“To change the world we must be good to those who cannot repay us.”
– Pope Francis
As I sit at Piazza Campo de’ Fiori under rays of sunshine, I can’t help but notice the number of couples around me. A flurry of groups move about the market square like schools of fish but otherwise, occupied tables of two dominate the outdoor dining area. I didn’t realize Rome is for romantics. I just came for the food and dining al fresco always makes me happy.
The market beams with fresh flowers, textiles, fresh produce and people happily snacking on fresh cut fruit. Tourists share their enthusiasm of all the local finds and snap pictures to their heart’s content. Selfie sticks are all the rage and merchants capitalize on tourists everywhere we go. What did we ever do before smart phones?
Rome is a beautiful city by day and spectacularly lit by night. Ruins, pillars and partial monuments dot the city as to remind citizens how it existed 2000 years ago. The Colosseum in its enormity stands with help from restoration efforts. Upon its presence, you can’t help but feel small. Sadness looms as I look at the sub floors, realizing that many gladiators fought against wild animals until death as locals watched for entertainment.
Through the narrow neighborhood passageways with cobblestones we walk, avoiding the speedy Vespas and Fiats. The red and white checkered tablecloths that line Piazza Navona are inviting, the fountains bearing well sculpted men are hard to dismiss and the architecture of The Pantheon is incredibly fascinating. We stand in awe as we stare at the fine detail on columns, sculptures and frescoes in the cathedrals. It is hard to describe and understand until one realizes the magnificence of these structures. How did the Romans have such a deep understanding of artistry and engineering so early on?
The highlight of the trip was not only eating pasta, pizza and gelato from its country of origin, but getting the chance to see Pope Francis deliver a 25 minute speech outside The Vatican. What a thrill to be a part of something so special and unexpected. It just happens that the Pope recently returned from the Philippines to another mass of Filipinos at Saint Peter’s Square. He is well loved. From where I stand, the Pope resembles the size of a peppercorn and today, speaks only in Italian. When the Philippines is mentioned, the flags are raised higher and fellow Filipinos roar with excitement. I have never seen so many flags.
“Arrivederci!” the Pope concludes. I wave and he waves back at me – I like to dream. As the crowd disperses, a young lady next to Odd has tears welling up in her eyes. I smile at her and she smiles back carefully holding back the tears. A couple next to me stare lovingly at each other, then hug tight. Because I chose to linger and soak up the moment, we missed the museum by 4 minutes and were no longer allowed into The Sistine Chapel. But it was worth seeing The Pope and the people’s reactions. It’s rare moments like this that are worth traveling for.
Because my mom asked and said “please”, here are some pictures ~