I mentioned in the Venice post, while this trip was extraordinary, there were a handful of magical moments. Vatican City held three of my magical moments. One of these magical moments, unbeknownst (gold star for getting that spelling correct on the first shot) to us, was that we got to walk through the Holy Doors because this was the first time in twenty-five years (or at least that was what we were heard) that the Holy Doors were opened. According to the tour guide in front of us that we eavesdropped on, it was the Holy Year of Mercy (also heard something about a jubilee but to be frank, I thought he said Jollibee!) that began on Dec. 8th to end the following November. And here we were in St. Peters Square, being more tourist than Catholic, not even understanding the symbolism of it all. Before entering the Vatican, there was a mass outside being held in Italian, English, and Spanish.
So, I do not want to be one of those people that is super-duper religious because the truth is I am not a devout Catholic, but I am a Catholic. I did all my sacraments except marriage (ehm, el anillo pa cuando!?!), I attend masses if I need to, I pray -sometimes, I went to CCD (religious school to get confirmed), and I believe there is some sort of higher divinity. But, this “Eternal City” – ROME, in St. Peter’s Square, after passing through airport-like security, I felt like I was with God. Oh, jeez, just writing that I cringed a bit. It sounds so ridiculous and I want to explain so I don’t sound so nutsy.
During the entrance process, they gave out this little informational pamphlet. E and I went to the Vatican by happenstance, and to find out all this information about this year and these doors, well it kind of moved us. It explained that these doors, symbols of salvation and Jesus, only opened during the Holy Year of Mercy, where the Church and Catholics are merciful, showing humanity and kindness to one another by forgiving, accepting, and letting go and lending a hand. To walk through the Holy Doors meant to cross from this world into the presence of God, or in not so majestic terms to pass from sin to grace. Woah, right? So, you walk up to these grand doors, with its beautiful craftsmanship and carpentry, having read all of this information of its symbolism while you waited on a line to walk through, and the wind breezes by ever so slightly. All that crossed through my head was “Holy Shit, baby Jesus, is that you?” because that is what the fuck it felt like y’all. It felt like everything bad I had ever done in my life, and there is a lot, was accepted and forgiven. Like, as soon as I left there, I was going to be a different and better person. For the most part, I would like to think that I am.
Once inside, speechless. The awe only continued for me as every direction my head turned I was enamored by something else. But like I mentioned in the beginning, magical moments folks. my second magic moment was Michaelangelo’s Pieta. Now, I do not want to be stereotypical, but I want to go ahead and say that this is a fact. All Italian grandparents have some sort of religious statue or sculpture in their homes. Shit, they may have all of them or just a few, but I know, and you know, they have them. They have the St. Anthony or Mother Mary in that blue casing in front of their house, they’ve got Padre Pio over the dining table, and they have an exact replica of Pieta on a mantle somewhere. My nonna has all three (and then some). Having seen that statue in a tiny version, having dusted and polished it so many times, having seen my Nonna put the statue on her coffee table while she did her rosary on Sundays with the Italian Mass on RAI televisione – seeing it in real life was nothing short of monumental. It just was absolutely breathtaking. It warmed my heart and made me nostalgic. It made me want to go home, kiss my Nonna, and tell her “ti voglio bene, assai assai” (I love you so much, very very much).
I did not think I could top that honestly, but then.. oh but then the Capella Sistina. After following the pack like herded sheep towards the signs leading to the Sistine Chapel. Along the way towards the Sistine Chapel, the walls and ceilings covered in art, it was almost too much to consume it all. Now, once you get to the arrow that points to the chapel stairs leading to what was probably one of the most magnificent works of art your eyes will ever lay on, you will immediately be annoyed. Maybe you won’t because you are more patient than I am, but I was hella annoyed. The security is strict to a point that it was damn near disrespectful. So, you are not allowed to take photos, but come on be serious, how can you not? They pretty much kick you out if they catch you and try to move you along as quickly as possible so if you wanted to stop and admire while not moving, good luck because the next batch of people waiting are standing right outside the area just as impatient as you were a few moments ago. The trick we used, sneaky sneaky, is to hold your phone in your hand as if you were just holding it by your sides. Except you have it on the camera app on zoom and are sneaking shots as you move through the crowd. My boyfriend didn’t care about getting scolded so he took whatever photos he could and then got yelled out and sent to the sides.
So, we pretty much spent at least six hours just experiencing the Vatican and we were so exhausted. We left the Vatican and headed to the bus stop to take us back to the hotel, except we decided to stop in Trastevere for dinner. I love Trastevere because it has this old world but hipster like feel.
The handful of times that I have eaten in that neighborhood, every meal was spectacular. I’ll be honest, I ate more cacio e pepe on this trip than I probably ever did in my life. It was so damned good. I guess it is probably because its fresh and not imported, or maybe it was the Italian magic, but it was was always delicious, We walked back to the hotel that night instead of taking the bus and I could not help but feel like I was in this wonderful dream. I still could not believe I was here and I could not believe all the beauty I had seen. Maybe it was because it was I had not seen much of anything prior to this, but for a fraction of a minute, I imagined myself moving here because life just seemed so much better. I plan to go back, and I hope I really could, and I believe that all those feelings I felt will be exactly the same.