AZinItaly

A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Crash Landing

Note:

This blog post has been sitting open on my computer for a week now. In my mind it’s not completed. It’s not like me to send something out into the blogosphere without obsessively editing it first. But I seem stuck telling this tale, so I think in order to keep writing, I just have to let this one go, with all it’s imperfections.  Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Sedona

Sedona

You know how sometimes when flying the landing is smooth and you hardly feel a bump as the plane’s wheels hit the ground? And other times, you find yourself gripping the arms of your seat until your knuckles go white, all the while praying that you’ll make it safely to the terminal and then home? Our landing back to Arizona has been the later, not quite a crash landing but, boy some parts feel that way.

Upon our arrival on Monday evening, we headed to our home in Sedona. It took a few days to get over the jet lag and sort through the 9 suitcases we had brought back with us. By the time we had gotten through sorting and sleeping, we realized that our car wasn’t big enough to get our clothes down to Scottsdale, 2 hours away, in one trip. Yes we could have taken less stuff, but at the time, the decision about what to take and what to leave felt so overwhelming that over the course of the following days we made 2 trips back and forth shlepping our stuff. Over the weekend, I unpacked, shopped for food, which by the way seemed incredibly expensive compared to Roma, and gathered supplies.

Monday I flew to Chicago, drove 2 hours and spent the week helping a dear friend who had a large surgery. I was so grateful to be there to support her and her family through this rough time, but it was pretty tiring emotionally and physically. (My friend is recovering nicely, thanks!)

A week later I returned home to Scottsdale. The furnished townhouse we rented is lovely and in a beautiful golf course community, but it’s pretty far north from where we used to live

and it takes about 20 minutes by car to reach civilization. That may not sound like much, but when you’d gotten used to walking 2 doors outside your apartment building to reach a pharmacy or grocery store, its a long way to go.

Scottsdale/Phoenix felt so big to me at the time, so overwhelming, that I decided to retreat by myself to Sedona, which is much smaller and easier to negotiate. Plus, having lived there over 18 years, my dearest Arizona friends are there and I longed to ground myself in their company and to hike in the red rocks. I enjoyed several wonderful hikes, great dinners with beloved girlfriends, the ease of shopping in the smaller health food stores up there. Then Sunday morning, I decided to take myself on a hike up Cathedral Rock. It’s one of Sedona’s most photographed sites, has wonderful energy, and offers a challenging climb to reach the saddle of the mountain. It’s a hike I’ve done dozens of times, many by myself. I lived in Sedona before the forest service put in an “official” trail up the face of the mountain, so my preferred way to hike is up the side through a canyon area.

Cathedral Rock - photo by Rusty Albertson

Cathedral Rock – photo by Rusty Albertson

There is one part of the hike, where you have to hoist yourself up the rock, with few places to hold for either your hands or feet. It’s much easier for someone of such demure stature as I, ok, I’m 5 feet tall, to get up when you’re hiking with someone who’s taller and they go first and offer a hand to help you up. I found myself at that point trying to get up, and not succeeding, and I stopped. I realized I was feeling afraid that I might fall and hurt myself, but I was determined to get to the top. Once I stopped, breathed and acknowledged the fear I was feeling, I easily hoisted myself up. I also recall during this hike looking down at my hiking shoes and thinking it was time to get a new pair with better treads on them.

I made it to the top of the mountain and enjoyed hanging out up there taking pictures of the views and meditating. I decided it was time to head home and started down. I lost my footing in a slippery area, couldn’t recover it and hit the ground. As soon as I stood up and looked at my arm, I knew I had broken it as my hand was bent in a funny direction and I could feel myself going white. I sat down on a rock, called out and looked around for help. A couple who I had seen while up on the saddle were heading down and came to assist me. They called 911, Michael who was still in Scottsdale, and waited with me while the Fire Department paramedics arrived and climbed up to meet me.

I wouldn’t recommend breaking your arm, but it sure was nice to have five young strapping fire fighters come to my rescue! They started an IV, gave me morphine and made a sling for my arm. They were prepared to carry me down on a stretcher, but I was determined to walk back down, which I was able to do with their help. They took me to an outpatient Emergency room in Sedona where I was treated by an orthopedic surgeon who did a “reduction”, which means to set the break. My radius totally broke into two pieces below my wrist and the ulna was cracked a bit.

