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Texans in Europe for 20: Rome, Italy

Our 20th anniversary trip to Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba and Sevilla, Spain; Fatima, Santarém and Lisbon, Portugal; and Rome, Italy, was flat out amazing. To read all about it, just click on those links.

When you have to end your tour Europe, we say do it with a bang. That’s pretty much how the entire day went. Hope you have your Fitbit on because y’all are about to do some walk-ing.

We arrived in Rome late in the evening the night before and were picked up at the airport by our lifetime friends, Paolo and Patrizia. We have known them for 16 years, when we met during our Jubilee 2000 pilgrimage with our high school youth group. Back then, neither of us had kids. Now we have 9 between us! Yes, they are real Romans, who speak real Italian and are the real deal. To say we adore them is such an understatement. Their oldest son, Giacomo, speaks beautiful English. We were so impressed! Staying in their home was such a gift for Scott and I. You might remember them from last summer.

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We ate so well at their house and caught up on life. The following morning, Paolo dropped us off a block from the Vatican on his way to work. Wow, the sight of St. Peter’s never gets old.

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We hurried to the line for the papal audience and managed to score the last two seats in the shade. While we froze for an hour, when the sun came out and everyone else was baking, we were loving that shade. {Pro tip from Scott’s pilgrimage with the diocese the week before!} We also happened to know the Popemobile’s route and we were counting on him doing it the same way. We’ve been blessed to attend nearly a dozen papal audiences, half of them in Rome. We know the drill, but it’s no less exciting each time.

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Providence stationed us just a row away from *the* cutest little girl. Who, of course, the Pope could not pass up kissing. Lucky for us. That poor mom could barely catch her breath she was crying so much. After I snapped these photos, he loved on another sweet 8yo, but I just propped my camera on my shoulder and cried right along with everyone else. Some things are best captured in our memories, no?

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About halfway through the audience I really wished I spoke Italian or Spanish or any language besides English. Thank goodness for the interpreters. Us, and all our religious items, were duly blessed and I took one last look at Papa Francesco and smiled. We made our way out of a very busy square to see if we could squeeze in some churches before siesta.

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But, first, GELATO. We scored the best at Old Bridge, just across from the Vatican. I was feeling pretty proud that I ordered it in Italian until the guy behind the counter said, “That’ll be $5.” Gotta work on my pronunciation, I guess.

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We visited three churches. The first was Sant’Andrea Delle Valle, recently renovated, and it was just gorgeous. I’m so grateful we stumbled up on it. Thank you Sr. Maria Guadalupe for helping us remember which one this was! It pays to have Rome connections.

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Chiesa del Gesu, where St. Ignatius is buried, was next. Yes, that’s a hand! It’s St. Francis Xavier’s, said to have baptized more than 30,000 people. Don’t you love when a relic has an awesome story like that? Very cool.

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As we rounded the corner to the Pantheon, I almost ran right into the police holding AK-47’s. Um, wow. Rome has changed in the seven years I’ve been gone. But, safety first. Can I admit that I’ve never actually walked into the Pantheon? That’s a sin, right? Next trip, I promise.

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This was the only photo I took at Santa Maria della Minerva, where St. Catherine of Siena is buried. Battery was running low on the camera, but mostly I just wanted to sit in the silence. I did, you were prayed for and it was awesome.

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We took a wrong turn and ended up at Trevi Fountain. Whoa, what a zoo! Although, I’m not sure I’ve ever been there when it hasn’t been. We squirmed our way through to throw in the coin. Gotta ensure the return trip. I begged Scott to hail a cab. My dogs were doing some serious barking. We met a brother-sister who operate an Italian tour company, who are also friends with Scott. They were SO good to us, treating us to a two-hour lunch to celebrate our anniversary.

Pretty sure I rolled right outta there. We enjoyed caprese salad, fried sardines (I gave them an A+), squid and pasta and another plain pasta, frozen espresso with cream on top (oh my lands) and frutti di bosco homemade dessert (my favorite), along with so much wine and lemoncello. For the sweet love, y’all. We rollllled out of there.

