Ah, bella Roma. All 40 students in API enjoyed a program-sponsored trip to Rome last weekend. Even though it rained all weekend long, we were able to see the sights and eat all the food.
I have never had Italian food like I have had in Italy. The ingredients are just simply top notch and every bite is savory. One of my favorite meals was a 2 EU panini I got on the go during our 3 hour walking tour of the city. It was tomato, mozzerella, basil, and the Holy Spirit all encased by a giant hug of two pieces of toasty bread.
Gelato shops at every corner meant that gelato once a day, or even twice a day, was totally normal and amazing thing to do. These people are very generous with their scoops and two flavors, one cup= no problemo.
I liked that pizza shops were a little unique from what I’m used to as well. If you’re going to get pizza, you’re not going to get a typical triangular slice. They usually have all sorts of gourmet pizza, nothing resembling a traditional tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings. Except for margherita, but who likes margherita pizza… Anyways, they sell you pieces by weight! You show them how much to cut and of which types, and they’ll weigh it out for you and then you pay. So you can have a gourmet lunch with 3-4 different kinds of little pizzas. Yum.
Vatican and the Pope
My friend Trish and I visited the Vatican Museum. I had never heard of it before, but was pleasantly surprised not only by the quality of the audioguide but also the expansive amount of works that were featured in the museum. Everything from Ancient Egyptian artifacts to Roman sculptures to ancient maps to modern works of art from artists including Salvador Dali and Marc Chagall and Vincent Van Goh. These works have been collected by the many popes that had also had resided within the rooms of the museum before it was converted. These rooms are ornately decorated with paintings by notable artists such as Rafael. Trish and I found it interesting that so many previous Popes had lived in such excess and decadence while also living piously.
We also got to see the Sistine Chapel. Going to the Vatican Museum and seeing the Sistine Chapel with Trish was truly a blessing. Trish is Catholic, and very strong in her faith. I asked her SO many questions about her faith and how she interpreted the different works of art we saw. When you come to Europe, you see a lot of churches and artistic representations of biblical stories, so it was nice to have her there to explain and give me context for what we were looking at.
The Sistine Chapel houses two important works by Michaelangelo. First, Michaelangelo’s stunning and widely recognized work on the ceiling and second, the Last Judgment painted on the North Wall. You walk into the chapel, and see a group of people all staring at the ceiling or at the walls, barely anyone speaking at all. It’s like you’ve walked into a very large art box- every corner of the chapel is painted with intention. The Sistine Chapel was very moving for a few reasons.
1) The history and significance of the chapel in and of itself is awe-inspiring. It is the chapel used by the Pope and conclaves are also held there, voting sessions for selecting the new Pope. Michaelangelo created the cieling and the Last Judgment, but also other reknowned artists worked on the surrounding walls including Boticelli and Perugino. So it is a true representation of Renaissance work of the time.
2) The technique of the art in Michaelangelo’s frescoes is impeccable. He used bright colors, detailed figures, and powerful imagery to tell the stories that serve as the foundation of Christianity.
3) And that is the final reason that the Sistine Chapel and the Last Judgment are my favorite pieces of Renaissance Art- these works make the viewer think. Michaelangelo was not only an artist, he was a theologian when he created these works. On the surface, these frescoes teach the stories of the Bible. But there are underlying meanings and an immense amount of symbolism that can be found in the massive chapel and the paintings. They make the viewer reflect not only on the beauty of the paintings, but also on their own faith. For example, seeing the Last Judgment evokes powerful emotion and can make the viewer reflect on death and the afterlife. I truly enjoyed seeing the Sistine Chapel in person and was deeply moved by the works. Trish and I sat in the chapel for about an hour, looking at the works, contemplating life and death, discussing our beliefs. It was something I will truly never forget and I am so grateful to have had Trish there with me.
The next day, we saw the Pope.
The Pope and the Vatican
Every Sunday, the Pope addresses a crowd of people that stand in the square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. We waited for two hours in the rain, but it was worth it. When the windows opened, a young boy in front of us waved his hat in the air and yelled “PAPA FRANCISCO!!” And a soon as the Pope came to the window and started speaking, the crowd went silent. He spoke for 10 minutes, only in Italian. He advised the crowd and to those living around the world that we should live for bread, water, and health. Avoid materialism. To spread the faith before Easter. He talked about how Ukraine and how the international community should begin an international dialogue to help provide support there. He also swore a few times by accident, so the guy is endearing in my book. He had a jovial tone, warm voice, and contagious smile. The crowd was captivated by him. Pope Francis is a revolutionary pope in so many ways, and his leadership is making a great impact on the world. I felt truly #blessed to see him speak.
Off to Dublin, Ireland this weekend for authentic St. Patrick’s Day celebrations! XOXO