I made the decision to return to Scottsdale, with Michael’s help, and seek a second opinion at the Mayo Clinic, my former employer. At my first visit to the surgeon, he indicated he was on the fence about doing surgery to repair my arm and wanted to see if it would heal properly on it’s own. After the second visit, he saw that it wasn’t healing correctly and I was scheduled for surgery the following day to have a titanium plate screwed into the bone to hold it in place, so it can heal. I ended up spending two nights in the hospital, and it’s taken a bit of time to get back on my feet.

I haven’t returned to work yet. I’ve been talking to my former employer about returning, and looking at other opportunities, but now I have to wait for my arm to heal. It’s been difficult for me to reconnect with old friends here, and I have spent a lot more time staying in touch with the friends I made in Roma. Hmm…maybe I need to look at this more. The Internations group here in Phoenix is not very active, especially compared to Rome, but we’ll attend a get together next week, their only event for the month. I’ve reached out to volunteer at the Scottsdale Arts Center, and look forward to hopefully meeting some new people there.

Transitions can be bumpy. Stay tuned for more of the ride.

A few more things!

Michael at our Metro stop

Michael at our Metro stop

It’s our last day in Roma and I was reminded of a few more things I’ll miss:

*Kissing on both cheeks to say hello and goodbye.

*The incredibly tasty gelato at Procopia in Re di Roma.

*Being able to pop next door to Susan’s Rome apartment.

In the waining hours of this part of our adventure, it’s comforting to remember…

All roads lead to Rome!

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All good things…

IMG_5430 …must come to an end. I’ve been avoiding writing this blog post, waiting until almost the last possible moment to say “Arrividerci, Roma!” Sad as it is for many reasons, we will be leaving Italia on Monday and returning to live in Arizona. These last few weeks have been busy, as you might imagine. We’ve been packing, shipping some boxes home and giving away much of the stuff we’ve accumulated while living here that we don’t need back in the US or can’t get back home. I’ve been able to hang out with my dear friend Suzanne almost every day this past week, each time bringing her another haul of goodies from our flat. My orchids that are starting to grow flower stems, one for the third time, went to live with our friend Riccardo, where they will be happy in his south facing kitchen window. Susan got the majority of the stuff, plants for the villa in Umbria and assorted other goodies for her apartment in Roma. We have had wonderful dinners with friends, evenings with Michael’s boss Maggie and his coworkers, and one last Internations party.

I have very mixed feelings about returning to live in the US. I know that there will be an adjustment period when we return, similar to the adjustment period we went through when we moved here. A bit of culture shock, even though we are returning to a place that we know. It’s difficult to articulate exactly what’s different, but I know we are not the same people who left Arizona 19 months ago. I don’t want to go back to the same life that I left. Returning will be an opportunity to make some changes.

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There will be some obvious changes, like we no longer have a home to return to in Phoenix since we sold it this past year. We rented a furnished patio home in a golf community in Scottsdale for 2 months which will give us time to look for a longer term place. Michael will be returning to a new job at his company. I will return to work for my former employer, but will have to start over and I’ve been told that the role of a social worker has changed in the time that I’ve been gone.

In thinking about leaving Roma and returning to Phoenix I made a few lists:

What I will miss about living in Italy: the interesting friends we’ve made who come from all over the world; the wine; the great, fresh food; the amazing architecture of Roma; the plentiful museums; the ease of travel to other European destinations; passing by ancient things all the time; the nearness of the sea; visiting Umbria; getting lost and finding some treasure I didn’t know existed; drinking wine at lunch; long, multi-course meals; my wonderful accupuncturist, Michele; the great dermatologists at Skin Laser; the beautiful churches.

What I won’t miss: the hot, crowded and smelly buses; the hot, crowded and sometimes smelly metro trains; the smell of dog pee everywhere; seeing people in winter coats when it’s 75 degrees outside; graffiti on every surface; walking on loose pavers on the sidewalk outside our flat (that miraculously were fixed in the past 2 days!); the ambulance sirens that sound like bomb raid sirens; waiting for the bus that doesn’t arrive; getting lost all the time; being the navigator in the car and still getting lost.

What I’m looking forward to in going back to the US: driving my car (I’ve refused to drive in Italy); visiting my old cat, who will continue to live in her adopted home with our former neighbors; not getting lost all the time; getting a good haircut (it’s been difficult for me to find someone here I like); getting a great massage that’s affordable (also been hard to find here); seeing friends and family in person and not just on Skype or FaceTime; not being asked all the time for the correct change by shopkeepers; walking in high heels on smooth sidewalks and not on bumpy cobblestone streets; the variety of ethnic food available.

