Last September 1-15, 2011 my wife (Angela) and I joined with a group of 46 other tourists from all over the world in what is known as the “Splendors of Italy Tour.” It brought us to over a dozen renowned cities and fantastic places in grand Italia. It is amazing that the country, being so rich in culture, history and significance continue to inspire pilgrims who visit it. Trafalgar Tour offered us a variety of optional tours, most of which we took.
Angela has lots of wonderful photos in her Face book (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I am preparing some reflections on my blog site, www.travelinasian.blogspot.com. While I have been to many places in Europe and Asia, I find
to be most fascinating and awe-inspiring. Italy
Our first stop was
Rome, the “eternal city,” with its famous St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the and some museums. Even roaming around Rome itself, if you can feel the Spirit, and, if you can see past the pickpockets, the anxious fellow tourists getting lost in the sea of humanity and the constant roaring of the scooters in narrow streets of cobbled stones, you can see God. Of course, for a pilgrim, not a tourist, God is written even in the graffiti of tenement walls. The frescos of Michelangelo was certainly beyond compare. Vatican
Rome, we ogled the frescos (from ‘fresh’ paint), walked along the gardens of . The day was hot but when evening came, after a rowdy dinner, just before I dropped three coins in the fountain and made my wished, it rained---and the $3 Euro umbrella suddenly jumped at $5 Euros. The rest of the days were a staccato of fantastic places: Tivoli Bay of Naples, Castellamare, , Positano. In the cruise along Lake Como, we were told to watch out for George Clooney and I swore it was my childhood crush, Sophia Loren (she must be a century old by now), whom I saw tending to her lakeside gardens. Of course, no one, including my wife would believe my imagination. Bay of Capri
A visit to
Assisi, where my favorite St. Francis and St. Claire, come from was a dream come true. I have always admired “brother Sun and sister Moon” but we did not have much time to explore where they played among the birds and the bees. Of course you know that the twin-patron saints of Umbria Italy were St. Francis of Assisi and Catherine of ; I reckoned Claire would be content being the saint of the poor and Francis the saint of the animals, including myself. Siena
The ruins of
Touring by bus can be ennui unless you learn to travel as a family. Our Tour Director, Dominic Harris, was a funny guy. His background as son of an Anglican vicar (he also married the daughter of a
Verona was my idyllic place because it is the scene of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the mother of all romantic tragedies. I can still hear
We made an incursion into Lugano, border of
The supreme highlight of the trip for me, was, ironically, the descent to the Roman catacombs. I will have a separate reflection about it but suffice it to say that the catacombs were an important signpost to Christian martyrdom (Latin martyrium for “witness”) and the power of God to convert the hearts. Ireneus and Achilleus, two praetorian guards in-charge of cutting off the heads of Christians, became converted and had their own heads cut off as well. An underground basilica was commissioned by Pope Gregory in honor of their martyrdom in the site where those they executed were buried. Talk about poetic justice.