Cait comes to visit…and brings snow
The week after our Switzerland trip marked the last full week before our competition project for studio was due. The project consists of revitalizing the waterfront on the Tiber River, which runs through Rome, in order to increase the urban density in the historical center of the city. The international competition is based in France, and reception of any acknowledgement of achievement warrants an invitation to the awards ceremony in France, held in May.
Most of my time during the week was spent working on the project, but on Thursday I found the time to play at an open mic at an Irish pub called Abbey Theatre. The bar was comprised of a number of small rooms, and the room I played in certainly wasn’t a “theatre”, but it was definitely a fun experience. Below is a clip of one of the songs I played there.
On Friday morning, my girlfriend, Cait, arrived. And she brought the snow with her. We had a unique weekend in Rome, exploring the city as it was covered in a blanket of white. While we didn’t get more than an inch or two, it was entertaining to watch the Romans react to this “catastrophe”. Other than getting wet feet, we survived the snow and the weather had cleared up by Monday.
We spent the week wandering around the city, making our way from monument to church to piazza, with stops for panini, coffee, and pizza in between. I surprised myself with the amount I had learned about the city in this short month as I pointed things out to her on our walks. I hope she didn’t get bored with my tour guide antics.
Two highlights of the week were both centered at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. On Monday, we climbed the cupola, or the dome, of St. Peter’s Basilica. This was something I had wanted to do since I got here but hadn’t gotten around to it. After waiting in line to enter the basilica, we walked around the outside to the side where the entrance to the cupola stairs was located. We had the option of either taking the elevator 3/4 of the way, or taking the stairs the entire way. After seeing the huge crowd waiting to cram into the tiny elevator, we elected to take the stairs.
The stairs to the base of the cupola spiraled around the elevator shaft, and we actually beat the lazy elevator riders by a few minutes. After walking around the inside of the base of the cupola, looking down into St. Peter’s, we ascended the narrow winding staircases that led to the top of the dome. To say that the stairs were “tight” would be an understatement. Indescribable in words, and even unjustified by photos, the only thing I will point out is that the staircase winds up the dome between the out and inner walls. That means that, yes, the staircase walls curve with the curvature of the dome.
After a few unparalleled moments of claustrophobia, we made our way onto the terrace at the top of the dome. The fresh air, sunlight, and open space, coupled with the incredible panoramic view of Rome made it an unforgettable experience.
On Wednesday, we had the once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of the Papal Audience, held by Pope Benedict XVI. The event began at 10:30, but we were advised to arrive by 8:00. We got to St. Peter’s around 7:40 and we were only about 20 people back in line. After being ushered through security around 8:30, we made our way into the audience hall. Unfortunately, a large tour group had made its way in front of us, but we still managed to secure center seats in about the 6th row.
After a long wait until 10:30, the Pope made his way onto the “stage” to roars of applause. The nun who we picked the tickets up from advised us that the event was more of a “pep rally” for the Pope than anything else. Other than a short scripture reading, homily, and reading of the “Our Father”, there were few somber moments during the 1 1/12 hour event. Each language spoken by groups in attendance was represented by a bishop who read of the names of the visiting groups. When their name was called, some simply cheered, while others had choreographed songs or chants for His Holiness. The event was definitely one that I will never forget.