What I’m not looking forward to in going back to the US: the lack of “culture” and museums in Arizona; the sameness of everything; the bland American food; the poor quality of food in the supermarket unless you buy organic or at a farmer’s market; American politics (it’s been easier to avoid it here); the cost and difficulty of traveling to another country.

Hmm…looking at these lists, it looks like a bit of a mixed bag, which I guess isn’t totally surprising. It’s been an adventure of a lifetime, that I’m open to repeating when the next opportunity arises. My appetite for living abroad has been whet now. Where will the next adventure take us?

I’m going to continue to write after we return, to chronicle our transition or repatriation as it’s called. So dear blog friends, please stay tuned…the adventure continues.IMG_5420

Fondo le Teglie…One more time!

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Enoteca Properzio

Our friend Susan, invited us up to her Villa in Umbria, Fondo le Teglie, this past weekend. We were the only house guests, but like all the times we’ve spent there, we are wonderfully rarely alone. Friday night Susan and I worked in the kitchen to prepare dinner, while Michael relaxed drinking wine and keeping an eye on us! Later, Susan’s friend Stefano joined us for grilling burgers and dining outside by the fire.

On Saturday it was raining, so we postponed our morning walk in the hunting preserve, opting for the treadmill instead. Late morning Stefano returned to pick us up. We then met up with 5 other friends of Susan’s and all drove to Enoteca Properzio in Spello. The medival village of Spello sits on the southern slope of Mt. Subasio, neighboring Assisi and is about 45 minutes from Sismano, the “town” nearest to the villa. We wanted to buy some wine to have shipped back to the US and Susan recommended that we partake in a wine tasting and lunch at the Enoteca.

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Enoteca Properzio is an amazing wine shop and restaurant set in a 15th century building in picturesque Spello. It’s collection of wines includes over 2500 labels. We were wonderfully served and entertained by Roberto Angelini and his son Luca, who is the eighth generation of the Agnelini family to run the Enoteca. The food was simple but wonderful and served to complement the wine tasting.  We tasted not only great wines, but also freshly pressed olive oil that Roberto drowned our bread in! Roberto caught me for a quick spin around the floor before taking all of us to their new, contemporary restaurant and wine bar for a grappa and a gaze at the outrageous gold bathroom fixtures! We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Spello and taking in the amazing views.

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We were tired when we got home, afternoon wine tastings will do that to you, so it was a movie and popcorn on the couch for us! Luckily it wasn’t raining the next day, and Susan and I enjoyed our morning walk in the hunting preserve, being careful not to get shot. We lunched together at Ristorante Il Re Beve a restaurant we like that is set in a lovely castle in nearby Aquasparta, before Michael and I headed back to Rome.

It was another lovely weekend in the country. It’s become our home away from home while living here in Roma. Michael and I often joke when we are in driving in Umbria, “Oh look, there’s a dilapidated house we could buy and renovate.” Maybe Susan will let us invest in Fondo. Maybe we need to, after all the time we’ve spent there! Hmmm…A villa in Umbria…

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Lazise

Lazise

Lazise

One of the dear friends that I made here in Roma, Mitzi, moved at the beginning of the summer up to Lazise, a beautiful small town on Lago di Garda, in the Veneto region of Italy. Her husband Luca grew up in Lazise, where his father and grandmother still live, and he got a new job as the General Manager at the Villa Quaranta Park Hotel, outside of Verona. While I’ve been to Venice and Verona in the past, I wanted a few days to see Mitzi’s new home and have the opportunity to hang out with her and her family.

The fast train got me up to Verona in under 3 hours. Mitzi picked me up and we went to a lovely cafe/enoteca (wine store), Enoteca zero7 for lunch. We wandered around Verona for a bit, where there is a lovely ampitheater that looks like a small Coloseo where they hold concerts. We then headed back to Lazise, about a 20 minute drive, in time to get her daughter Sofia from school and take her to a birthday party for one of her classmates. Afterward, we stopped to say hello to Nonna Lillian, Luca’s amazing and fully independent 89 year old grandmother. Mitzi kept me happily busy in the kitchen that night preparing vegetable soup and roasted chicken, and her father-in-law joined us for dinner.

