First and foremost, let me start off this post awkwardly apologizing for those of you who received an email about a new post this morning. I have another blog for my internships class in Rome and sleepily posted my assignment to the wrong url.
People make mistakes. Even me.
So, you can go ahead and disregard the email, unless you have a real interest toward the Italian Mafia in America in which case read away.
Life has seemed non-stop since Chris’s coming and going, which flowed in to my trip to Brussels with only few days to rest in my own bed. With my first real week back in the eternal city, I had the chance to settle back in to the pace of Rome and enjoy the warm sun.
So you might be surprised to hear I actually left the country again on Tuesday.
Only for four hours though.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but my communications professor, Sean Patrick Lovett, might be the most incredible person I will ever have the chance to meet. It’s inspiring and invigorating just to know about his accomplishments and connections, and even more exciting when he uses the perks of his power to do stuff for us.
Sometimes its front row tickets to the Papal Audience, other times it’s seats for Easter Mass at St. Peters. This past Tuesday, it was a behind-the-scenes tour of Vatican City.
And it really was behind-the-scenes, namely because the only other people we saw the entire time were a few men in suits, Swiss Guard members, and security guards. It will be the best sight I’ve seen in Europe, and the lack of tourists was an added bonus.
So what does Vatican City actually look like? What are they hiding back there?
In all honesty, it doesn’t look like a city at all. It looks like a park from, well, Heaven. Ironic. It looks like the most beautiful college campus that ever could be. Everything is green and perfectly groomed, framing historic buildings that are maintained in pristine fashion.
St. Peter’s Basilica might just be more beautiful from the back then the front.
But it’s more than just the visual. Situated in the very center of one of the busiest cities in the world, Vatican City is so quiet. Nearly silent, except for the one hundred fountains that never leave the ear without the faint trickle of cool water. It smells like fresh-cut grass and the first flower to bloom in spring. You could bottle up the fragrant breeze and sell it.
It was serene. The Popes have got it good.
And speaking of the Pope (plural!), did I see him (them)?
No. But I did pet Pope Benedict’s cat – which I think might be more enjoyable than meeting the 87-year-old. Sean said he was napping that time of day, anyways.
And we saw their houses, too! Pope Francis apparently moved in to the Papal Penthouse (name not official) for one week before deciding it was too decadent for his taste. So he moved back in to his cardinal apartment. Window above the door, second floor.
He also carries his own lunch trays. What a guy.
Pope Benedict is living a little more lux in the years of his retirement. His house sits on the hill overlooking St. Peter’s and Rome. His window was even open when we walked by. But the very best thing was the showstopping fountain in his front yard, which I’m pretty sure is the first place I would look if anyone ever told me mermaids were real.
We visited a few important buildings in the Vatican, the first being a museum commemorating the first radio to be used by the Catholic Church and various paraphernalia relating to that. We learned about Guglielmo Marconi, the father of radio. He was known best for making the first commercially successful technology that could send wireless telegrams across hundreds of miles between coastal stations and ships. One was called the Titanic. Two of his Marconi Company operators working in the Titanic’s radio room — known as a Marconi Wireless room — sent out distress signals that would be picked up by the Carpathia. Marconi’s invention would be the sole reason 800 survivors didn’t perish in the icy Atlantic on April 14th, 1912.
On a lighter note, the Pope has a really cool microphone.
We also saw the medieval towers where President George W. and First Lady Laura Bush greeted the Pope when they visited Europe. It was their second time meeting Pope Benedict, and as a miscommunication between ambassadors, they gave each other the same framed photo from their first introduction at the White House. Sean said their were laughs all around.
All of the gardens are absolutely phenomenal, but my favorite was the Pope’s crest that is changed out in color every season. His own design, Pope Francis chose the radiant sun on it, representing Jesus. As many will know, this is also the Jesuit logo. Under that, to the left, is a star representing Mary, Mother of Christ and the Church. To the right of the star is a nard flower representing Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. With these symbols the Pope demonstrates his love for the Holy Family. Luckily it’s not too hard for the gardeners – apparently Pope Benedict’s baroque-style crest was a real headache for them.
And of course, our day was topped with a cherry when we had the opportunity to walk through the VIP entrance of the Basilica. One which only presidents, prime ministers, royalty, and the Pope himself enter through. Once we passed through the marble hallway, we were in the back of the Basilica – on the wrong side of the red velvet rope.
Tourists started taking pictures of us. It was fantastic.
And then we turned around and saw what we had just walked beneath: a larger than life brass skeleton with a face covered in draped marble and hand held an hourglass.
No matter who you are and what you have in this life, you too are running out of time on Earth.
After that stark realization, I wished a little we had walked through the main entrance.
There were so many special things to see in Vatican City, and I couldn’t explain it all in a hundred posts. I won’t try to. It was an intimate experience to walk around in the gardens with my small class and professor, and it was all mine to forever hold on to as a secret that will not and cannot be retold in all of its glory. And so I will carry on all of its little nooks and crannys, the colors, the scents, and the euphoria of that special place – knowing what a privilege and rarity it is to see it at all. It was an experience I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.
That was better than reading about the Mafia, right?
Ciao, for now.