Journey of the Body—Travel Adventures
Any of you, ladies at least, ever wished you looked like Audrey Hepburn? Any of you guys wished Audrey Hepburn could ride behind you on a Vespa as you scooted around Rome? For those of you out there who have not celebrated as many birthdays as I have and have no idea who Audrey Hepburn is—She was one of the most luminous film stars of the mid- to late-20th century.
Well, God in His wisdom, didn’t allow me to look like Audrey Hepburn and neither my husband nor I when we visited Rome several years ago rode around on a Vespa, but let me share a few of our adventures with you.
We began our visit by staying at the Grand Palatino Hotel, located just blocks from the ancient Forum. Don’t get me started on the morning cappuccinos! They became a morning ritualistic addiction for me. Out of our hotel window, we watched the sun rise and set each day over the dome of a church. And that is what I think of when I think of Rome—the churches and the fountains.
Finding a wonderful local takeout pizzeria, we tried out our basic Italian on the guy at the counter and ate our huge slice of Margherita pizza sitting on the ruins of a broken Roman pillar overlooking the Forum. What a start to what has become one of my favorite cities in the world!
My advice–do your homework before you travel. I don’t know about you but that is my primary function and responsibility on all family trips—to be the resident expert and tour guide extraordinaire. Having a Master’s in History doesn’t hurt either.
So, we strolled through the ruins of Nero’s Palace gardens, literally a garden now of broken columns. We ambled under the Arch of Titus and bought tickets to see the Colosseum, a short walk from the Forum. I pointed out the distinct menorah carved on the arch noting Titus’ triumph in destroying the Temple and city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Travel Tip—Don’t buy your tickets for the Colosseum at the Colosseum. You can purchase the same ticket near the Arch of Titus for the same price and without the wait. We did receive some ugly looks as we bypassed the line wrapped around the Colosseum and walked right in through the Tickets Only entrance.
We sat on the same benches as Roman citizens two thousand years ago and contemplated the gladiatorial contests that had taken place there so long ago. The stadium floor is no longer intact but that is a plus, I think, for tourists. For now, you can get a good look at the rabbit warren of rooms—a peek most ancient Romans never got to see—housing the gladiators, the wild animals imported from Africa to quench the Roman’s bloodlust and possibly—although historians disagree on this—where many early Christian martyrs lost their lives but gained their eternal victory.
Eating gelato on the steps outside the Pantheon, we’d revisit this gelato shop every day. Got to take time out for the really important things in life. And yes, I deliberately timed our excursion to the Pantheon for the gelato. Research, people! Don’t leave home without it!
Located not far from the Forum—it wasn’t easy because it is now located far below the streets of modern Rome—I found and crawled down into the Mamertine Prison. This was the final stop for political prisoners—Death Row—for men like the Apostle Peter and Paul. They knew those that entered the Mamertine only escaped it with death. I’m claustrophobic and had just finished teaching two Precepts courses on II Timothy and II Peter—the last writings of each man. I was determined to overcome my pathological fear of tight, closed-in spaces to pay honor to two men who gave their all for the cause of Christ. It was as near a place as I can imagine that would be hell on earth. I’m short and I couldn’t stand upright. There was no outside light and a sewer trough ran through the middle of it just as it did in those ancient days. The cell was a dark hole in the wall. Thinking of those blessed men’s suffering and sweet spirits, I stayed as long as I could stand it and left in tears.
Then, watching the sun set over another one of Rome’s glorious churches as we stood in the Forum, a young bride and groom emerged with their wedding party.
Time and space do not allow me to tell in detail of a wild taxi ride to Vatican City to St. Peter’s Cathedral, the actual site of Peter’s upside-down crucifixion. We’d met a young couple from Maryland and we were standing in front of Michelangelo’s Pieta where I was explaining the Biblical scene when Christ was removed from the cross and it’s correlation in Michelangelo’s genius to the loss of his own mother, when a crowd formed. I kid you not. They started asking questions. I should have charged admission. To pay for more gelatos, mind you.
Another wonderful memory involves going outside the ancient city wall to the Cathedral of St. Paul Outside the Wall. Really. That’s what it is called. Here on this site is where Paul was beheaded. I also bought lovely gold crosses for my two daughters at the shop. I’m all about the food, the shopping, the history. . .
Every night in Rome we walked two blocks to a local Italian eatery and ate the best food imaginable. There was one mix up with our limited Italian when I ordered “Fungus” by mistake with my pronunciation of fungi instead of “Funghi” pronounced foon-gee for mushrooms. You should have seen the expression on the face of our waitress. She tried not to laugh, but she did.
Any of you have any adventures to share? I’d love to hear from you.
Wishing you many happy Roman or elsewhere holidays.