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The next day we visited the old, walled part of Lazise, where there’s a market day held every Wednesday. I was tempted by some handpainted pottery, but fell in love with ANOTHER pair of great eyeglasses, that held sway over my wallet. Since it was sunny out, we then ventured to the next town on the lake, Bardolino and found a wonderful family run restaurant, La Piccola Osteria in the centro, where we enjoyed a yummy lunch. That evening we joined Luca at Villa Quaranta for a drink before having dinner at Trattoria alla Coa, where the food was delicious and Mitzi and I marveled over the fact that even the radiator was covered in gingham! I know it sounds like a lot of eating and it was, but we drank a lot of good wine too!

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On Thursday before having to catch the train back to Roma in the afternoon, we indulged at the wonderful terme or spa at Villa Quaranta. There’s a big workout facility where we encouraged each other to go just a bit longer on the treadmill, and I got to show Mitzi some of my strength training moves. After a light lunch with Luca in the cafe, we used the terme, which consisted of 2 steam rooms; a very hot dry sauna; a cold room that was a ‘dressed up’ walk in freezer to be used after the hot sauna; a whirlpool; warm and cold plunge pools; a relaxation room that had individual sized water beds to relax on; and what they call “emotional” showers, which are programmed to change from warm to cold and also will spray some scents on you (I don’t really get it, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen them in Europe).

It was a wonderful midweek getaway and great to see Mitzi settling into her new life, where day to day living is so much less stressful than in Roma and she has the support of Luca’s lifelong friends and family. Grazie mille Mitzi for your lovely hospitality!

View of the sun setting on the lake taken from Mitzi's kitchen

View of the sun setting on the lake taken from Mitzi’s kitchen

Scenes from a National Strike

There was a national strike held today in all of Italy. I first learned about it from Un’Americana a Roma when her post hit my inbox this morning. I next checked out the website, Wanted in Rome, which filled me in on more of the details, as you can see below:

“A national general strike on Friday 18 October will involve a major protest in Rome by trade unions COBAS, CUB and USB, whose members are calling for the renewal of contracts, an increase in wages and pensions and the reduction of working time, as well as protesting against austerity policies in Italy and Europe. Protesters will march from Piazza della Repubblica at 10.00, making their way to Piazza S. Giovanni where a rally begins at 14.00.  Rome’s transport company ATAC has scheduled a 24-hour public transport strike on the same day, from 08.30 to 17.00 and from 20.00 to end of service. The strike affects Rome’s buses, trams and light rail services Roma-Lido, Roma-Giardinetti and Roma-Civitacastellana-Viterbo, as well as suburban bus services operated by Roma Tpl. However Rome’s metro lines will run as normal that day, from 05.30 until 01.30. A previously scheduled metro stike that evening was cancelled following intervention from the city’s mayor Ignazio Marino.”

While sitting at my desk this afternoon I started to hear hovering helicopters and decided to venture out with my cell phone to capture some photos of the rally, which was just up the street from our flat in Piazza San Giovanni.

Here you can see the Carabinieri (federal police) , decked out in full riot gear, on alert, chatting with each other and watching traffic:

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There were Tshirts for sale…

No revolution is complete with out a nap in the sun, a cold beer and a street person begging…

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I’m not sure it all accomplished much except to further disrupt an already disrupted and chaotic place! Viva Italia!

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Arrivederci, London!

Food festival Duke of York Square

Food festival Duke of York Square

Once again, and likely for the last time in the foreseeable future, we had the opportunity to travel to London. Michael had some meetings on Monday, so we made plans to arrive on Friday and spend the weekend.

We hadn’t been to the Victoria and Albert Museum yet, and it was a pleasant walk there from our hotel. The V&A, as it’s known, is famous for it’s large collection of textile arts. We arrived at lunchtime, and found our way to the cafeteria. I was so amazed! There were a variety of food counters offering selections of salads, sandwiches, sweets and hot plates, each one with more yummy choices than the previous. The checkout clerks were so nice and friendly. It was possible to buy a glass of wine from them. It was all so easy. I’ve been living in Roma too long!

We didn’t spend as much time at the V&A as we should have, but saw some interesting sculpture and a fashion exhibit of clothing from the 1800’s to the present that was great.  A longer visit is on my list for when we return.  That evening we met up with a lovely couple we had met while we were in Venice earlier in the year who live in London and Manchester. They took us on a bit of a pub crawl that ended at The Mango Tree, where we had a delicious Thai dinner.