They were kind enough to drop us back off at St. Peter’s where we stood in line forever. We knew we’d have to go back through security but seeing those other churches was worth it. Our stop in the world’s largest basilica wasn’t long, but just long enough to kneel at the tomb of St. Pope John Paul II and pray. And breathe. And pause. As we walked out of St. Peter’s, I laid my hand on the cold stone pillars, closed my eyes and was flooded with nearly two decades of memories coming to Italy. It has been a blessed five trips here. I wiped the tears and we said ciaobella to one of my favorite places on Earth.

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Here’s where the day gets dicey. The rain was starting to come and we were scheduled to take photos. I did a quick change of clothes in the bathroom and we hoofed it, fast, to Piazza Trilussa and Trastevere to meet Roberta with Flytographer. With every step, and every drop of rain, I was beginning to doubt. The clouds were building and I was losing hope. Then, just 50 feet from the piazza, the rain stopped and Scott nudged my shoulder. “Look up!” he said. And this.

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Day! Saved! How does God DO that??

Roberta was at the base of the steps, smiling big and ready to shoot. We laughed the ENTIRE way through that half hour. My cheeks were killing me. She was such a delight and willing to try anything. I adored her spontaneity and we all fell in love with that magic rainbow. I’ll love these photos until the end of time.

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Sadly, we hugged Roberta goodbye and trotted off to the Pontifical College to see an old friend, Sr. Maria Guadalupe. After circling the block (and that term is so loose in Rome, right?) more than a few times, she finally found us! There were hugs, and letter exchanges, and American bacon crumbles. Ha! I wish I could tell you how great it was to meet one of your favorite Sisters on the streets of Rome, just as the sun was setting. Heavenly.

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We hustled for the Spanish Steps to meet Giacomo and he led us back to the house for the evening. Patrizia cooked a fantastic meal. Just fantastic. Pesto and pasta, beef, eggplant parmiagiana and more tiramisu. Oh, and grappa and wine. We didn’t eat again for 24 hours. True story.

Saying goodbye to this sweet family is always so very difficult. We hugged on them, exchanged gifts and hugged some more. As we said our final goodbyes at the airport, I finally let all those tears go. God blessed us with the most incredible nine days in Europe. I’m better for them and I love Scott something fierce. Let’s make it another 20, shall we?

Texas, we’re home!

Places Visited Today
St. Peter’s Square/Basilica
Chiesa de Gesu
Santa Maria della Minerva
Trevi Fountain
Pantheon
Piazza Trilussa
Trastevere
Pontifical College
Spanish Steps

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7 Comments

  1. Andrea on November 1, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Love this update and the photos! Especially the ones of you two.

    FYI, that arm is not Ignatius’, it’s actually the forearm of St. Francis Xavier, one of the founding Jesuits who evangelized India and China. I’ve visited SFX’s body in a church in Goa, India and the forearm is missing. The odder part is that I believe that a chunk of the arm was torn off by someone who tried to take a chunk out of it with their mouth when it was on display.

    It comes down to corporeality. We believe that the holiness of the person persists in their bodies and the things they touched and used in their lives.

    • Kathryn on November 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      Thank you, Andrea! A sweet Dominican Sister who lives in Rome just reminded me of the same. Edited and fixed 🙂

  2. Verdina on November 2, 2016 at 1:11 am

    Oh, Kathryn! You’ve done it again! I feel as though i was really with you on that remarkable visit to Rome!

    May God continue to bless you and Scott for many, many ywars!

  3. Patrizia on November 2, 2016 at 5:40 am

    Thank you Kathryn for your sweet words. Were beautiful days for us too! We love you

    • Kathryn on November 2, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Love you big, Patrizia!

  4. Aileen on November 2, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    So beautiful! I just love your experiences and the memories you will cherish forever. So wonderful seeing it through your eyes! Thanks again! 🙂

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