Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Florence, Rome, and an Unforgettable Easter

Joyful Easter wishes and a belated Happy Passover to the ones I love across an ocean!
It was a very memorable Easter for Amy and I - as we spent the morning in Rome and caught our flight back to Paris in time to spend a few hours at the Louvre and attend evening Mass at Notre Dame - an Easter itinerary we never thought we'd see in our lives.

Florence was lovely - we only had one day there so we just did the highlights - the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore

and the Medici Baptistry of San Giovanni, lingering on the Ponte Vecchio at sunset,

and going for a hike in the sprawling Boboli Gardens overlooking Florence in all its Renaissance majesty.

Next stop: Rome - a fascinating cocktail of ancient civilization and gritty modern urban sprawl. As a result of time constraints and Easter holiday revised hours, we didn't get to visit the Vatican. We only had time explore the Forum and ancient ruins and see the major sites and churches in the city, but we had a very full Roman experience.

This was my third time in Rome and as usual I tried to hunt down as many Caravaggio paintings in obscure churches as I could. This time I got to see one of my favorites that I hadn't yet encountered in person - the "Madonna di Loreto" or "Madonna of the Pilgrims". I love the earthy, un-stylized look of the kneeling peasants with their dirty feet and this humble Madonna.

Very powerful to be in Rome on Good Friday - as this was the site of the persecution, torment, and death of so many early Christian martyrs who shared in Christ's suffering in an excruciatingly real and literal way.

As a result of a horrendous travel mix-up that I won't go into here, we missed our scheduled Saturday - which we thought left at 6:45 PM but in fact left at 6:45 AM that morning. Without us. You all know that sinking feeling. We had to scramble to rebook our flight for Easter morning and to book a last-minute hotel room in Rome Saturday night. (a very costly mistake). All of Europe is traveling at Easter time - so it was nearly impossible to find a train, a plane, or a bus to get out of Rome. With the help of a new God-sent friend in Paris who helped us over the phone to find and book a flight, we were on our way home to Paris on Easter morning. When we arrived at the apartment, we changed into our Easter dresses - the ones we would have worn to church and Easter dinner with our families back home - and squeezed in a couple hours at the Louvre before trudging in heels over a mile of cobblestone streets to Notre Dame, where we packed in like sardines with a multitude of the faithful. It was awesome. A children's choir chanted psalms in Latin and we strained to understand as much as we could of the priest's French sermon; a message about the meaning of the Resurrection and the new possibilities it opens for humanity - for glorious life beyond life, and the particular desperation for this regenerative power in the often dark and uncertain crossroads of human history in which we live.

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