Rome, Day Six

After passing out the night before, we awoke to attend Jono’s first mass as a deacon at Cheisa de Apostoli.  He chose the church since St. James and St. Phillip are buried there, and his father’s patron saint was James (and is my middle name, coincidentally).  He did a great job with a good, to-the-point sermon and a touching tribute to his father.  The church was a unique one with lots of crystal chandeliers and tall candles around the sanctuary.

After mass… another multi-course meal!  Luckily we were walking everywhere, since otherwise we may have needed extra seats on the plan back.  Lunch was at Trattoria di Luigi, outside in the square.  The meal is a little fuzzy here, not because it wasn’t good.  I believe we had pasta carbonara, veal saltimbocca alla roma (that I’m certain of), a salad, and some gelato. 

After lunch we went to Castel Sant’Angelo, one of those historic landmarks that really draws you in.  I would HIGHLY recommend the audio guide though – the explanations are great, and just the right amount of information and insight to make it interesting and relevant without rambling.  Too bad you have to walk half way around the whole place to get and return it! 

That afternoon we stopped at a supermarket near the hotel to pick up a snack for the afternoon.  Going into a supermarket was something I wanted to do while overseas, just to see the differences between the U.S. and Europe, since I work in the consumer packaged goods industry.  We picked up some milk, water, Parmesan reggiano (I really wanted to just munch on a block of it while there), crackers and some chocolate cookies.  We also picked up two small bottles of wine for one Euro each.  We went back to our hotel room and had a little picnic.  The cheese lived up to what I wanted it to be and the wine couldn’t be beat, especially considering the price.  Then there were the cookies.  Pavesi Togo Double Fondente.  This is the closest thing that I could find to information about it online (writing these blogs has been challenging when it comes to finding links… I never would have thought that there would be such a big difference between Europe and the United States when it came to every single little restaurant and company and product having a web site).  I want these again.  They were chocolatey, creamy, crispy and far, far better than we were anticipating.  They were next to the Oreos after all!!

While we were at lunch earlier in the day, I had hit up Jono for a dinner recommendation.  We went to Hosteria Farnese in Piazza Farnesi.  All the outside tables were full, so we got the one table inside, which was fine.  By taking that table and dropping a few basic Italian words, we got great treatment from the wait staff and owners, showing us prime dishes as they went by out to the outside diners.  We also got to enjoy the wandering musicians without having to pay any money.  For the actual dinner we had gnocchi, cheese-stuffed cannelloni, some house red wine, sparkling water and a limoncello to finish.  We then went over to the Trevi Fountain again to view it at night (another nasty encounter with another flower hawker that I had to yell at to get us off our backs), and then to San Crispino for gelato.  We had gelato a number of times already on this trip and none of it was bad.  It was all quite good actually.  But this gelato was exceptionally good and the flavor unique.  We each got three flavors – I had ginger cinnamon(awesome), whiskey (felt like I was doing a shot) and valrhona chocolate, while Meghan had honey (in one word, "wow"), bourbon vanilla and chocolate meringue with little crispy pieces of meringue in it.

That ended our second to last day in Rome.  We headed to bed (after a stop for another glass of milk at our neighborhood bar), and rested up for our last day. 

Rome, Day Five

Day five in Rome… and the reason we came in the first place.  Jonathan’s ordination as a Deacon.  We were at St. Peter’s at 8 a.m. this morning, and got a great location within the basilica, in front of the Altar of the Chair, where the ordination would take place.  We were there so early the lights hadn’t come on yet, but slowly more and more got turned on, allowing for better and better photos.  Around 9:30, the Mass started, with a procession of over 200 priests and 20 bishops were led through the crowd and filling the altar area.  The setting was breathtaking – a full choir and band accompanied the massive organ, and the impressive size of the building made the whole thing fabulously grandiose.  No photo can capture the scope of St. Peters.  A few come close, at least providing some sense of scale, but unless you experience it first hand, you are impressed, regardless of your religious leanings.   Being there for a special event allowed for even more spectacular photos thanks to the special lighting.

The ceremony lasted a little over two hours, with plenty of the sitting, kneeling, and standing that you would expect from a Catholic ceremony.  Trying to describe the ceremony is nearly pointless – without the setting, the music, the grandeur, it would sound just like a long Catholic Mass.  It was a special thrill to see an ordination though. Afterward, a reception was held at the NAC, with light snacks and drinks. 

