Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rome and Ostia

Buon giorno to our first full day in Italy! And what a special day it was: October 10, 2010, or 10/10/10! We rose from our sleep thankful that Padre Giuseppe let us sleep in a bit! Some of the Pellegrini were more affected by the jet lag than others and had to get a personal wake-up call to get out of bed!
 Once everyone was awake, alert, and enthusiastic we set out in the clear, crisp morning for the short walk to the Collegio Santa Monica located directly next to St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican. We entered through the gates of the college and into the beautiful Augustinian property where Padre Giuseppe gave us a brief overview, including some stories of when he used to live at the college!
Upon entering the main college building, we immediately met more Augustinians who greeted us like we were old friends. As we passed through the halls we saw the dormitories that housed scores of Augustinians and priests, including former cardinals and Popes who at one time had stayed for a visit.
We then gathered for Mass in St. Monica’s Chapel, where there was a stunning mosaic behind the altar that depicted various scenes of Monica and Augustine’s life. Padre Giuseppe even let us all stand around the altar as we celebrated the Eucharist during our beautiful, private Mass in the chapel. 
After Mass, we went across the street into St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Sunday Angelus at High Noon with Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict translated his blessing and message into many languages so all of the thousands of people from around the world that packed the square could understand his powerful words.

The Angelus at Noon with Pope Benedict XVI
This window drape, with a new version of the papal coat of arms,
was used for the first time today!

For 50 points, what major change from the previous banner, will be corrected?

Look for us here!!!

Right after the Angelus, the Pellegrini decided to hang out in St. Peter’s  to take in some of the sights and sounds of the Vatican. This included meeting two young, friendly priests from our neighboring city of Pittsburgh who were in the square playing guitars and singing songs for everyone’s enjoyment.
Before lunch we made a stop on the roof of St. Monica’s college to check out the impressive views of St. Peter’s Basilica and snap some group pictures. Padre Joe had a “small world” moment when we ran into an old student of his in the adjoining hotel whom had become a priest himself.

Lunch consisted of some take-out pizzas which we enjoyed in a small piazza outside of our hotel with the Vatican beautifully displayed in the backdrop.

Then it was off to Ostia Antica, the ancient port of Rome. It was fascinating to walk on the ancient cobblestone road that made its way from Ostia Antica all the way into the heart of Ancient Rome.
Ostia was breathtaking, with thousands of stones and ruins! It was particularly special that Ostia was a place where Augustine and Monica likely walked and talked together.  As we made our way through the ruins, we read excerpts from the Confessions and saw such places as were Augustine probably bought his ticket for the boat that took him to Africa.

Then it was back to the hotel in Rome to rest up before Cena. However, the Pellegrini took advantage of this time for some quality bonding over some intense games of UNO and fish bowl!

When it was time for dinner, we were certainly ready for the outstanding and plentiful meal that we had at a small restaurant about a block from the hotel, with the owner an old friend of Fr. Joe’s! We were lucky enough to try various traditional Italian dishes as well as some Italian drinks including the traditional after dinner liquor, Grappa, getting mixed reviews from the inexperienced Pellegrini.

With full bellies, we made our way back to the hotel, looking forward to some much needed rest while reflecting on the fantastic day in Rome and Ostia, and looking forward to the adventures and experiences the next day would bring.

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