I am sorry I haven't written in awhile; I had difficulty logging into my blog, and my travels are keeping me busy!
Let's see...Rome: amazing. I fell in love with the city. There is so much incredible history, art, and architecture. The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, the Colosseum, the Pantheon...all things I have studied and dreamed of seeing one day. Now I have!
The Romans were pretty impressive. Aside from ruthless persecution of Christians, they created quite a city. Imagine how difficult building the Colosseum would have been-the building is still standing, more than 2,000 years later!
Mary and I walked through the Roman Forum, which is a very, very large area with ruins of what was the main city in ancient times. Rome is an interesting juxtaposition: the new, modern city has been built around the ancient city; the way we live, work, and exist is very different than the way of ancient Romans, but they were real people, too. I am sure I am not making much sense right now, it is difficult to put these thoughts into words.
It is difficult to explain what I thought and felt while in Rome-it was very overwhelming. I had such a sense of awe the whole time I was there. It was refreshing and incredible.
Speaking of incredible: being in the public audience of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Each Wednesday he addresses the crowd gathered, prays with everyone, and offers his blessing on the people present, the loved ones (especially the ill) of the crowd, and any objects (rosaries, medals, etc). Mary and I left the hotel early, planning on attending mass, but when we arrived near the Vatican there was already long lines and a growing crowd. The pope was scheduled to speak at 10:30. We arrived at 8:00. We decided to get good seats and wait. It was worth it. I won't lie-I cried when he spoke. But the excitement of the crowd, the desire to listen and be in the presence of such a holy man, it was also overwhelming. There were thousands of people there, from all over the world, it was unifying. And left me with a sense of hope for the world. God is still present, working through so many people in so many ways.
We went to Florence (Firenze, in Italian) on Sunday. A lovely city; I remember my grandmother telling me how she loved Florence, and I understand why. It was great to be there, it made me feel a bit closer to her that day, and I wished I could have sent her a postcard. The basilica is incredible. The outside is made of beautiful green stone, and it is just amazing. So much detail, planning, and craftsmanship went in to these buildings. It makes me look at modern architecture and wonder what happened!
In Florence, I saw Michelangelo's David...wow. The size, the detail, the age...again, there aren't really words. This work heavily influenced the world of sculpture. The block of marble used was left behind the cathedral in Florence, untouched, for 25 years. Michelangelo saw it many times as a young person, and at age 26 was awarded the contract to create a sculpture. The traditional story of David and Goliath paints a picture of a small, timid boy. But Michelangelo's representation of David illustrates the strength of that young boy, a strength which allowed him to conquer great things, the greatest of which was probably his own fear. If only we could all find that inner strength-we all have it-and instead of allowing fear to guide us, we could live life courageously and abundantly, as we were meant to live.
We arrived in Milan late Wednesday night, and Mary and I spent all of Thursday getting some much needed rest and recuperation. Friday we took a train to the Cinque Terre. Rome took my breath away with its history and architecture, and the Cinque Terre took my breath away with its beauty of nature. Cinque Terre translates to "five lands" and is composed of five seaside villages. There is a path along the coast, in between each town (and a train system connecting the towns, as well). The weather was perfect, and the views, incredible. I could spend a few days there, hiking and taking it all in. The water was an amazing turquoise color, and the mountains, with charming little villages tucked away, painted the perfect picture.
I went to Easter mass at the Duomo in Milan, the second largest church in Italy, followed by La Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. In a week, I went to the three largest Italian churches! If only I could capture the beauty in my pictures, but it just isn't possible.
Speaking of pictures, I promise to upload them as soon as humanly possible upon my return to Salamanca. But, I have a lot...thousands, in fact. And my spring break is not yet finished: Mary and I are heading to Paris tonight!
I hope you all are well. Happy Easter!