After that we headed back to the hotel room where we had a few hours to kill.  We had reached a critical point in our trip.  It was our fifth day – only our fourth full day – and we had multiple fantastic meals, seen St. Peter’s, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Augusto Imperatore, Museuo dell’Ara Pacis, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican museum, the Crypt of Santa Maria della Concezione, the Rome Hard Rock Cafe, a Papal audience, the Trevi Fountain, the Colleseum, the Forum, Piazza Navona, and been to a mass in St. Peter’s.  We had been up before sunrise three days in a row.  We had a room with a ceiling fan and our feet were tired and we were sick of being hot because of the unrelenting sun and having to wear long pants.

So after a bit of debate, we decided to actually feel like we were on VACATION – which we were, after all – and just do nothing fora  few hours.  We rested.  We let our legs and feet rest, we read, looked at guidebooks to see what we wanted to see in our remaining two days and just relaxed.

It put us in a nice, relaxed mood for a quick prayer service at the NAC and then meeting for dinner at La Nocetta, a multi-course affair that we thought we were ready for.  We began with paper thin slices of prosciutto and freshly made mozzarella.  That was followed by penne arrabiata, a spicy tomato-based dish that I love.  There was some extra left from this course, which they put down in front of me and a few other people and we did well in making the extra disappear.

We wouldn’t have done that had we know there was a SECOND pasta dish coming, a tradition in Rome for special occasion meals.  The second pasta course was pasta carbonara.  So to recap: sliced cured ham, cheese, pasta with tomato sauce, and pasta with egg and bacon.  Time to waddle home, right?  Nope.  Up next was veal saltimbocca alla roma, a veal roast rolled with prosciutto and then roasted and served with pan gravy.  Finally, dessert, which thankfully, was light: a delicious fruit salad with vanilla gelato. 

At this point, many people left, leaving only myself and Meghan to hang out with Jonathan, his fellow recently ordained deacon, Mark, and several clergy from the Springfield, MA diocese.  Someone ordered a digestiv (after dinner drink), and we followed suit with some limoncello. Amaro was ordered, a drink that I wasn’t familiar with.  So naturally, I tried some after finishing my limoncello.  It has a medicinal taste that is reminiscent of Jagermister and/or cough syrup, but in a good way.  Jono ordered some grappa, another drink I had never tried, so I had some of that as well.  Then the bottles of limoncello and amaro were left on the table by the proprietor of the restaurant, a gesture of goodwill to the clergy who had also picked up the tab. 

So after a few glasses of wine and some limoncello, amaro and grappa, combined with a long day, I was feeling pretty good.

Then someone mentioned "green sambuca."  I  had been told – warned – about this stuff.  I can’t even give you a link about it, since apparently not even Google has head about it.  It was described to me as regular sambuca with additional herbs added to it, giving it a herbal, green flavor on top of its primary anise flavor to match its bright green flavor.  The stuff is good.  Like, "puts an end to the night quick" good.  It is like drinking anise candy, which is why when one of the priests poured the remnants of the bottle into my glass and told me to "drink it down," I complied.  Who am I to argue with a priest after all?

By the time we got to the hotel, I felt like my eyelids weighed a ton and nearly fell asleep in the elevator.  This is when the secret of the green sambuca revealed itself: the combination of herbs basically creates codeine in the liquor.  Needless to say, my head hit the pillow that night and when I awoke about 8 hour later – pretty much in the same position as I fell asleep in – I was VERY well rested and ready to tackle day six.   

Rome, Day Four

On Wednesday, our fourth day of vacationing in Rome, I had reached my "vacation stride" where I truly felt like I was on vacation and feeling comfortable in this great foreign city.  The day started off with a Papal Audience.  Yep, the Pope himself, Benedict XVI.  This meant the second of three days in a row getting up before sunrise.  We were in line at St. Peter’s by 7:30 a.m. with a bag of breakfast rolls and some bottles of juice.  Getting the hotel’s breakfast "to go" was a scene straight out of Fawlty Towers.  The waiter could barely speak English, with him welcoming us to sit down for breakfast and then us explaining very carefully that we would like our croissant and accouterments to go.  He said he understood and then pulled out a chair for us to sit down at.

Clearly, those Italian lessons would have been worth the money…

Eventually, we got him to understand and we had our bag of delicious croissants, Nutella, honey, pre-packaged toast and rock-like rolls that I still can’t figure out how they qualify as edible. 

