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Live Blog from Italy
Nov 15 2012
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The Office of Alumni Relations is pleased to inaugurate a new travel program with an 11-day trip to Italy through November 5-15, 2012.
This is event is sponsored by Saint Francis University Office of Alumni Relations and Hosted by Fr. Gabriel Zeis, T.O.R. '75 and Anita Fusco Baumann '90
We are traveling home with our memories and new friends. We anxiously await the next trip. Arrivederci!
It was an exciting last full day in Rome! This morning we attended an audience with Pope Benedict! Travelers from all over the world, including the West Minster Abbey Choir, waited in hour long lines to fill the massive hall for the Papal Audience.
The names of the groups in attendance were called; it was thrilling to hear St. Francis University of Loretto's name announced to the global audience. We were proud and cheered as the others did when their names were mentioned.
Clapping and cheering erupted when the Pope entered the room. The Pope prayed and spoke to us in many languages. He blessed us, our religious articles, and loved ones at home. It's safe to say we were all awed to be in his presence.
Filled with excitement and the spirit of the Lord we had lunch then went on Appian Way, an important ancient Roman road. From there we toured the catacombs; early chambers used as burial places for faith-filled Christians.
From there we had a tour of ancient Rome! The Colosseum and forum were all part of the remnants we saw.
We also visited the first church we saw when we began our Rome visit and the site of mass that Sunday, St. Paul's Cathedral. We ended the afternoon with mass celebrated by Fr. Zeis at the Church of the Holy Cross.
Our last group dinner was held in the hotel this evening. We thanked our amazing guides for a job well done. Anita Baumann and Fr. Zeis were also applauded for the wonderful tour they coordinated. We laughed and reminisced about this amazing experience. Tomorrow we must sadly say goodbye our Italian tour, but our memories will last forever. Ciao!
Today we attended morning mass at St. John Lateran Church. Afterward we had the whole day to ourselves. Some took a tour to Monte Cassino, the Benedictine abbey that was the site of four battles during World War II. Others visited churches, ancient ruins, shopped, and enjoyed the city of Roma! Ciao!
We began today by driving on the Road of Reconciliation to St. Peter's. Our day was full of great fortune as we celebrated morning mass in the largest cathedral in Rome and the world, St. Peter's.
It was a great privilege to hear Fr. Zeis say mass under the altar of St. Peter's; where popes are laid to rest. The experience was humbling to be surrounded by great men of such great faith.
After mass we enjoyed more of St. Peter's. We were moved by Michelangelo's Pieta, the statue of Mary holding a lifeless Jesus after he was crucified.
From there we walked to the Vatican Museum. Statues of Michelangelo and Leonardo graced the top of the entrance. Upstairs there was a courtyard (photo).
Further inside we saw famous statues of marble, tapestries, and paintings on the ceilings and walls. We made our way to the Sistene Chapel and took in the famous Last Judgment and Creation paintings by Michelangelo. Words cannot describe the beauty and enormity of these floor to ceiling paintings.
Afterward we had a quick lunch and posed for our group photo! We took Varco Attivo Avenue, the street that connects ancient Rome to the Vatican. Old columns, brickwork, the remnants of an ancient shopping plaza, and the Forum encompassed us. We also passed St. Andrew's, the highest dome in Rome. From there we made our way to Trevi Fountain. We all took coins and threw them in the large fountain hoping to come back to Rome!
We went to the square of four fountains and then to St. Mary Maggiore. The beautiful Baroque church houses pieces of the crib of Christ. We said prayers at this amazing location.
Today we were firsthand witnesses of the old saying, "all roads lead to Rome." We said ciao to Assisi and drove through the winding countryside of Perusia and Umbria. The trees on the mountains were lush green with the beginning splashes of autumn yellow and orange.
Stone walls were the backdrop of the roads. We passed little towns with buildings brightly painted in pink, yellow, and peach.
We crossed the Tiber River that cuts through Rome and made our way to Vatican City, the heart of the Christian world, in particular the Roman Catholic Church. Enormous statues of the apostles were perched high on columns surrounding St. Peter's, the largest Church and dome in the world.
After taking in the mesmerizing site of St. Peter's, we dined in Roma cafes for lunch and bought rosaries to be blessed by the Pope later in the week.
We joined together to go to mass at St. Paul's. On the way out of Vatican City, we looked back to see a single light lit, where the Pope was having lunch.
St. Paul's was beautiful and grand, with large columns and gardens outside. The ceilings were ornate and gold trimmed. Marble covered the walls of the Church where Fr. Zeis and Fr. Morman celebrated mass.
