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Report 881: A Slow Trip to Italy for a Mother and Daughter

By stella from Brooklyn, New York, Fall 2005

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Page 14 of 16: Mom Throws Some Elbow at St. Peter's

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St. Peter's Basilica

This was a day that Mom had waited for a long, long time; her trip to St. Peterís Basilica. I went to the Campo super-early and got a few things for her dinner, visited the butcher as well, and picked up some cheese and coppa for later. Then we made our way from the apartment to a taxi for the ride over the Tiber and to the Vatican. It was another sunny day, with a few patches of cloudiness, a little nippy, but still shirt-sleeve weather in the sun. Mom was very excited as we entered Piazza San Pietro, the grandest public space ever created. The line to enter the Basilica was daunting; it wound entirely around one side of the circular Piazza. Thankfully, it moved quickly. We passed through and airport-like security check and then made our way into the massive and spectacular church.

Goodness, it was full. It was in no way as near to this busy on my last two visits. Once again, I met with a Japanese tour group Ė they tour in huge, huge packs. They are swarmed around the Pieta, but Mom was un-phased and pushed her way right through. I was amazed to see them push back, at a 78-year old, tiny grandmother! Score one for Mom, she still knows how to throw an elbow. Nothing was going to separate her from the Pieta. At the front of the panel of bullet-proof glass, she paused to pray and I took some pictures. Sometimes you have to remind yourself to stop and actually look at the work and admire it, reflect upon it. I told Mom to stay there as long as she wanted to, and we did just that. The Pieta wrenches your heart; marble that expresses raw, human emotion.

We moved through the light-drenched Basilica towards Berniniís massive Baldacchino, directly under the massive Cuppola, and over the spot where St. Peter is buried, (perhaps). The Baldacchino is made of bronze, taken from the Pantheon. If you look closely, you see the bees that are flying around the vines wrapped around the columns; bees are the symbols of the Barberini family; it was a Barberini pope who commissioned the piece.

Off to the side, at the Capella di Colonna, Mom noticed that the daily 11:00 am Mass was about to be said. The thought of this thrilled her, and I could not say no, so I left her to participate in the short Mass while I continued to explore the Basilica. I was not able to spend as much time there on previous trips; trying to ignore the crowds as much as possible, I wandered about. If you can find a quiet corner and a place to rest, it is wonderful to simply stare up into the dome and watch the light stream in through the windows. Michelangelo designed the dome to be filled with windows, which would always drench the Basilica in sunlight. As a result, the church of St. Peter is never dark and foreboding.

The mass finished and we slowly made our way out with the flow of humanity that constantly streams in either direction. Mom was so happy to be able to say she heard Mass in St. Peterís. Even though it was in a small chapel, it was still the Basilicaís daily Mass, and she will be able to tell all of her friends back at her local parish in New York. We headed back to the apartment quickly. My mama always needs to pee or eat, or both, every two hours. The trip took the wind out of her, so after I made her lunch, she went to take a nap (continuing our trip theme of churches and naps).

I went out and decided to wander about the Campo a bit. There are no truly great gelato places around the Campo, but I did find a gelateria artigianale on Corso Vittorio Emmanuel II. I could tell they made it themselves from the interesting flavors, and the fact that there was no neon sign, and the pistachio gelato was not bright green. I selected a small cup of a flavor simply named "biscotto", with little bits of crispy biscotti folded in, along some of that nice pistachio. They were both quite good. I donít know if I will make it all the way to Giolotti or San Crispino this time around, but I am happy to have found some nice gelato nearby the apartment.

Feeling a bit tired myself, I headed back home after my gelato break. We were to have visitors that night! Massimo and Biancamaria were bringing their daughter Delfina by to meet us in the late afternoon, and around dinner time, my ex-roommate's sister, Emily, would also pop in. One of the best things about renting an apartment is that you feel more like a true resident, and you can entertain guests!

Both visits were fun; Delfina was simply darling. I brought a magnetic version of Chutes and Ladders from a store in the West Village for her, and she seemed to enjoy learning how to play it with her father. We were then joined by Emily, who has lived in Rome for eight years. She found us easily and was very impressed with the apartment; we nibbled on cheese and warm Pizza Bianca from Roscioli and their wonderful coppa and bresaola, along with a bottle of Morellino di Scansano.

I cannot quite believe it would soon be our last day in beautiful Roma. I felt a pang of sadness as I fell asleep, after one last glance out the window at the moolight, shining down upon the cobblestones on Via dei Chiavari.

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