To get to our seats, we had to pass through a chaotic security checkpoint, far more chaotic than one would think.  We’re there to see the POPE, so you’d think people might be nice, but no.  Pushing, shoving, cursing… truly the Christian spirit alive and well. 

However, once we sat down, we realized what good seats we had – Jono had obtained the tickets for us and they were in the special area closest to the stage, other than the two small groups on each side of the stage.   Unfortunately, it was another beautiful, cloudless day in Rome, and the Mediterranean sun was beating down on us with no shade to be found.  But at least we had entertainment!  Around 9 a.m.  a full marching band came in and started playing music.  Oh, but not the divinely-inspired religious music that you might expect at a Papal audience, but rather an eclectic mix of marching standards and pop songs: The Washington Post March, Hey Jude, Daydream Believer, Dancing Queen…  I heard that Bennie XVI is a HUGE Abba fan… 

Finally, around 10:30 the "Pope-mobile" arrived and drove around the crowd, eventually climbing the ramp leading to the stage.  The official ceremony began, which was simple enough: a welcoming, a statement about St. Cyril of Alexandria, and then a blessing.  What we didn’t know is that it would be said in Italian… then repeated in English, French, German and at least one other language… by that point, I had lost track.   And each time they introduced large groups there on a pilgrimage, they would cheer, and in the case of most of the German groups, sing a chorus or two of a song.  The summary of it is that a 15 minute presentation got repeated several times over, each time in a language that we didn’t understand. (The full English translation can be found here.)

Anyway, after a long morning in the hot sun, we grabbed a pizza panini from a street vendor, which wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the hot dog panini we had the day before.  We got on an open-top double-decker tour bus that took us to the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and the Forum.  Seeing the Colosseum and Forum were the most amazing bunch of decaying stone I’ve ever seen, and I don’t mean that in the nicest of ways.  The fact that these ancient ruins are still standing at all are amazing, and when you think about the enormous size of these structures and how they were built without the benefit of motorized cranes and bulldozers, you are struck by the intelligence and perseverance of the ancient Romans.  And how many very tired horses there must have been back then.  And very sore people.  Advil would have made a killing.

From there we went on a slightly anti-climatic walk to Piazza Navona where the central fountain was unfortunately undergoing renovations.  In the end , it was worth the side trip just to catch what was the most beautiful sunset we had seen during our travels yet.  The sky was deep shades of orange and red, dramatically draping St. Peter’s Basilica in shadows and reflecting in the current of the Tiber.  Myself along with 5 other avid photographers – most with their own patient and understanding significant others with them – stood there for about 20 minutes waiting for small changes in the sky that would make the difference between a good photo and a great one.

That night, we took a break from tagging along with Jono’s family and had dinner by ourselves, our first sit-down meal that we had with just the two of us since our lunch the day we arrived.  And what better place to do that in Rome than a Mexican restaurant?  Cantina Mexicana is a tradition for Meghan, going there on her first night in Rome the last two times.  The food lived up to the hype, and it was a great meal on a quiet piazza with a gently flowing fountain.

We had a chocolate dessert, which presented a problem that I had heretofore avoided: milk.  I like milk.  I love milk after chocolate or any sort of dessert.  I like having a glass of milk at night after dinner and before going to bed.  It had been five days since my last glass of milk and I was craving one bad, especialy after the chocolate.  We took a little side trip to a typical Roman "travola calda bar." and after negotiating the language barrier to order a glass of cold milk – clearly an usual request in Italy from the looks they gave us – I finally had my milk and it tasted heavenly, washing down that chocolate desert.

We went to bed a bit early, as we had to be up early the next day as well, since Jono’s ordination was taking place early the next day.   

Rome, Day Three

On our second full day in Rome, we tackled the Vatican Museum.  Taking on a museum of this size requires you to be in the right frame of mind – ready to do a lot of walking, waiting, standing, walking, waiting, standing…. 

