A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

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 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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