This weekend I was lucky enough to have two special visitors…my mom and my brother, Ryan, came to Rome from Pittsburgh to celebrate Easter with me!
My mom and brother arrived on Thursday morning. While I was in classes, they checked into their hotel and then went to the Vatican to tour the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s. They both really enjoyed the experience, and St. Peter’s was probably my mom’s favorite site of their whole trip! After I was done with classes for the day, my mom and brother came to campus and i gave them a short tour of where I’ve been living. It was really nice to show them in person the place I’d been talking to them from for the past two months. From campus we went into the city by bus and metro and I got to teach my family a bit about the public transportation system. Then, we went to the Trevi Fountain! I loved watching my mom and brother’s faces as they saw it for the first time. We mad our way through the crowd to the base of the fountain and tossed in some coins and wished to come back someday to Rome together! From there, we walked to Piazza Navona and then went to dinner at one of my favorite places, Lagana. After that, we went to Frigidarium for my family’s first Italian gelato! They both got their gelato dipped in white chocolate and loved it! Then, we went to the Steeler’s bar. At the bar, they have a really large Steeler’s banner, and it is a tradition to sign your name on the banner when you first visit the bar. My family signed their names on the banner right by where I had previously signed my name! At this point, it was pretty late, so we went to the hotel so that I could see where they would be staying and then I went back to campus for the night.
The next morning, my friend Sydney and I met my family at their hotel and hopped on the metro to go to the Colosseum! We looked around for a little while and then walked a bit down the street to go tour the Roman Forum. This was really exciting because the Forum is one of the places Sydney and I had had class, so we had lots of information to share and loved getting to play tour guide for my family. It was also exciting because a church in the Forum just reopened after being closed to the public for over 30 years and we got to see inside it. From there we walked to Piazza Venezia to look around and then we took a bus to Largo Argentina. My family found it really interesting to see where Caesar had been killed, and since we are cat people they thought it was awesome that the ruins are now a cat sanctuary! From there, we took a tram into Trastevere for lunch at Dar Poeta which is an amazing pizza place. The pizza we had there was my brother’s favorite pizza from the whole trip, which is a big deal because he had pizza for almost every meal! After we ate, we went back to the Colosseum to attend stations of the cross there with the Pope. It was really interesting to hear stations in Italian and it was so exciting for my family to see the Pope for the first time! After stations, we went back to the hotel to have just a few snacks for dinner since we were still full from lunch. Then Sydney and I went back to campus after an amazing day!
On Saturday, Duquesne had a short day trip planned to Tivoli and Castel Gandolfo. So, for the morning and the afternoon, I got to explore the beautiful Tivoli gardens and have a Lizzie McGuire movie moment! There was even a short Easter egg hunt for us at the gardens! Then, we saw Castel Gandolfo which is the summer home of the Pope, and we had a delicious lunch nearby while overlooking a beautiful lake at Ristorante Bucci. While I was away, my family took a tour of the inside of the Colosseum and went to the Capitoline Museum. Then, Sydney and I met up with them at the Pantheon and went to another good pizza place for dinner! Then, Sydney headed back to campus and I went back to the hotel with my family to spend the night with them there.
Buona Pasqua! On easter morning, my family and I woke up early to head to Easter mass at the Vatican! For breakfast, we tried, among other things, some columba which is traditional Italian Easter bread. Then, we got on the metro to the Vatican. The metro was deceivingly empty because as soon as we got off we were in a giant crowd of people who were also going to the Vatican mass. Then, we waited a while to get through security. It was very exciting because you could feel how happy everyone was to be there. Soon, we got inside St. Peter’s Square where mass was being held. The altar was beautifully decorated. There was a marching band and a fantastic choir that snag all of the music throughout mass. The service itself was very beautiful. The reading and intentions were read in many different languages including Spanish, Greek, Arabic, French, and English in addition to the traditional Latin and Italian. Amazingly, they were able to get communion to everyone who wanted to receive it even though there were thousands of people there! To get communion, you just had to find a priest with a yellow and white striped umbrella at the edges of the crowd. After mass, the Pope drove around through the crows and we got to see him, wave to him, and receive a blessing from him right up close! In all, the experience of attending Easter mass at the Vatican was amazing. It was great to gather together with so many people to celebrate the resurrection!
After mass, we got lunch near the Vatican and then went to St. Mary Major church. This church is a very important pilgrimage church because it has a Holy Door and is a papal basilica. Then we stopped back at the hotel quickly before heading back out for dinner. After dinner, we walked to the Trevi Fountain so that my family could see it again for their last time on this trip! Then, we went back to the hotel after another great day.
On Monday, we got up early and took the metro to Termini to get a train to…Florence! We decided to take a day trip on Easter Monday, which is called Pasquetta in Italian, and decided that Florence was the perfect destination. It was really cool that my family got to experience a high speed train while they were here. We took a short nap on the train and got into Florence at about 08:30. The first thing that we did when we arrived was walk to the Duomo and my family thought it was stunning! Then, my brother and I climbed to the top of the bell tower. The climb was a bit over 400 steps! It was a very long climb up and we felt a little dizzy by the end, but the view from the top was amazing and totally worth it! We were even able to spot my mom from the top (she had decided not to climb and was waiting for us by the entrance to the bell tower). After we climbed back down, we all went into the baptistry which was very beautiful. Then, we went to the church itself which is just as, if not more, beautiful. After that, we went to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which my family really enjoyed. Next, we got lunch, and then after that we went to the Academia Gallery. We were so excited that it was open because the gallery is usually closed on Mondays, but they were open specially for Easter Monday! Later, we went shopping in the markets. My brother had never had to negotiate a price to buy something before and he really did not like that prices could be negotiated and were not fixed. After we shopped, we walked around the city some more and then went to the Ponte Vecchio to look out on the beautiful river and see all of the love locks that decorate the bridge. We walked leisurely to dinner, then got some gelato (my family’s last of their trip!) and went to see the Duomo at night. Soon, we had to catch our train back to Rome! I went back to their hotel and had to say a very hard goodbye to my mom and brother because the next morning they were flying back home. In all, we had an amazing time together and I am so thankful that I got to see my family! They made it home safely, and I miss them already!
One experience that had a particular impact on me was riding in taxis by myself back to campus. Before my family came to Rome, I had never ridden in a taxi by myself because I was always traveling with some of my friends. The hotel my family stayed at was not very far from campus, but I was always returning too late at night to utilize public transportation. So, I taxied back to campus three times. During the ride, I had to be very attentive. I would read street signs and I was always trying to figure out which route the driver was taking. Each time, the taxi driver took a different route back to campus, so it was a challenge to understand where I was. When I recognized a landmark or a street name, I was very excited by all that I have learned about the city of Rome. One of my taxi drivers was very friendly, and we even had a nice conversation about our favorite places in the city! These experiences reinforced the lesson that being alert and aware of your surroundings is very important. This is especially important when you are traveling in a country other than your own.