Jono’s mom is an early riser, so she offered to get in line at 7:00 a.m. to hold a spot, and then we would join her later.  Keep in mind that the museum opens at 10, and when she got there at 7 a.m., there were already a few hundred people in front of her.  Unfortunately, there was a conflict with a tour group…

Which brings me to a quick aside about tour groups.  There are a lot of them in Rome.  A LOT of them.  And most of them – not all, but most – are major pains in the ass.  Talk about a herd mentality.  Getting in the way of a tour group is a good way to find yourself finally figuring out what the sidewalk tastes like in Rome.  They have their headsets on, and following the tour guide who has some sort of identifier that can be seen from the back of the group, and there is NOTHING that is going to get in their way.  It doesn’t help that many of the groups are made up of pushy senior citizens who feel some sort entitlement to be treated special because they are old and tourists on a tour group that they paid too much for.   And these aren’t just Americans.  Tour group psychosis was felt from people yammering in Spanish, French, Polish, Greek, and several Scandinavian languages, not to mention Italian as well. 

One brilliant idea that Sam, a Seminarian at NAC had was to get the same identifier (usually an umbrella or a kerchief tied to a stick, or in some cases, a giant plush flower) as a tour group, and then walk through the middle of a large group and see how many tourists you could get to break off.   I will personally pay for the umbrella.

ANYWAY – back to our early morning encounter in the line for the Vatican Museum.  Poor Linda (Jono’s mom) got pushed and shoved out of the way by a group of mean old Italian ladies (clearly keeping with the Christian spirit, mind you), and when we all showed up, she had been pushed in front of another tour group who was madder than anyone standing in line for the Vatican Museum should ever be because they thought she had cut in front.  We showed up to find a woman with a wireless microphone and earphone headset saying we had to go to the back of the line.  And you don’t mess with people who wear big headsets. 

Anyway, after a fairly long wait, we got into the museum, which was gorgeous.  And big.  Really, really big.  And unlike most museums, you can’t just wander from place to place.  Since it is really several different buildings connected, everyone kind of follows the same route, making it one long shuffling walk, often putting you in danger of being run over by the aforementioned tour groups.

There are many spectacular works of art, from Caravaggio, da Vinci, Raphael and Titan.  The highlight of course, is the Sistine Chapel, with the ceiling done by Michelangelo.  To be honest, the Sistine Chapel was a bit of a anti-climatic moment.  It was amazing to see the center piece, "God Creates Adam" in person, as it is one of the most iconic works of art ever created.   However, the Church itself is a bit smaller than you’d think, there’s no seating and no photography of any kind allowed.  The fact that it was done by Michelangelo while lying on his back is certainly spectacular and pain-inducing, but after spending three hours walking past every sort of painting, sculpture, tapestry and other work of art you could imagine, you’re pretty "art-ed out" at that point, and we were ready to just get out of the crowds.

By the end of the entire museum tour, I had a moment of intellectual conflict.  I enjoyed seeing all those wonderful works of art, and was glad that I had a chance to see them.  At the same time, I knew that it is the Catholic Church that owns them and they have parishioners all over the world who don’t have the financial wherewithal to eat three meals a day consistently, and parishes can’t turn on the heat in the winter for masses.  And here there church sits, in Rome, with a staggering amount of incredibly valuable art.  But at the same time, protecting this art – much of it Christian in nature – from the religious intolerance of the world at large, is why it is there in the first place.  However, as times have changed, there are many museums and private collectors that could probably keep a lot of churches warm and worshipers fed if the Vatican parted ways with some of its collection.  It is a philosophical debate with no clear answer, that is for sure.

After the Vatican Museum, we moved on to much more Earthly pursuits and had a hot dog panini, yet  further proof that the Italians can make just about anything taste better.  It is nothing more than a steamed hot dog split in half lengthwise, put between some ciabatta bread, and then grilled.  However, the grilling makes it crispy and doughy and hot, and with lots of mustard, it was one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had.  Combine that with the Minute Maid Lemon-Lime juice drink we had discovered and it was a gourmet meal!

We then climbed on board a bus to Piazza Barberini and went to see the Crypt of Santa Maria della Concezione.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed here, which is a shame, since it isn’t every day you get to see the bones from 4,000 Capuchin friars arranged into works of art, furniture and altars.  Without a doubt one of the most bizarre and creepiest things I’ve ever seen.

After a couple of days of Italian food and wine, we decided to also hit the Hard Rock Cafe, which was right in the area, pick up some souvenirs, have a drink and a bite to eat.  It was a welcome reprieve with familiar surroundings and air conditioning.

The bus ride back to our hotel took us through these crazy alleyways that had NO business playing host to a bus, even if it was a small one.  There was one moment that I was certain we were not going to make a turn and just wind up smashing through the front window of a small jewelry shop on the corner.

