So after that long post the other day about needing peaceful, quiet surroundings as opposed to the bustling business of Florence and Rome, God sent me a little present on Thursday morning.
We had a busy day planned with a lot of places to visit all over Rome, and we left on the bus at 8:15am. The first place we were scheduled to stop at was the home of the Borghese, which has now been turned into an art gallery. The one small problem was that our bus driver spoke very little English, and Dr. G spoke very little Italian. The bus driver dropped us off in the middle of the vast front lawns of the Villa Borghese.
I never thought walking through soft mud and wet leaves could feel so calming. As it had just rained the night before, all the trees and grass glowed with life as the sun rose higher in the sky. We had a good 10 minute walk through the immense lawns until we reached the mansion at the top of the hill, but I would have been perfectly fine with getting lost in the park all day long.
During the rest of the day we visited several churches, the ruins of the Roman Forum, and my personal favorite, the Colosseum.
Just to see such a historic place simply takes your breath away. Just seeing glimpses of it from a distance on the bus made people gasp with excitement. So much of it is still intact, that you can imagine exactly what it would have been like. A plaque somewhere within these walls said that there was no historical account of any Christians being martyred here, but it was just crazy being in a place where it could have happened. I don't have many words for how great it was to just be there and soak it all up, and I wish I could take all my readers back with me, for you to experience it yourself.
After the Colosseum we visited some catacombs outside the city. We weren't allowed to take pictures there, so I don't have any, but I will try to describe it as colorfully as I can. You enter through a garden shed looking thing that is just basically a storm shelter into the ground. Once you are down about a level under the ground your tour guide prepares you for what is about to come next. 35 minutes walking through tight spaces about 2 to 3 stories below ground with open tombs on either side of you (as all the bodies had been removed and placed in a mass grave a few hundred years ago that is at the same site as the catacombs) with almost very little light. Something that probably wouldn't come to mind is its about 50 degrees down there, with about 90% humidity. It feels like you just walked about side after a very cold rain, and its still dark outside. The catacombs weren't stone, but a special kind of dirt that is supple, but as soon as air hits it, it turns hard into stone. The whole experience was really neat, seeing different tombs there. I got kinda creeped out every time we would walk by a big opening that was so dark you couldn't see into it, but then I remembered something. The tomb is empty. Not just the tombs of the hundreds of people in the catacombs around Rome, but Jesus' tomb specifically. Real tombs only have shells of people in them, because their souls and spirits are with God. I pondered these things as I walked through the catacombs and it definitely made my time there richer.
Our last stop in Rome was St John's Basilica where the Pope is a Bishop. He rarely makes an appearance there, but if he was to say Mass at any point, he would do it there. I have stopped taking a lot of pictures in the churches, because to be honest, they all look the same. They are all big, gaudy and full of statues and paintings. Most of the places we have visited have been full of paintings and statues and after about the first 6, you really don't know what to take pictures of. With all of this said, when we visited Vatican city we were able to walk through the Sistine Chapel and see the famous painting of Adam and God touching fingers. Standing there is a mass of people with the guards yelling at people the keep silence and stop using their cameras, you begin to feel something special. Its not the intense pain in your neck from craning it back too long, although that does become an issue, its standing under the same ceiling that Michael Angelo spent so many hours laying under and creating his view of the world. Its almost like you walk into a part of history that has stood still all these years. I got the same feeling when I walked into the Pantheon and the Colosseum. Becoming a part of these small pieces of history has made me come to recognize why people like to travel internationally. You experience the magnitude, the difference, the language, the significance.. and that my friends is definitely worth the adventure.