Friday, March 4, 2011

Brs. Jason and John -- and Trey Arrives

Yesterday was a busy day -- we got up early, and were picked up by Leonardo (our taxi driver), who took us to the Terni station.  This allowed us to get an earlier train than we could from Todi Ponte Rio.

We arrived in Rome at about 9:30, and then walked towards San Clemente.  We stopped by an inconspicuous grocery store (which had the footprint about half the size of a gas station in the States), and picked up some fruit for a snack.  Then, the problem:  where to eat.  You don't just walk around eating in Italy.  You must be sitting down to eat.

I knew about a park in the vicinity of San Clemente, so we hoofed it in that direction -- and eventually achieved our object.  It was the hour for dog socialization in the park:

But parks have benches (and drinking fountains that are older than the United States), as well as Roman baths:

I believe these to be portions of the Roman baths, but I'm not positive.
Then we (finally) made it to San Clemente, which is a real jewel in Rome (  It's so beautiful and magical.  The upper church was built in the 1200s, and is encrusted with mosaics, patchwork quilt marble inlays in the floor, and marble carved into basketweave.

Then you walk down to another basilica that was built earlier (400 AD?), and has frescoes from the 900s and 1000s.

When you go further down still, you reach portions of a Roman street, including a Mithraic temple, a Roman house with spring water, a Mithraic school, and possibly portions of the mint.  The sound of the water rushing through just adds to the atmosphere.

I apologize for no pictures, but they don't permit photos in churches and excavations.

We then walked toward Palatine Hill (they now charge admission, unlike when we visited Rome a few years ago).  We didn't enter the site because we didn't have enough time to make it worth it before we met up with Br. Jason and Br. John at Sta Maria Maggiore.
A gas station -- you just pull to the side on this busy road.

Yes -- just two pumps.  And no convenience store!
On the way up, we zipped into a church that was from the 1800s.  It's hard to describe, but it was really Victorian.  If you describe the elements, they sound similar:  marble in amazing patterns, mosaics, etc.  But somehow, it had a very different feel.  The mosaic above the altar reminded me of Sacred Heart:  Jesus in a swirling red robe against a robin's egg blue background. The stations of the Cross were in highly detailed mosaic.  Just gorgeous.

Then we ambled to Sta.Maria Maggiore, and Br. Jason's smile made the sun come out.  We decided to feed the kids before we had low blood sugar displaying itself all over the sidewalk, so we went to the nearest pizzeria.  Br. Jason intrigued the kids very quickly with his proficiency in origami, and Br. John told us about growing up in a homeschooled family with 7 kids!  He comes from Canton, Georgia, and is still young enough to eat all available food -- which was good, since we ended up with no waste.  Thank you, Br. John!

Br. John is on the left, and Br. Jason is between Jeremy & Eleanor
After everyone's mood was restored to "sunny", we had a lightning tour of Sta. Maria Maggiore (,_Rome).  It was so nice to have Br. Jason to help us interpret the magnificence.  The gold in the ceiling comes from the New World, and was donated by the king (Philip IV? I don't remember) to the Pope of the time.  The ceiling is now sagging under the weight...

We saw Bernini's modest grave marker.  After all the magnificent tombs (and cathedrals!) that he designed, he only requested a sub-floor burial near the altar.   Underneath the altar is a tiny crypt area that has a portion of Christ's crib.  It's displayed in this magnificent silver and gilt case.  James was much more impressed with the gold and silver than what he perceived to be a "boring old piece of wood."  We're working on it!

We went into a side chapel to pray.  The entire chapel was covered in paintings and frescoes, and is just gorgeous.  This level of work is truly awe-inspiring and brings tears to the eyes.

Then we went to see...the DEAD BODIES.  There's a Capuchin crypt ( near the Piazza Barberini which has different rooms with displays of bones.  Components of over 4000 bodies are included in the artwork.  The idea is to remove some of the fear of death from the viewers.  In some ways it was creepy, because it made me think about some of the horrors of WWII.  However, it was inspiring:  even in decay, the human body is a beautiful miracle and gift to us.  And we do have something even better coming.

We took the metro back to Termini (James clutching onto Br. Jason for dear life -- Br. Jason added to his fan club!), and tried to catch the train to Fiumicino.  Unfortunately, we were about a minute late, so we had to wait for the next.  This was the first of the three trains we were destined to miss yesterday.

No problem, we just waited for the next.  We got down to the airport at just the right time to worry that we might have missed Trey.  After checking the boards and seeing that the plane was late, we had 5 minutes to wait before seeing his smiling face!

Back to the trains, and waiting in line for the ticket office.  I sent the kids to find provisions, and I waited in line.  The ticket officer recommended that we use a different train (that was in the station, ready for us) to go to Tiburtina, and then to Terni and Ponte Rio.  Great -- no problem.

As we were running to the train, it...pulled out of the station.  Second missed train of the evening.  This time with a tired, jet-lagged kid.  I went back to the ticket office (this time NOT waiting in line), and he told me to take the next train from the other platform.  When the train arrived, it was not abundantly clear that it was going to the right station.  So I rapped on the window of the engineer's cubicle and asked.  Sure enough -- it was the right one.  AND -- an added bonus -- it was a double decker train!

We got to our station with 2 minutes before the connecting train pulled out for Terni.  We ran as quickly as we could, and got to the platform just in time to see the train pulling out.  Sigh.  Missed train #3.  However, there was a very sweet lady who was also going to Terni, and knew exactly what we needed to do.  So she took us to yet another platform, and we went to Orte.  In the meantime, though, it was abundantly clear that we wouldn't make it to Ponte Rio.  So I called Leonardo to come pick us up in Terni.

Once I thought about it, and realized that we had to wait another HOUR in the station before taking a 20-minute train ride, I called Leonardo back to ask how much extra it would cost to be picked up in Orte.  Answer?  10 Euros.  A deal -- so Leonardo came to Orte for us.

At this point, we had some seriously dragging children, although they were behaving pretty well.  Once again, Eleanor got a pick-me-up.  When Leonardo came, I mentioned that I really hoped the pizzeria would still be open (it closes at 9, and we weren't going to be back in Todi until about 9:15).  No problem:  Massimo is a buddy of Leonardo's.  Leonardo called up Massimo, I talked to him, and they'd make a pizza especially for us.  I love this place!

When we got there, everything was perfect.  Massimo even threw in a large bottle of Fanta (which is very different here, and everyone should try once -- despite my bias against drinking sodas).  When I wasn't sure if I had enough money, he was totally relaxed and told me to bring it tomorrow.  Have I said yet that I love this place?

So we all ate a scrumptious pizza (it woke Trey up for about 5 minutes of intense enthusiasm) and we all went to BED!

This morning, we got up late, and I've sent the kids out exploring so I can have an hour of ...ah... peace.
This afternoon, we plan to introduce Trey to the marvels of money changing, grocery stores, stairs, and gelato.  I have the feeling I know which will be his favorite part!




  1. Wow what a day! But your resourcefulness never fails to amaze me, and thank heavens for Massimo and Leonardo! Can we see a photo of them?
    Hope today is peaceful...

  2. Well, it's a disgrace of a school day, but I just won't count it. NOTHING academic is happening. We're playing games & showing Trey the town!

  3. Are those Brothers Legionaries? Looked like it from the picture. Brother John looks really familiar. Last name? Glad you had them to show you around!! And glad Trey made it safely. Have a great visit!!

  4. It counts as school for sure! It's a field trip!