On Monday, October 9 Tim and I left our apartment to catch the 10:07 p.m. train from Milan to Rome. We left a little late, and the metro was slow, so we were very worried about the train leaving without us. We got to the train station with a few minutes to spare, but still had to figure out where to find the machine to print our tickets, and then how to use that machine. Oh yeah, we also had no idea which platform our train was on. So, we ran around frantically for a few minutes, until I found the machine. Then I started working out that puzzle, and Tim asked Only Other Person Around which platform to go to. Finally, tickets in hand, we ran as fast as we could. "Tim, if you fall down these stairs, break an arm, not a leg...that way we can still make it to the train," I said. We got to the platform at 10:05, out of breath but with enough energy left to high-five each other in congratulations for our good luck.
After changing trains in Bologna around midnight, we finally arrived in Milan at five-something Tuesday morning. We hung around the train station for awhile, then ate breakfast (i.e. granola, yogurt-like stuff, and boiled eggs from home; milk we bought at the train station). Next we rode the metro to the station closest to our hostel, a short walk north from Vatican City. Since we couldn't check in yet, and couldn't pick up our tickets to the Papal Audience yet, we headed towards St. Peter's, where we went to Mass and looked around.
After leaving St. Peter's, while trying to decide what to do next, we saw a familiar face:
So we prayed Morning Prayer with her (she seems to show up right before Liturgy of the Hours).
After walking around Rome with Caitlin some, Tim and I decided to go check into the hostel. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures, but it was decent. Relatively clean, nice enough people. Not too exciting a story. Then we went to pick up our Papal Audience tickets. At first no one could find our tickets, but when we just happened to accidentally by chance inadvertently mention the name of the rector of the seminary, someone luckily found us two tickets. Really good ones, too. Check out these pictures:
Later while wondering around the city we saw this:
Meals are an important part of any day. Although this meal wasn't really anything special, the two guys eating it are:
Since we didn't want to spend too much money, at night we mostly just walked around. The following two distractions are the only ones exciting enough to mention:
Again, meals are important. Before heading out for a day of seeing the sights, we needed piles of granola bars, bananas, yogurt, milk, etc.
I also discovered canned tuna with chickpeas and tomatoes mixed in. I didn't have it for breakfast, but it tasted good at lunch.
We were lucky enough to see a lot of the major sights in Rome. We went to:
St. Mary Major, where we saw pieces of the manger in which Jesus was born;
and St. Peter in Chains, where they keep the chains that held St. Peter.
We also had the chance to take a tour of the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. This is me at Constantine's Basilica.
We met up with Jacob (from MD, but studying in Rome) for the Roman ruins tour. Tim and Jacob are posing at the sports arena in Domitian's Palace. According to our tour guide, there would be a lot more to see there if those mean ol' popes from the Renaissance hadn't taken all the marble to build their churches. Tim and I are of the opinion that the stuff looks better in Churches. And besides, why shouldn't they use that marble? The Romans weren't using it. Recycling saves the planet. Just think: if some organization found a way to take and reuse all the rubble left after a baseball stadium was torn down, they'd be praised for their environmentally responsible policies. The same tour guide offers tours of the Vatican Museums, but since we didn't like her attitude, we decided not to go (plus it cost like thirty euros).
On Friday we decided to go to St. Paul Outside the Walls in the morning. We also went to St. John Lateran. There we met Caitlin and took a bus outside Rome to see the catacombs, where at one point over 500,000 Christians were buried, including something like 16 popes.
After parting ways with Caitlin, Tim and I decided to ascend the Sacred Steps, the twenty-eight steps Jesus climbed to get to Pontius Pilate (St. Helen, Constantine's mother, brought them to Rome after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land). I don't have a picture of them, but you're only allowed to go up on your knees, so that's what we did. There's a little chapel at the top, but you're not allowed in there.
Later on Friday we met our seminarian friend Justin by St. Peter's on our way to the North American College, where we'd be staying until we left on Monday. After meeting a bunch of people, we hung out on the roof for awhile enjoying the view. On Saturday we were given an excellent tour of the Roman Forum from another seminarian. On Sunday we saw Pope Benedict XVI again, this time at a Canonization Mass, where four new saints (including one American, Mother Theodore Guerin) were canonized. We didn't get to sit as close this time, but it was still enjoyable. I was happy to discover that I remembered enough high school Latin to understand most of the Mass. After lunch we played basketball with some priests and seminarians, which was fun. You'd be surprised at Fr. Mark's wicked J.
After three nights in the hostel, the NAC seemed like Heaven. Our own rooms, real beds (not thin-mattressed bunks), good food, good friends. The class of 1962 was in town for a reunion, so we met quite a few of them. Take it from me: when you're used to seeing priests, monsignors, and bishops in the clerical garb, seeing them walk around the hallway in their undershirts and whatnot is an interesting experience. It also made it hard to greet people in the hallway. You'd think to yourself "How to I address this guy walking towards me? I can't just ignore him. Is he Mr.? Fr.? Msgr.? Your Eminence?"
On Monday morning we woke up in time to make 6:15 Morning Prayer and 6:30 Mass. We had breakfast with a couple of our seminarian friends, then went with them to two of their morning classes, Sacraments and Justice. Around 10:30 we left them and walked to our last tourist destination, a Jesuit Church near the university. Since Tim spent a year in Japan, and since Francis Xavier is a patron saint of Japan, we thought we'd stop by on our way out of town. Francis Xavier's right arm is kept in this church.
After we left the church, we headed to the train station to catch the 12:30 train back to Milan. On Thursday we're off on another trip, to Paris, London, Wales, and Ireland, so look for blog posts about that sometime around the beginning of November. Also, if anyone has any questions about the history behind any of the sights we saw, or anything else, please let us know.