My husband and I had been both places before. But that trip was almost twenty years ago and most of my memories are of the heat and the crowds. It was August, after all; I'm really not sure what we were thinking. I went back to look at the journal entries I made at the time and while it summoned up a few more reminiscences, for the most part, it was almost as if I was reading about someone else's life. Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, the Piazzale Michelangelo? Really? I don't remember that at all.
Someone had told us to stay away from the Vatican at Christmas time when pilgrims would presumably be swarming the place. But it wasn't bad at all. In fact, Rome and Florence were pretty much crowd free -- no lines at St. Peter's or the Colosseum, no need for a reservation at the Uffizi or the Accademia (although we had them anyway.) We ate plenty of pizza, pasta, and gelato, and the kids got more than their fill of altarpieces and holy relics. We learned about ancient Rome, the Renaissance, the lives of the saints, the power of the Catholic church, that zucchero filato is Italian for cotton candy, and not to forget to compost your ticket when taking a train.
And in addition to the amazing opulence of the Vatican museums (including the Sistine Chapel), the crazy quilt mess that is the Roman Forum, the majesty of Brunelleschi's dome towering over the winding streets of Florence, and the colorful vegetable markets, we saw many interesting things although perhaps not those noted in the guidebooks.
|You can buy any kind of American license plate you like along the banks of the Tiber.|
|Rome is definitely the place to buy your clerical gear. The windows with the albs, miters, soutanes, and chasubles were much more colorful but I liked the mannequins in the dreary nun's garb. Do you suppose that nuns walk by these windows and dream?|
|You're not fooling me. I have been to Paris and this is definitely not the Louvre.|
|Even street performers get lunch breaks. These wings belong to a lifesized Cupid. (Don't worry -- he was dressed.)|
|I imagine we'll be seeing more of these in the coming weeks.|
|Galileo's finger. If you were excommunicated you might to give your middle finger to the church too.|
|Panettone was on sale everywhere with all different varieties and wrapping. This lady must have had a big crowd at her house for Christmas.|