We left mass to check-in at our hotel in Rome. On our way there, we saw many wonders, the Pyramid of Cestius, columns to the original entrance to Rome, and the Colosseum. We also saw two ancient columns recently erected near town to remember those that passed on 9-11. It was very special to see that tribute on this Veteran's Day. Until tomorrow... Ciao!
It was with heavy hearts that we left the masterpiece city of Florence today. We didn't sleep much on our bus ride to Assisi; the landscape was too breathtaking.
We drove south through the Tuscan countryside. The hills were bright green with rich soil. Rows of olive trees grew, as well as umbrella trees, and dark green, tall, slender cypress trees. We traveled through the Chianti region, known for its wine of the same name.
The mountains provided a backdrop to the countryside. Old stone farmhouses, some restored, were placed in the middle of the ripe fields. The whole landscape looked like a painting.
The sun was shining on the sparkling water of Lake Trasimene, the site of the ancient battle between the Romans and Hannibal.
Our first stop was St. Maria Church, topped with a giant golden statue of an angel. The grand church is a contrast to the small, stone Chapel it houses, where St. Francis prayed. We entered the Church and happened upon the procession of a mass to commemorate the beginning of the Italian university academic year.
We wound around the Chapel and saw the tiny, cramped stone cell where St. Francis lived. We were in awe when we saw the miracle of the thornless rose bush; St. Francis jumped into the rose bush to not be tempted and it has since grown without thorns. As if we weren't inspired enough, the tour ended with a statue of St. Francis with live doves sitting on it.
When we reached Assisi we were greeted by signs that said "Welcome to Assisi, City of Peace," reminding us of the doves we just saw and of St. Francis as a peacemaker.
We immediately had mass in the Church that houses his remains. It was touching to have Fr. Morman and Fr. Zeis say mass in the town where St. Francis lived. The paintings inside the Church reminded us of St. Francis' humility and the wonder and care he had for all of God's creation. The tomb that houses his relics and remains are in the Church, and we offered intentions to St. Francis there.
A walking tour of the town of Assisi was next on our agenda. The buildings have a pink hue, as they were built with the local stone. We walked up the hills of the stone streets, passed cafes and small shops, streets of stone stairs, and religious icons. We made it to the Church of St. Clair, and went inside to tour the Church, her tomb, and relics.
We had some free time to visit the other cathedral and castle in the town, shop, and relax with friends. Many of us just sat at the top of the mountain to enjoy the beauty of Assisi and the bird's eye view of the countryside below.
Tomorrow we will make our way to Rome! Ciao!
Buongiorno from Florence! Today was an amazing day filled with history, art, churches, and shopping. We began the day by dining on a delicious breakfast of meats, cheeses, croissants, and eggs. It was an important start to a morning that was filled with a walking tour of the lively streets of Florence.
Our energetic and intelligent guide explained in great detail the history and significance of art and the Renaissance to Florence. We had the great fortune to visit the museum that houses the original David statue by Michelangelo. We were in awe of David and learned about his symbolic role in Florence.
We continued our walking tour through the stone streets and enjoyed the up close view of the Cathedral of St. Maria, once the largest church in the world and now the fourth largest.
The Church's marble exterior, dome roof, ornate statues and columns epitomize the beauty and wonder of Florence. Fr. Zeis said mass there later in the day, giving us the chance to see the painted ceilings and mosaics inside the Church.
We walked to the octagon shaped Baptistery across the street, with gold paneled doors sculpted with various biblical scenes. We continued on to the Piazza della Republica, the political center for the Medici family. We learned about their importance in making Florence the wonderous place that it is. Beauty also abounded there, as we were surrounded by fountains and ancient statues.
Our tour ended at the Piazza Di St. Croce, the site of a Church with beautiful stained glass windows. It is also the burial place of Michelangelo.
The early afternoon and evening were spent on our own, visiting outdoor markets that showcased leather goods, scarves, meats, and cheeses. Some of us visited Ponte Vecchilo, one of Italy's most famous bridges, now lined with jewelry shops. Others visited leather factories and took time to have a gelato.
We met again for dinner and drove a short distance to a hilltop restaurant across the road from an old, stone monastery. Good conversation, company, and food was the perfetto (perfect) end to our evening. Until tomorrow... Ciao!
Buongiorno!! Today we packed our bags and bid farewell to the waterways and streets of Venice. Traveling by bus we rode a short distance to Padua (Padova), the backdrop of many Shakespearean plays and also the resting place of St. Anthony, the patron of lost causes.
