|Me and Riley at St. Peter's Square|
It’s a long way from Lovell, Maine to Rome, Italy. After traveling for thirty hours, we arrived exhausted at our rented condominium outside the Eternal City Saturday afternoon about 3:00 pm local time. We dropped our fifteen-year-old grandson, Riley, for nap, while my wife and I shopped for groceries. We cooked, ate, and all went to bed early. Sunday morning, we took the Metro (subway) into the city and learned how to get the Colisseum and the Vatican. I didn’t expect to run into anyone I knew, but I recognized a guy just outside the colonnade around St. Peter’s Square and called to him.
|That's Michael Voris in the middle|
His name is Michael Voris, but he didn’t know me. I knew him because does an online show called “The Vortex” out of Detroit on Church Militant TV, a web-based subscription video service for conservative Catholics and I’d seen several episodes sent to me by a fan of my column. He is a hard-hitting, Emmy Award winning journalist who ruffles feathers in the American Catholic Church and he’s in Rome covering the Synod on the Family. He told me he would be posting his first report Monday and he did, calling it the “Sodomy Synod.” He believes there is a cabal within the Catholic Church that wants to bring it around to approving homosexuality and is using the synod as its vehicle to accomplish that. It’s going to be an interesting month watching his coverage and comparing it with what is shown in American Mainstream Media.
I had a telephone interview with Carly Fiorina scheduled for Friday morning, just before we left on the first leg of the trip. My plan was to transcribe it on the red eye flight but the recording equipment I brought to our South Portland, Maine house failed and I had to postpone until after I return to Lovell. I’m glad to see my fellow Americans are responding positively to Fiorina’s campaign and she’s moved up to second in the polls. Italy is nice, but the longer I’m here, the more American I feel, and I still keep an eye on what’s happening back home.
|Inside St. Peter's Basilica|
Sunday’s commute in and out of Rome was easy, but Monday’s wasn’t. Rush hour here is worse than Boston, but we arrived in time for our pre-paid tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. All were impressive, especially St. Peter’s. We had to be silent in the Sistine Chapel and couldn’t take pictures, but prior to going in our guide told us much about Botticelli, Michelangelo, and others hired by various popes to decorate. Although I paid for a small-group, skip-the-line tour, we all felt like cattle being moved along through narrow passageways competing for space and oxygen with other groups speaking different languages. It was noisy, and we were given receivers with ear plugs ostensibly to overcome ambient noise and hear our English-speaking guide, but they didn’t work well for me. I could understand only 5-10% of what she said because of her Italian accent and the static. It didn’t help that I had to take the hearing aid out of my left ear to insert her earpiece. I felt claustrophobic and oxygen-deprived throughout - even in the huge St. Peter’s Basilica.
Still, I’m very glad we went. It was the best I could afford, and now we’ve seen it. I came away with many impressions, not the least of which was that it’s all way too ostentatious and decadent. I admire Pope Francis for rejecting the palatial quarters traditional for popes and taking a simple room elsewhere. I admire him for using a small Fiat during his recent American visit. I don’t admire his comments about capitalism, climate change, air conditioning, and other things but I like that he is toning down the opulence. It’s way over the top and has been for centuries.
Taking the Metro home on a business day was more than a trip. After being moved through the Vatican like sheep, we experienced the anarchy of the Roman subway system. Many of the cars arrived covered in graffiti inside and out. Getting on and off required some muscle to hold our own against those who would elbow us aside trying to squeeze into a car before the doors closed and I had to make sure all three of us were inside. Then we rode like sardines holding on to the supports as the cars accelerated and slowed down between stops.
|Next to me in Metro subway car|
It all reminded me why I don’t like big cities, but we’ll do it all again tomorrow for the Colisseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill Tour. More about that next week.