Dinner that night was at Antica Roma, located across the river from the bottom of Gianicolo Hill.  We waited for a while for everyone to show up and I took advantage of it to take some interesting photos across the street from the restaurant, some of my favorites from the trip.

Dinner that night was excellent – we had pasta carbonara and arrabiata, followed by Tiramisu for dessert.  Given my strong caffeine sensitivity, the cappuccino used in the Tiramisu actually kept me up for a good part of the night, giving me my one night of poor sleep while away.

That hardly held us back the next day, however, since we couldn’t exactly keep the Pope waiting!

Rome, Continued

So after our first day in Rome, we woke up on Monday morning ready to hit the streets and start seeing the city.  Being her third trip to Rome, Meghan knew the city well and was an awesome tour guide, even as I kept pulling her off track to find something else I wanted to see or take advantage of some photo opportunity. 

Up until this point, I really hadn’t felt too much like I was in a foreign country. Yes, we had eaten two great Italian meals and seen St. Peter’s, but I’ve eaten Italian before and seen pictures of St. Peters.  When I REALLY felt like I was in a different country was when we had breakfast that morning at Castroni’s, a little gourmet food store across the street from the hotel.  Breakfast in Rome is far different than our American eggs, bacon, toast, and home fries.  While standing at a "bar," we ordered cornetti (croissants) and cappuccino which we ate while standing there, then paid at a separate register.  These "bars" are everywhere and they all serve breakfast the same way.  Considering American’s "on the go" culture, I’m amazed that it hasn’t become more popular here.  Experiencing that different little aspect of life really made me realize that I was someplace different.

Afterwards, we walked down Via Cola Di Rienzo to Piazza del Popolo and Santa Maria del Popolo, the first of many churches we would visit.  I started to get my photo "legs" back here, experimenting with some different shutter speeds and angles around the fountains and churches. 

We went off in search of Gusto, which was a little anti-climatic, but found Piazza Augusto Imperatore, and the Mausoleum of Augustus.  Now I really had fun with photos, using the below-street level angle, overgrown ancient structure and a beautiful old church to frame each other. 

Across the street was the Museo dell’Ara Pacis, a museum with only one regular exhibit in it, but while we were there was featuring a retrospective of Valentino, most of which was visible from the outside, an interesting choice for a museum that charges admission…

Lunch was a simple affair at Autogrill, a cafeteria style restaurant with food that was just average for Rome but better than just about any cafeteria food I’ve had.

We walked off lunch with a walk over to and up the Spanish Steps.  This also gave us our first taste of the aggressive street gypsies out to con, swindle and generally relieve you of your money and/or wallet.   Everything from "selling" roses (aka shoving them in the girl’s hands and then asking the guy for money), to coming up to you and asking you to give them a finger so that they can show you a trick with the string they are holding.  If you’re willing to let a stranger tie something to you, you might as well just throw your wallet on the ground and get it over with.

We had a little mis-adventure getting back to our hotel, taking a bus going in the wrong direction and ending up in a remote part of Rome that I think may have qualified as the suburbs.  Once we got back we relaxed for a few minutes and then headed off to the NAC again for an evening prayer service and then a fabulous dinner prepared by Jono’s fellow seminarians. 

Let me tell you, these Seminarians know how to live.  They have this beautiful rooftop patio that overlooks the city of Rome, eye-level with St. Peter’s on one side and an expansive view of Rome on the other.  The dining area at one end is enclosed with a great industrial-grade kitchen and a fireplace.  Our first multi-course meal of the trip (but certainly not the last!), we began with wedges of melon wrapped with prosciutto, then moved onto rigatoni alla norcina, a hedonistic combination of sausage, cream, cheese and mushrooms mixed with pasta.  It was fabulous if far from approved by the American Heart Association.  The next course was a layered eggplant Parmesan, and then a simple tomato and mozzarella salad drizzled with olive oil.  The meal was capped with some gelato. 

After the meal, Jono took us up for a brief look from the true rooftop of the building.  Not only do the seminarians know how to pray, live, cook, and eat, but they know a good place for a patio when they see one.  A small but amazing patio overlooks St. Peter’s, Castle St. Angelo, the Tiber, and all of Rome.  Easily the best view in all of Rome.  If the Westin could build a hotel there, they could charge a $1,000 a night for a single bed. 

After another long and exhausting day, we headed back to our hotel and passed out, ready for day three in Rome…   

Oh, the Places I’ve Been!

