I spent the month of July working remotely while my wife completed the Sacred Art School‘s summer painting program alongside two friends from Fransiscan University of Steubenville and others from all over.
Sacred Art School offers summer programs focused on painting, sculpture, and gold smithing, as well as three-year masters-style specializations in each of those areas.
We’re flying back from Rome after six weeks in Italy this summer. We started with a week in Rome in June, spent July in Florence, and spent the past week and a half visiting Milan, Lake Como, Assisi, Teramo, and other parts of Abruzzo before these final two days back in Rome.
We stayed at Hotel Mecenate, across from the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, for our final two days in Rome. And last night we made our way back to where we started, a short walk from Saint Peter’s Basilica, for dinner at Arlu. We ordered the rocket and pears salad with walnuts and parmigiano reggiano cheese as an appetizer and MaryKate and I each savored our entrees of sliced beef with rocket and parmesan flakes.
We were fortunate to have a fantastic view from Room 301 at the Hotel Mecenate. We had our windows open to enjoy the fresh air and sounds of Roman life, and were struck by the grandeur and solemnity of the bells of Saint Mary Major.
We spent yesterday in Pescara, an Adriatic coastal city and the largest in Abruzzo with a 120,000-person population. Our view from the Hotel Esplanade’s Room 411 offered two panoramic views of the Adriatic, from windows floor-to-ceiling windows that we opened on arrival and didn’t shut until check-out. The warm sea air wafted throughout our room, and the view and closeness gave us something like the feeling of camping on the beach.
We spent the afternoon at the public beach, washed up, had dinner nearby, and finished the night with gelato. We’re on our way by train and bus back to Rome today.
I set up my tabletop tripod for my iPhone 13 Pro on our balcony, hoping that no early morning winds would abruptly carry my phone down four stories to the ground. It took nearly three hours of filming in Timelapse mode to capture these 37 seconds of sunrise.
We caught an early morning train from Florence Santa Maria Novella to Venice Santa Lucia station. We walked the narrow streets of Venice, prayed at the tombs of Saint Mark and Saint Lucia, enjoyed a latte and gelato at Cafe Lavena, and dipped our feet into the Venetian Lagoon before catching one of the last trains back to Florence.
I arrived back in Florence mid-afternoon yesterday and met up with MaryKate. We walked home past the Piazza Ognissanti, where we stopped for a while. We’re lying down in the piazza and that’s our view in the main photo.
The Westin Excelsior Florence is (not visible) on our right and the St. Regis Florence is (not visible) on our left, with the Chiesa di San Salvatore front and center. The Church of San Salvatore was home for two centuries to a Carmelite convent until it was suppressed during French occupation. Today there is a school there. As we were sitting in the square today in the late afternoon, presumably a pilgrimage group emerged, singing. The rest of the photos are from this morning, on a walk back from the Duomo.
What beautiful moments these are. We’ve experienced a few of these over the past few weeks.
I slept most of the morning in the Frankfurt Airport waiting for my connecting flight to Florence. It struck me that this was my first time back in Germany since 1989, when my mother and I were here for her Fulbright studies.
The views from the flight were fantastic. The first aerial view was taken shortly after takeoff over Germany, the second someplace along the Alps, and the third near Florence. I took the streetcar from the Florence Airport downtown and walked for a while.
Europe has been experiencing a heatwave, so light breezes of the sort that wafted over me as I walked were especially welcome.
We’re getting acclimated to our new daily routines in our new city. MaryKate heads to Sacred Art School for studio and class each morning, where they get underway at 10am. I have the reverse of a typical schedule since I’m working remotely on Washington, DC-time—meaning I am free in the mornings and early afternoons, and that my work day starts at 3pm Florence-time which is 9am Washington time. And it means that on most days, my work day is wrapping up at 11pm, which affords just the right window to get 7 or so hours sleep.
Today was the perfect summer day—brilliant blues and morning light, dramatic twilight hues and shadows, and nighttime thunder and rain showers.
I have the day off of work thanks to Independence Day, and I took advantage of that to walk the streets of Florence for most of the day while MaryKate is spending her first day at Sacred Art School for her summer course.
Biking and walking is natural, and the scale of Florence makes the commute from our apartment to Sacred Art School simple: 30 minutes by foot or 10 minutes by bike. And the Arno’s changing colors throughout the day make each journey distinctive.
We’re enjoying our last full day in Rome for this stretch our time in Italy. We check out of the Palazzo Cardinal Cesi tomorrow. I went on a great 5 mile run along the Tiber before heading back, showering, and meeting MaryKate and heading to Saint Peter’s Basilica for Vatican City’s Scavi Tour.
Saint Peter’s Basilica is visited by thousands daily, but the Scavi Tour takes very small groups—ours was only eight, including our tour guide—through the archeologically excavated areas underneath Saint Peter’s. What you visit are not catacombs, but in fact is a necropolis—in the time of Saint Peter, the area consisted of above-ground mausoleums and burial sites along the Via Corelia, immediately adjacent to the Circus Nero upon which the Vatican was built starting around the time of Constantine the Great. We were not permitted to take photos during the tour, but the Vatican’s Scavi Tour website includes this photo:
Although this all lies underneath the Vatican today, as you’re walking along the footpath you’re walking along what was an outdoor path at the time of Saint Peter. The Roman pagans would visit these mausoleums, these homes of their dead, throughout the year as part of the Roman religious customs. The Romans would hold festivals in honor and memory of their beloved dead—if you were to enter through the portico of one of these family mausoleums, you would notice that they were built so that those living could conduct their feasts and festivities “with” the dead, as it were, with the living upstairs and the dead below. There were even holes in the ground, for the purpose of the living pouring out wine and even food according to the Roman religion’s spiritual conviction that the living owed the dead both this honor and, in some sense, the actual nourishment of these gifts.
We stopped at one point along the path at what was the site of a fresh water well, which itself went quite deep. As we progressed, the ground level changed and certain tombs were pointed out that bore the clandestine marks of early Christianity. As we approached the tomb of Saint Peter, we learned of the the signs and evidence for his tomb—which lies directly beneath the high altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
We were so blessed by this tour, by the chance to visit the tomb of Saint Peter and to pray for his intercession before his very bones and amidst excavated-tombs of Roman pagans and early Christian brothers and sisters alike.
It has been hot like this the whole week that we’ve been here, and it made the running water fountain pictured above—the one surrounded by sweet-smelling flowers—a God-sent gift at the turnaround point on my run along the Tiber earlier today.
We continue to enjoy Rome in all its summertime glory, with more photos today. We were fortunate to join a group of young French pilgrims for Mass at the Church of Saint Louis of the French, near Piazza Navona.
We ended the day with a walk along via del Corso, a visit to the Spanish Steps and Our Lady, and a late 10pm dinner.