Saturday we headed to Duke of York Square off of Kings Road in Chelsea for lunch. On Saturdays there’s a wonderful food festival that offers a variety of ethnic foods. After weighing our options, we settled on a perch in the square with duck confit sandwiches and a glass of prosecco. After lunch I took Michael to the Saatchi Gallery. The current exhibition is called Paper. You can see some of the highlights below in the slideshow, and then I have to tell you about the next pictures.

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This artist created these self-portraits in the style of 15th century Flemish portraits, while in the rest room on an airplane. She used the phone on her camera to take the pictures and dressed herself using objects she found on the plane, such as a neck pillow and toilet seat cover. Amazing or crazy? Maybe both.IMG_5254 IMG_5255

Michael wasn’t feeling 100%, so he went back to the hotel for a nap and I continued on to a play, The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, by Dennis Kelly at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square. I’ve been by the theatre a number of times, which specializes in showing new works by established playwrights, so I was excited to finally get to see a performance there. I’m not sure I can tell you what the play was about exactly…the life of Gorge and how he becomes a shrewd and somewhat vicious businessman and person, but it was interesting and entertaining, if not a bit too long at two and three quarter hours. After a quick change on my part we finished out the day with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the area, The Botanist, where our waiter recognized us from past visits.IMG_5277

Sunday I took Michael exploring in the area called Spitalfields in the East End of London. We rode the Tube to the Liverpool stop and found our way to Shoreditch Market, a large covered marketplace with unusual shops along the perimeter and vendors inside selling everything from original clothing to chochkee crap. I found a funky dress and Michael a jumper (I LOVE saying that, “jumper” instead of “sweater”!) We wondered then along Brick Lane where we discovered these amazing old warehouse buildings filled with pop up restaurants and shops.  We scolded ourselves for already having eaten brunch, but you can see below what we missed.  That night we treated ourselves to American football on the TV and steaks at the Palm Restaurant, around the corner from our hotel.

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Monday, Michael went to work and I took myself to the National Gallery, which I hadn’t yet seen on previous trips. Located in Trafalgar Square, it houses one of the world’s best art collections with more than 2,300 masterpieces from artists including Picasso, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Monet, Turner, Titian, Da Vinci, and Caravaggio. The rooms where the art is exhibited are beautiful too. I have to say though the highlight for me was seeing the work of the Artist in Residence. The Gallery invites a contemporary artist to create and exhibit new works that are based on the collection in the Gallery. Michael Landy, an English contemporary artist, after months spent viewing the entire collection, created a show called Saints Alive, based on some paintings he saw of saints in the Gallery like Saints Frances, Lucy, and Jerome. He created not only drawings, but also these amazing larger than life kinetic sculptures, which you can see a bit of here. (unfortunately no photos were allowed)

Maggie and Michael

Maggie and Michael

Monday night we dined with Michael’s wonderful UK boss Maggie and his colleagues who work in the UK. It was lovely to see them all again and to share a delicious meal at Bluebird in Chelsea.

Tuesday brought a bit of shopping and lunch before we headed to Heathrow for our return trip to Roma.

So for now, Arrivederci Londra!!

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Catching the end of Summer

Views of the sea from SarAnd Relais.

Views of the sea from SarAnd Relais.

With fall approaching and the weather still sunny and warm here, we decided to take advantage of some of the remaining beach days and headed a few hours south of Rome to the seaside towns of Sperlonga and Sabaudia.

We’d heard that the beaches in both Sperlonga and Sabaudia were wonderful. Long stretches of clean sand and clear sea. The beach at Sperlonga is a blue flag beach. The Blue Flag program is a voluntary, not for profit, non governmental program that awards an eco-label to beaches and marinas around the world. “The Blue Flag works towards sustainable development of beaches and marinas through strict criteria dealing with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and other services”. In other words, it means it’s CLEAN!

We drove to Sperlonga on Saturday morning using our newly downloaded navigation program, Tom Tom. Mama mia, just figuring out how it worked was an adventure! We headed straight for the sea and were rewarded with clear blue skies, warm sun and a beautiful beach. I walked out into the water which was so clear and clean that I could not only feel, but see, all the fish nipping at my feet.

