from Jerusalem by Constantine’s mother, St. Helena. Shortly after Christ’s death, St. Helena went to grab some of the thorns from Christ’s Crown of Thorns, two nails and the steps that Jesus walked up to see Pontius Pilate after being scourged. After the steps were displaced and put at its current location, the steps were covered with oak wood in order to preserve the steps. However, there are slots, so that you can reach and touch the steps and the blood of Christ. You can only go up the steps on your knees, so David and I prayed up the steps together and it was HARD. In that moment, I was crabby and tired and I gave it all to Jesus in that moment, asking Him to help me get over myself and be there with Him. Suffering is so hard – no matter how much or little we have been through – and being on these steps gave me perspective. And wow, did my pride step in the way of that moment, poking at me, reminding me that I didn’t need to be on my knees crawling up these steps. But, oh how my heart needed it!
Finally, we ended our morning in a church right by our Airbnb that had the bones of the foot of St. Mary Magdalene – the very foot that walked through the tomb to find Jesus and to ask where He was. That woman is a champ. I learned so much about her and grew in such deep respect of her story by reading a book that reflected on the women in the Gospels. I highly recommend it!
It’s time for #AWanderlustWednesday and I want to see where you have explored & traveled! This isn’t just for airplane rides or expensive vacations! I want to see what you have experienced in your own city and what you would recommend if someone stayed at your home for Airbnb. What do you love? What gem did you find in your neighborhood? Any delicious restaurants that you would recommend?
A few more photos…
Ciao, for now!