After our first trek and spans of long standing in Vatican City, we returned to the Olympic Hotel to rest and regroup for an afternoon “Walking tour” which set me to giggling, “Oh, now that is what I was hoping for, an afternoon of walking.” Initially I thought I might not be able to do it, but then Diane and I talked and later we talked with the young lady leading us and decided that we would ride with the group to the first stop – they would go in one direction to the Spanish Steps but we did not need to see them again so we would go ahead to the next point of interest, The Trevi Fountain. Although we had both also seen that, Diane wanted to go there and toss a coin and I could not exactly remember it. I was somewhat surprised to find it very crowded, but this being a weekend, there might have been more local visitors than usual. We took pictures, Diane tossed her coin and we soon saw familiar faces arriving and we began the walk onward.
The storybook character, Pinocchio, is very famous in Rome and I was amused to find whole shops with nothing but Pinocchio puppets, dolls, and every imaginable variation possible of the carved wooden boy. I had Diane take a picture of me sitting on a bench next to a life sized one and I took a picture of her in the shop. There was also a workshop showing how some of the items were crafted. Diane said the story was written by a man from Florence.
Passing an outdoor market we bought a banana each as a snack since fruit was not part of the meals we had been having. As the group caught up to us the leader was talking about some ancient columns which were mounted well below the street level and as they went on to see the Pantheon, Diane and I forged ahead. We stopped in a Murano shop where I bought a bracelet to wear with a Murano necklace made by a lady I worked with some years ago.
The church we were heading for was across a plaza which was filled with a lengthy parade of folks in Renaissance costumes. It was too crowded to get pictures of any of the participants and we ended up sitting at a table in a restaurant facing all the action. We shared a pizza to grant us the privilege of sitting down for the duration of the parade and were joined by Father Ed who was heading to the church to say Mass for us. We never did find out what the parade was all about, but many children were dressed in costumes which reminded us of our Halloween festivities.
After Mass we walked well over a mile to a restaurant for dinner. The meals were all wonderful and I am still looking for a pecorino cheese that really gave one of the pasta dishes a kick.
Another highlight of this tour was the Catacombe San Sebastiano. In the past I had seen a small bit of the Catacombs but since learned that there are groups of them and this one has a church above it and while St. Sebastian is no longer buried there, there are several images in his honor, including one on the ceiling of the church. The labyrinth of paths underground left me wondering how anyone found their way around without the lights and railings that now aid the visitors.
On the day we joined several thousand of our best friends for an audience with Pope Francis, Diane fell in St. Peter’s Square but she was not injured or bruised and while I tripped on the foot of a wooden barrier and thought about the domino effect of anyone actually going down, I remained upright. Somewhere along the stony way my camera fell and that was the end of my picture taking, though I had already managed to get 162 shots and was able to download them to my computer, it may be the end of the little camera that has served me so well over a number of years.
Once we were situated in the seating area, the enthusiastic crowd climbed onto the chairs and it was impossible for me to see the Pontiff as he cruised the aisles in his Pope-mobile waving and blessing all. Others in the group got some good pictures, so I am hopeful of getting copies. The couple who produce the monthly newsletter have made up a book of about 20 pictures and will be taking orders for them at the next meeting. I did express my interest via e-mail. I said to Father Bob, that I hoped we got A for effort at least since Diane and I did our best to see what we could see in our times in St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica, but between the crushing crowds and neither of us being tall, did not have the best of views. He was sure we received many blessings.
The people we travelled with were mostly kind, friendly, helpful and thoughtful companions and I was grateful for every hand or arm extended to me as I negotiated the multitudes of staircases. I was very glad that I went on this trip, but I think I cannot do any more pilgrimages with such extensive walking. Diane said it best when she said, “I’m ready for the eating and shopping tours!”