In Padua the first site we came upon was a bridge surrounded by larger than life ancient statues. We walked by a large fruit and vegetable market to the Chapter House of St. Anthony's Basillica, where Fr. Zeis celebrated mass.
We then had time to tour the Basillica. It was enveloped in marble, arches, sculptures, painted ceilings and mosaic tiles. The beauty of the Church rivaled the ornate buildings we toured in Venice. While inside we had the opportunity to view St. Anthony's relics and offer our own special intentions to him.
Afterward, many of us sat in St. Anthony's Square and enjoyed the views of colorful buildings, their archways and flowering windowboxes. Others strolled through town and purchased fruit and vegetables at the outdoor market.
We left Padua and stopped for a quick lunch in Bologna. Afterward, our bus ride took us through the picturesque Tuscan countryside. Umbrella pine and cypress trees dotted the lush green landscape. Italians were master engineers and we witnessed firsthand their marvels. Our bus traveled over bridges set high above large bodies of water and through tunnels that broke up the mountains.
Our first stop upon arriving in Florence was viewpoint, a vantage site that gave us a breathtaking view of the ancient city and it's many churches. Mountains provided a panoramic backdrop to the town. We then made it to our hotel, centered in the heart of city.
Many of us congregated to the hotel bar to chat with friends prior to dinner. We dined on a mouthwatering pasta and beef meal and satisfied our sweet tooth with a homemade cream dessert.
The city of Florence awaits us tomorrow. Until then, arrivederci!
Hello from Italy! Today was full of adventure as our group spent the day touring and exploring Venice. We traveled by boat to Venice's picturesque islands. Grand architecture of arches, columns, and sculptures covered almost every building.
We started the day touring a palace and adjoining ancient prison. We marveled at the contrast of oppulent wealth in the palace's private quarters to cells made of stone walls and floors, hidden from sunlight in the jail.
St. Mark the Evangelist's Basillica was our next stop. The Church was breathtaking with mosaic tiled walls and floors and marble carved disciples surrounding the altar.
A short walk later, we toured a glass factory to watch firsthand Venice's famous ancient art. A master glassblower demonstrated his technique and we learned the intricacies of Venetian glass. Many of us had a difficult time choosing which authentic glass souvenirs to take home to our loved ones!
Our group had ample free time with our only transportation consisting of gondolas and our feet! Most of us chose to ride by gondola through the winding canals of Venice and toasted with champagne to our Italian adventure!
In the late afternoon we met again as a group to hear Fr. Zeis and Fr. Morman say a mass in the catacombs of St. Mark's Basillica. They celebrated a beautiful liturgy, with us taking time to remember and pray for our loved ones at home.
We spent the rest of the day and evening losing ourselves in the narrow stone walkways and bridges of Venice. We stopped every now and again to windowshop and admire the Catholic artifacts that abounded through the city.
We met as a group for a late dinner at a local restaurant and reminisced about our island adventure. We are excited as our journey tomorrow will take us to Padua and Florence! Ciao!
Buonasera! The second day of our Italian adventure began as our international flight landed in Italy after a short stop in Switzerland. The day was easy for us weary travelers, as every leg of the journey was perfectly prepared for our arrival.
Anita Baumann, alumni director, escorted our group to the outside of the Venice airport where we were graciously greeted by our NAWAS tour guide. We boarded the bus for the hotel and our eyes were glued to the windows as we took in the colorful Italian buildings.
Our president, Fr. Garbriel Zeis, was waiting outside with a warm welcome for our group as we pulled up to our Venice hotel. The hotel had our rooms ready, and our whole group quickly checked in. While we were tired from our journey, the excitement of arriving in Italy overtook us. We decided not to nap, but instead get refreshed and take advantage of our first hours in Italy.
The afternoon and early evening were spent exploring. Some walked the streets of Venice. Others took advantage of the cafe/ wine bar in the hotel and unwound with authentic cappuccino and Italian wine.
Laughs with friends old and new continued into the evening as we gathered for dinner as a group in the hotel restaurant, where the tables were elegantly set for us. Fr. Gabriel and Anita expressed their enthusiasm for the wonderful response from the trip participants.
A beautiful pre-dinner prayer led by Fr. Gabriel officially kicked off our tour and set the mood for a lighthearted dinner. We dined on a delicious three course meal, capped off with a chocolate and vanilla gellato dessert.
Many groups stayed after dinner to finish wine and enjoy conversation. Others decided to call it a night in anticipation of tomorrow's exciting day. Until then... arrivederci!
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