Since it has been over a month since my last post, I guess there had better be a good reason for it, eh?  How does a two week trip to Rome and Paris sound?  Whaddya think about that punk?

I’ll try to recap the trip the best I can, not only for those who are interested, but also for my own posterity, as this was a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime trip, on many different levels.  But first, some background: the trip was originally planned to attend the ordination our friend, Jonathan (aka "Jono") at St. Peter’s in Rome.  So we went to Rome for a week, and then Paris for about four days.

The trip began on Saturday afternoon on a flight from Boston to Paris, with a connecting flight to Rome.   Before we even left Boston, we had a bit of adventure as a passenger on the plane had apparently decided to make sure he would sleep on the flight by washing down a couple of sleeping pills with a few glasses of wine.  Keep in mind that he weighed about 110 lbs…  We actually got to hear a flight attendant ask "If there are any doctors on board, would you please press your call button" – straight out of the movies, particularly Airplane!  Luckily there were several doctors and nurses on board (good to know…) and after a quick trip to the bathroom, the passenger was all set and we were on our way.

Even though our plane was fairly crowded and quite warm, I have to say the flight went a lot faster than I thought it would.  AirFrance has some nice features, including your own small LCD screen that has a remote control that allows you to watch movies, play games and listen to music.

Now – my first time on a new continent.  It was 6 a.m., still dark out, and quite chilly.  We also entered the airport just behind a plane from Kenya, and this caused issues at immigration, as they were closely examining their passports and detaining some people.

Charles de Gaulle airport is one of the most beautiful airports you’ll ever be in.  I think about 90% of the gate areas are glass.  From the outside, they resemble the space frigates in Star Wars.

Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport, on the other hand, is kind of dated and dirty.  And crowded.  And I got a taste of the (in)famous "Italian coffee break" as soon as we trying to get our luggage.  It took about 10 minutes for luggage to come out, and then a bunch came along, but only our garment bag came out.  The carousel kept going for another 10-15 minutes, with nothing coming out, and then all of a sudden, all the rest of the luggage came out, much to the relief of everyone.

After a screwy and scary drive into Rome (par for the course in Rome), we got to our hotel around 1 p.m.   Hotel Joli is a small little hotel not far from the Vatican and on a major thoroughfare with a bus stop right in front.  It isn’t fancy, but it was clean, comfortable and having a room with a ceiling fan was a blessing during a very warm week filled with lots of walking. 

Our first meal in Rome was at la Soffitta, a great little place that we stumbled upon.  I enjoyed my first suppli, an appetizer that I am AMAZED isn’t more popular here in the states.  It is brilliant in its simplicity and absolutely deliciously cheesy and crunchy.  And of course wine, something that I would come to learn is in plentiful supply and surprisingly cheap.  Whereas here in the states ordering a bottle of wine makes a meal special, a meal simply isn’t complete without wine in Italy.

After eating and unpacking, we walked over to St. Peters, my first taste of a Roman landmark.  First impression: this is a heck of a lot bigger than it seems on TV and in photos.  "Shoulda brought a wider angle lens for my camera" was my second thought.  However, going through St. Peter’s was simply a stop on the way to the NAC – short for the Pontifical North American College.  They call it "The NAC" however, probably because "The Pee-NAC" doesn’t sound nearly as good.

We met up with Jonathan there and attended Sunday mass at their chapel.  Sorry – their "chapel."  Yes, it is a chapel, but it is the biggest and nicest chapel I’ve seen.  As Jono said "You’ve heard of its not much, but its what we call home? well, this is Its a lot and its what we call home" and he wasn’t kidding!   With beautiful murals and paintings and huge multiple story tall ceiling, it is bigger and more striking than many churches.  The mass itself lived up to its surroundings, with the entire group of priests, bishops, Monsignors, and other clergy there for the ordination week celebrating the mass and the full NAC choir giving me quite a start as I heard the loudest, most in-tune singing I’ve heard at a mass.

Our first day in Rome concluded with a meal at Sor’eva, the perfect prototypical trattoria.  I had excellent veal saltimbocca and Meghan had fantastic amatriciana, yet another dish I had never heard of and couldn’t understand why.  Basically a variation on pasta carbornara, but with tomatoes.

By the end of that first day we were EXHAUSTED.  Just a few hours of fitful napping on the plane in over 36 hours and we were struggling not to end up face down in the pasta.   We slept well that night and awoke refreshed and nearly jet-lag free to start the second day in Rome…