Arrivederci, Roma!

Trip Start Aug 19, 2013
Trip End Dec 13, 2013

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Well friends, it's been quite a while since I've blogged and I heartily apologize!
As you can imagine, the reason I haven't blogged is because I've been really busy! It's unbelievable, but I've reached the end of my time here in Rome. My parents arrived yesterday (!!!!!) and I'm going to start to pack (and finish, hopefully) tomorrow! Then I am free to travel through Tuscany with my parents for a week before starting all over again in Athens.
But....for the last couple of weeks.
We started October with our long-awaited excursion to Florence! We visited for our "long-weekend" so 4 days and 3 nights. It was lovely! It's a very manageable town that's quintessential Italy!
We visited Florence with my Art History professor, Paulo (who is quite flamboyant if I haven't already told you), with a purpose to learn LOTS of art. We saw the David, as an assignment. We went to the Uffizi, to take notes. And we went to Museo National, to learn the statues. Actually, most of the weekend was consumed with "class." The rest of the weekend I shopped. Florence is known for its leather so basically every store was filled with purses, coats, boots, wallets, name it! It was quite fun exploring the leather markets :) Unfortunately it rained a lot during the weekend. I'm excited that I get to go back to Florence with my parents!!
After Florence, we had our last two weeks of classes. Though I was furiously studying for my finals and working hard on papers, we had lots of great opportunities! Monday morning we met at the Vatican at 6:45am with a priest (from St. John's in MN, studying in Rome!!) to have mass in the crypt underneath St. Peter's Basilica. As you can imagine, it was wonderful! He's a really funny guy, and speaks fluent English which is such a luxury around here! I went out for breakfast with him and a couple others after the mass. Later that day, we got a tour of St. Peter's Basilica (for the first time; can you believe it?!!). Our tour guide was from the U.S. but was about as boring as a block of wood. Learning about the details of the ornateness of the humongous basilica was worth the tour though!
On Tuesday we had theology at St. John's Lateran--the pope's cathedral and a more important building than the Vatican, even though the Vatican is more popular. After that we went to Scala Sancta. This building holds the stairs that Jesus ascended to get to Calvary and die on the cross. Everyone walks up the stairs on their knees out of respect. At first it seemed like an easy task, especially seeing that elderly were making the climb, but about halfway up my knees really started to hurt and the pain was very present in my conscious. Yet what was my suffering compared to Jesus' pain that he must have felt at that moment? At the top of the stairs was an image of Jesus on the cross which certainly put my human weakness into perspective. The pain I felt was so temporary and wouldn't affect my life at all. Jesus had the burden of the world's pain on his shoulders. It was a really powerful moment because it really put into perspective what exactly Jesus did for us, something that I struggle comprehending every day.
Later that afternoon we went to San Anselmo and met the priest that did our mass the previous day who talked about life as a Benedictine monk. On that hill San Anselmo is on is a keyhole which is famous for its incredible view. Spoiler alert! Looking through the tiny key hole is a tunnel of trees that perfectly outline St. Peter's Basilica dome. No camera could capture what our eyes could see.
The rest of the week passed with classes and studying, until Friday when we all did a pub crawl! We met at the colosseum and went to 2 bars and a club. It was great fun, although not the best night I've had in Rome! Sunday morning I went to the Papal Mass! We got up at the crack of dawn to arrive at 6:45am again. We got in line and waited until about 7:30 when we were let in. It was craziness! The crowds pushed and shoved to get to the front of the line. It felt like we were going to an almost sold-out concert, not Sunday mass! We got in and started running to the front of the rows. Surprisingly most seats were empty so we grabbed 30 seats and looked around. We were probably 6 rows from the very front (or at least as far as the general public could go!). I couldn't believe it!!!! I still can't, to be honest. We were lucky to have seats, let alone some towards the front!!! Throughout the morning, the entire St. Peter's square filled with probably 50,000 people. At 10:30 the mass finally started (3 hours after sitting down). It was truly beautiful. The pope was still a small speck from where we were sitting, but knowing that he was doing the mass made it incredible. He spoke in Italian, we sang in Latin, the first reading was said in English (!!), and the petitions were in many different languages. We had moments of silence and clapping and prayer. I loved it all! After mass, he got in his popemobile and drove around the square! He was so inexaustably happy, it was contagious! I got really close to him and snapped some pictures of course! What an awesome day it was!
Monday was spent studying and Tuesday was spent test-taking. Then my parents arrived!!!!!!!!!! I have been so excited to see them for many weeks! Getting their hugs after my finals was just what I needed! We went out to dinner in my neighborhood Trastevere and I showed them my apartment and the girls I live with. Yesterday I spent the day with them sight-seeing Rome. We went to the Roman Forum, Colosseum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiori, and the Trevi Fountain! It was quite a successful day! We went about our day at a slow pace, stopping at things simply because they look interesting--which is the way to travel! It was really fun for me to show them around Rome like I've been excited to do since Day 1!
We are leaving tomorrow for Assisi, and then start our journey through Tuscany for the week :)
It's quite bittersweet leaving Rome. I have many fond memories here and never want this lifestyle to end! But I truly am excited for a fresh start and change of pace  in Athens. I know I'll come back to Rome someday!
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