A Pilgrimage to Rome

I recently attended a software developer’s summit in Berlin, then extended my stay in Europe for another week to visit Rome. I read somewhere that any Christian visiting Rome is a pilgrim, so I guess that made my trip a pilgrimage…

I visited some old friends in Germany first. They live in Wolfsburg. I’ll let you Google for Wolfsburg and guess which big corporation Ben works for.

Monday I took a train to Munich and enjoyed a good Bavarian dinner:

Then it was on to Rome!

I took the NightJet, which is an Austrian overnight train service. I had fond memories of taking night trains when I was traveling around Europe on a EuroRail pass in my twenties. My sleeping berth wasn’t very comfortable, and even though I had padding in my suitcase that would have made it much more bearable, I didn’t want to disturb the Italian couple I was sharing the compartment with, so I just suffered through it and didn’t get much sleep.

Tuesday morning we arrived at Rome’s Termini Station. Once of the first things I did was to buy an Italian SIM card, only to discover within sixty seconds that it didn’t work because my phone was locked to Verizon, and that the Italian mobile company wouldn’t accept a return of the SIM card, even though I hadn’t even walked away from their counter. Instead they directed me to a shop down the street. As soon as I walked in the door, I felt right at home:

They sold me a mobile hotspot that could bridge between WiFi and the Italian mobile network, but it never worked very well. I had trouble getting data service the entire time I was in Rome. At one point, I went into a cafe to buy a cappuccino and use their WiFi, and was told that all the local Internet service was down due to the rain (it was only drizzling).

The first few days I spent at a youth hostel near Sapiezna University, one of the best in Italy, and spent a fair amount of time visiting the university. I didn’t really meet anybody there or form any great connections, so I decided to move on to a religious house near the Vatican.

Thursday was the Feast of the Annunciation. I went to the Spanish Steps to see Pope Francis, but so did a lot of other people:

I finally climbed the Spanish Steps to get out of the crowd. I did manage to catch a glimpse of the pontiff:

A homeless family asked me to buy them some groceries, so we went to a supermarket and told them to get whatever they wanted. After all, it was the Feast of the Annunciation.

I hope they had a good feast!

On Saturday I walked around Rome. Saw the Trevi Fountain, built around the time of the American Revolution:

They don’t like to tear things down in Rome. They just build around them. Here’s a new Metro line going in past the Basilica of Maxentius and the Colosseum:

Also found a pokè restaurant that served salmon pokè with avocado, Philadelphia cream cheese and teriyaki sauce:

If I had snapped this picture fifteen seconds earlier, I would have caught this sports car evading the “ZTL” control (a restricted traffic zone) by zipping around the median in the wrong direction:

On Sunday I walked to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica and enjoyed some nice views:

All week in Rome I had been wearing the white monk’s robe that I’ve had for years. On Sunday morning, I took it off and haven’t put it back on since.

I decided that I wasn’t worthy of the robe. I could have given all my money away, like St. Francis, and slept on the ground with the homeless people in Termini station, but instead I made sure that I had a room in a youth hostel or a religious house every night. The couple I shared a sleeping compartment with on the train had seen my robe and asked me if I was an actor. By Sunday morning, I had decided that I was.

Perhaps because I acted like a tourist, and treated the trip as a vacation rather than as a pilgrimage?

My last sunrise in Rome, on Monday morning:

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