This year my family and I went to Rome and experienced our first Papal Easter Mass. One hundred years ago in the Spring of 1912 my great grandmother Maria Theresa emigrated from Gimigliano, Italy to Niagara Falls, NY. Now, in 2012 I find myself in Italy for a little visit. I can’t help but wonder what her world was like back then. I know that she most likely did not have the opportunity to stay at the St. Regis in Rome. Her circumstances were surrounded with issues of survival and the search for a good life in a new country. Her son Joseph, my grandfather was unable to visit Italy during his lifetime. However, I am sure that he would have loved the opportunity. I can just see him enjoying the fried zucchini flower blossoms and pasta Bolognese. My sister has been in Rome in the past. My husband, kids, and I have been here on several occasions but this is the first time for Easter.
My journey began on Good Friday. Although it is a privilege to be able to take an overnight flight from Chicago to Rome, at times it felt very uncomfortable and a luxurious way of roughing it. Airports have a way of herding passengers like cattle. My coach class ticketed flight took almost 10 hours to get directly to Rome and gave me literally a pain in the coccyx, digestive distress, and insomnia from sitting still for so long. Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence in the Church, so it actually was a good thing the plane food was terrible, especially if the veggie plate was requested and turned out to be curried chick peas and a gluten free breakfast cookie.
After a bumpy landing with plane fuel that smelled like burnt dirty socks, we arrived in Rome on Holy Saturday. I was able to enjoy a nice cappuccino and a plate of lasagna for lunch. Jet lagged we were overjoyed to obtain ‘free” tickets for seats at the Papal Mass from the hotel concierge for 25 euros each. So Easter morning we were up at 6 am (which was really still 11 pm the day before in Chicago time) to get ready for the Mass. After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we were on our way to the Vatican with a taxi driver who must have been from the Grand Prix speeding over cobbled streets of Rome. We arrived at 8 am for the 10:15 am Mass. We had purple tickets which meant we had a seat in the piazza. The crowd literally filled the piazza and spilled into the streets.
Rome has a quality to it that makes a person feel like they are stepping back in time. Probably because so much history is on every corner. The landscape has been depicted in so many classical paintings. So my thoughts easily drift to the past, my roots, and any connection that might exist.
I like Rome not only because of my family connection but also because of the spiritual connection. There are Churches literally on every corner and so many contain relics and stories of famous saints. I found it particularly wonderful to hear and see so many languages and countries represented at the Mass. It is like the center of the world to many of the faithful. I can still hardly believe that I was able to attend.
Afterwards was a quick lunch at a trattoria where the owners were a ma and pop team who were literally running around frantic at the crowd that had descended upon their little restaurant. Ma, wearing a pasta sauce splattered white t-shirt complete with a 3 inch crucifix, came out shouting at the staff, customers, and her husband in Italian. They soon modified their menu to exist of only the choice of vino and/or water to drink; and spaghetti or lasagna, paired down from an original one page menu. And one better have only cash to pay, no credit cards! I know if such happened in Chicago, the staff would have quit and the customers would have left. But our little pasta and house vino ended up being tasty and the experience although chaotic quite delightful and one to remember.
So I sit here on my sore coccyx this afternoon to take a little break as my jet lagged brain tries to share my observations of this little pilgrimage. Sorry if I happen to focus on food a lot. That can happen so easily on a trip to Italy at the end of Lent! As soon as I figure how to upload pictures from my Ipad to this blog, I will share. But for the meantime you will have to sit in anticipation.