Before leaving Firenze this morning, I walked over to my favorite café for my last ciambella and a latte…”no ciambellas,” the barista said as I walked in (I guess I have been going there often huh?). So, I made do with a chocolate croissant (or brioche, as they call it) and a latte, then went back to the hotel to finish packing things up and checked out before catching the super speedy Noon train to Roma (which only took an hour and forty minutes). By 3pm, I had tracked down my hotel in Rome, checked in, got things settled, then braved the nasty ol’ wind (I HATE wind!) to see the Castel Sant’Angelo, built between 123-139AD, also rumored to have been occupied by Alexander the Great at some point. As a suburb of the Vatican, the Popes seized the Castel during the 14th Century to make it a fortress, as well as living quarters for visiting Bishops and various dignataries. Comparing that with how decrepit current day Popes look, there is no way I can see Mr. Benedict firing a gun without falling over, let alone going out and seizing a castle, then again, you never know what people are capable of during times of desperation, I suppose.
After a couple of hours, I left the Castel in time to arrive at the Spanish Steps before sunset. It was much too crowded for my taste (I think the entire population of Vermont was sitting on the steps – which doesn’t seem like a whole lot until they are all huddled together to keep warm from the WIND. I must pause here to ask – what is it with the Spanish Steps that has people so worked up?! They are a bunch of steps, and I have walked up at least 8,000, maybe more, that look the exact same, since I arrived in Europe last month, so why would I care about walking up a shit ton more?! No thank you! I walked up the huge hill to Villa Medici instead, only to find they were closing – Karma and I are best friends now, didn’t you know?) Yes, the Medici’s had a house here in Rome too – they were some badass peeps, I am telling you. All was not lost, however, because I found a lovely little restaurant that served Fettuccine with Black Truffle Cream Sauce for dinner (and felt redeemed since I was unable to have any again before I had left Florence). Pleasantly full, I strolled back to the square to catch the subway to my hotel, where I retired for the evening. I wanted to jump start on the next day since the itinerary was jam packed.
Whoever said “They didn’t build Rome in day” was correct, but doesn’t mean you can’t see it in a day (and a half….ish). Okay, maybe not ALL of it, but if you shorten up your itinerary to exclusively include the shit that anyone really cares about anyway – the Colosseum, the Roman Ruins, and Vatican City (add in the Capital, the Vatican Museum, and I still was able to make it to the 5pm Mass – holla!) Of course, I attribute the ability to accomplish this to Michael Jackson. Where did that come from? I know you are wondering. Welllll……I woke up with his song, “Black or White” pumping through my brain during breakfast this morning, for who knows what reason, but then the guy sitting next to me on the subway was jamming out to “Got to Be Starting Somethin’”. (This has to mean somethin’, if nothing else, then I gotta fun start to the day with a little MJ!). I jumped off the subway and walked out of the tunnel to greet the HUUUUUGE building that once was saved for the flights of Gladiators (insert image of Russell Crowe looking exceptionally hot in a miniskirt here). Unlike many other structures, it was built rather quickly – in only 10 years. After I walked around the BiiiiG circle three times, I left to visit the Ruins across the street – equally impressive is the Roman Forum.
I didn’t stay more than an hour and a half though, because there is only so much old rocks and crap you can really stand to look at before you get sick of the wind blowing dirt in your eyes, so I decided to investigate what the giant white building with flaming carriages on the top of it was. It is a monument for Emmanuelle II – I don’t even know who that is, but the people of Rome sure do love him, because they built and dedicated a monument that is three square city blocks wide as it is tall to him (if you know who he is will you please inform the rest of us? I am sick of Googling things – interesting that “google” has now become a verb isn’t it?). At this point, I am beginning to question to myself (and now in my outside voice) the size of a Roman man’s penis and his ego – I am guessing one is small and the other big – but I will leave it up to you to determine which is which. They really just like to design structures big and grandiose here, so it does give one cause to wonder, why for? (Now, had I spent any more time with the respectable Claudio, I am sure I would know the answer to that question. But, I have gained way too much self-respect at this point in my life to go through the effort of actually finding out.)
After seeing the monuments of the morning, it was now 1:30pm and my ticket time for the Vatican didn’t allow admittance until 3pm. You get a time-stamped ticket when you make a reservation to see the wonders of the city, and you better show up on time, with your passport, or you are s**t out of luck to see the “Holy See” – this is what happens when you have more than 20,000 people a DAY paying to visit your country, you kind of get to make the rules, and the customer is not always right, most often they are just an a-hole – don’t say I didn’t warn you. And yes, these are the things I am thinking as I am getting funneled through the Vatican Museum with the rest of the herd of cattle. Irritation overwhelmed me and I decided to stray away from the herd that was stampeding to see the Sistine Chapel, so I took some time to peruse the remainder of the fantastic collection of art the Vatican has acquired over time (that no one else really cares about). Not only do they have the World’s Largest “Hail the Pope” collection (as to be expected), but they have a wonderful display of Egyptian, Syrian, Palestinian, Mexican, and Aboriginal art, along with fewer Madonna with Child portraits than one might expect. It was really quite spectacular (as I hope some of the pictures I took will demonstrate – but can’t really encompass the feeling of being there, so go see it – regardless of how you feel about Catholics or the Vatican).
And yes, the Sistine Chapel is certainly something amazing to see, yet challenging to enjoy when the guards have to keep shushing all of the dipshits who can’t read the signs displayed in 20 different languages telling you to be respectful of this holy place and STFU already (and I realize what I just wrote is somewhat of an oxymoron, but that is me, one giant walking oxyMORON)! Kind of ironic, too, that the guard started yelling at the guy next to me (who thought that the rule didn’t apply to him and just kept yacking away to his wife about what the ceiling looked like…I am pretty sure she wasn’t blind, so I am not sure why he felt the need to describe to her in great detail the same thing she was already looking at) – now who was the one making all the noise??? With all of the chaos and splendor I lost track of time and hastily had to leave the museum to run 6 blocks to get to Mass at Saint Peter’s which started 5 minutes ago. Oh well, I did not come all the way to Rome to visit Vatican City and miss the dang Mass. I made it, just in time for communion – which really is the best part because then Mass is almost over, but not before my favorite part, when everyone turns to one another and says “May Peace be With You.” I think this is definitely the most under-appreciated part of any service – and really is something that we should consider saying more often to one other, not just in a Christian Church, but in life.
Again, overwhelmed with gratitude and awe at the opulence of the church, I sat down at the end of the service and cried. Guess what!?! I wasn’t alone this evening, for everyone around me cried, too. Each of us had our own reasons and my thoughts mostly kept returning to Baby Jack as he playfully hopped around in space of my heart and under the presence of God. While my cousin’s life ended with such sadness and tragedy – I am utterly grateful to have been present within the experience of insurmountable suffering to be a witness to the blessing and miracle contained within his short life. “Life is short,” was all he had to say to me that evening, “so remember to take time to play!” Funny how we get caught up in our own sad story and forget how important that time is. I wish for you all of you the time for an adult recess, time from negative thought patterns and self-defeating behavior, time to heal from past wounds and let go of resentment, time to savor what life has to offer with all of the good and all of the bad, time away from suffering. To witness that in each of your lives and share that with you makes my heart leap with joy and gratitude (aside from all of my rants and BS that I offer squawk about from day-to-day).
May Peace be With You.