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Once again using the travel website Booking.com I found a lovely agriturismo that was located high up in the hills between Sperlonga and Fondi, a neighboring town. Agriturismo, which comes from the words “agriculture” and “tourism” is a working farm that incorporates a bed and breakfast. SarAnd Relais, who’s name comes from combining the names of the family’s daughter Sara and son Andrea, sits on 50 hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres), where they raise their own beef, pigs, and olives. Seventy percent of the food served in the dining room is raised on the family’s land. The property has 17 lovely rooms set in small casita buildings around the main house, and includes a swimming pool, jacuzzi tub, and a newly built equestrian facility. The grounds were lovely, nestled in the mountains with distant sea views. It would be an amazing place for a small wedding. We had dinner in the dining room in the evening and it was some of the best pasta with ragu sauce that we’ve eaten in Italy!

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We were able to catch just a few rays of sunshine the next morning before the clouds rolled in, so we decided to head back north towards Roma and took a detour to see the beach at Sabaudia. It was nearly empty that day and we stayed long enough to enjoy the views of the sea. I’m going to miss the beach days of summer. I’m also really grateful for the many opportunities we’ve had to enjoy them this year.

The beach at Sabaudia

The beach at Sabaudia

Not so pretty, Roma

I know that most BIG cities in the world have their not so pretty sides. (I hear Singapore is the exception.) Areas where it’s not safe to walk at night, low income areas, graffiti, trash. The visions of a beautiful Rome, especially for the romantic traveler, are held so closely and so dear, that we tend not to see, or don’t want to see, that which doesn’t conform to our ideal. So just for a tiny dose of reality today, I present to you a few snapshots of another Roma that I see daily.

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My Jewish New Year – An Audience with the Pope

IMG_5172I’m not sure exactly what it is. Certainly living in Rome and being so close to Vatican City has something BIG to do with it. There must also be something about the time of year.

It’s once again the Jewish High Holy Days, the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Last year at this time, I found myself visiting some of the major basilicas in Rome, including St. Peter’s and writing about it.  So how did I celebrate the Jewish Holidays this year? Why by attending an Audience with the Pope!

Pope Francis – I prefer the Italian Papa Francesco or Il Papa - has proven so far to be fascinating, and I have been fascinated by him. I’ve got to admit, I’ve never been that interested in the goings-on of the Catholic Church. But being in Rome when he was elected has made him and the Church more interesting to me.

Papa Francesco is the 266th Pope. He is the first South American to be elected Pope of the Catholic Church (his parents were Italian, though). He is also the first Jesuit to ever be elected. He has already in the short time since his election in March of this year shaken up the Church and the traditions which surround the Pope.

He refuses to live in the papal apartments, instead residing in a guest house within the Vatican. He won’t wear the traditional ornate vestments worn by Popes in the past, preferring simpler vestments void of ornamentation. He came “out” so to speak and said that a homosexual orientation was not a sin. This week, the New York Times ran an article about him which you can read here, talking about how he’s been calling parishioners who have written to him, something no Pope has ever done in the past.

A friend of mine who works for Radio Vaticana said that it’s much more challenging to work with him than the previous Pope. He speaks more off the cuff and often doesn’t often use a script, which makes reporting on what he says more difficult. Like she has to pay attention now, which wasn’t always necessary with Pope Benedict, who kept to the script which was made available to reporters prior to him speaking publicly.

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I think you just gotta love him. For trying to shake up a very old tradition. For his humility and warmth. So I wanted to see him. On some Wednesday mornings, he holds a Papal Audience. When the weather is nice, it’s held outside in St. Peter’s Square. There are seats available and tickets are free, but you must get them beforehand and then cue up early to get a seat. Cue up the Italian way, in what resembles a mob scene, not the polite kind of queuing that the English do. And by early, like 3 hours before he arrives.

IMG_5175I bought tickets for Michael and I through a tour operator called Viator, which provided the services of a guide who would help us get good seats and then give us a history lesson while we waited. Our guide, Sen, a history professor in Rome who’s from New York, knew a good spot where we could see the TV screen and see Il Papa when he went by. The Square is divided into sections with walkways where Il Papa can ride by and greet and bless those in attendance.

It was exciting to see him up close. We were within feet of him when he passed by and Michael was able to get these great photos. He stopped often to kiss babies handed to him by his security service, or to offer a greeting or blessing. After going around the Square, he sat in an unadorned chair on a stage set up close to the entrance of St. Peter’s. Groups of pilgrims who had travelled from all over the world to see him were acknowledged. He presented a teaching which was translated into a number of languages about loving the Church as you would love your Mama. A children’s choir sang. It didn’t rain despite the cloudy skies and weather forecast. And I was blessed by the presence of the Pope. Not bad for a Jewish farm girl from Illinois!

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