Italian Sabbatical Impressions: Hearing the Pope in Rome and other fun stuff.

Travel puts wind in my sails.  My plan for this sabbatical month is touring beautiful and historic European cities using a Eurail Global Pass.  Observing the beautiful landscapes, visiting church history sites and strolling through urban centres has been both invigorating and devotional, so far.  My next post will be about the  impressive landscapes and Reformation Church History sites of my Sabbatical time in Switzerland. For now, here is a bit of what stuck out from my time in Italy. 🙂

June 30-July 8: Rome, Florence, Venice and Trieste.

Italy has fountains, public squares, museums, churches, heat, stylish people and delicious food, like the buffalo mozzarella and tomato pizzas.

Venice was nice, but too touristy for my taste. However, I enjoyed the strolls through narrow streets and day trips for swimming at Lido and Trieste.  I had a peaceful dinner by myself on the grand canal one night and watched the romantic gondolas go by, along with water taxis and public transit boats.  I bought a T-shirt from the Venice site of the Hard Rock Cafe, which is near St. Mark’s Basilica and square.  I found it fun and unique that gondolas could pull up in front and drop you off at this Hard Rock Cafe.  If Venice was a slight disappointment, then Florence was a nice surprise.

Florence’s museums, such as the Uffizi, are amazing. The David, by Michelangelo, was impressive. I will never forget the 15 minute description and interpretation given to us by our tour guide as we viewed the magnificent form.  The highlight of my time in Florence was a bicycle tour that our group took from 9-11pm over the river’s many bridges during a full moon. Florence is the Renaissance-textile capital, but Rome is the historical-religious centre.

In Rome, the highlight for me was being in the front row to hear the Pope address the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.  I had just exited the tour of the immaculate St. Peter’s Basilica tour and then walked into the front row of the audience who had gathered to hear his last speech of the summer (before he went into summer residence for 2 months).  He spoke at 12:20pm on Sunday July 1.  Attending such a religious event at the Vatican was a fun way to spend my 2012 Canada Day.  What impressed me most about hearing the Pope read a Latin blessings and then translate it into many languages from his little window was the responsiveness of the crowd.  They shouted adulation  to the Pope such as “Long live Papa” and “We love you Papa”. He waved his hands gently and, I assume, affection for the people. It was like being front row centre at a U2 concert when Bono is connecting with the crowd and singing “Where the Streets have no name“.  It was electric with spiritual emotion.  Now, I am not a Roman Catholic Christian, but I did shed a single tear at the affection displayed between the man and his international flock.  It reminded me of Jesus Christ and his love for the Global Church, which we become a part of by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. A sad aside is that because of all the excitement of the Pope-moment, I forgot to see the Sistine Chapel before I left the sovereign territory of the Vatican City.

I was also impressed by the Pantheon.

Look for my next post on the Sabbatical time in Switzerland.  Thanks for reading.  See you soon.

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