Tuesday, September 22, 2015

La vita è bella

About three months ago, I packed my bags and returned to the United States. My studies were completed (I now have an STB - Baccalaurete of Sacred Theology - you have to be careful how you say that one) and it was time to return home and get to work. In case you are wondering, I'm now living in St. Louis, but more about that later.

It was a bittersweet departure since I looked forward to the luxuries I was used to (one-stop shopping at Target and good hamburgers) and looking forward to leaving the things that drove me crazy (hot buses with leaky roofs, almost weekly transportation strikes, okay, public transportation in general). But I also knew that there were many things I had come to enjoy and appreciate from Bella Roma. So as I reflect back on my three year soggiorno in Rome, here is my Top Ten List of things I miss from Rome. After all, some one has to keep up now that David Letterman is retired.

(In no particular order...except for number 1)

The top ten things I miss about Rome

10) Lasagna and gelato, okay real Italian food

I don't know what they did different, but the lasagna at our house was the best. Also, you would be hard pressed to find better gelato than at Willy's which happened to be two blocks from our house. And the owner knew me. After my first year I was sick of pasta, but now I kind of miss my primo piatto. And tiramisu - there's nothing like the original (except strawberry tiramisu.)
Marina's lasagna is the best!
Emanuela wins for tiramisu!

Giolitti's wasn't bad, either (that's "the one by the Pantheon")

9) Walking to school

For three years, almost every day, I walked to school with Bro. Dan. Every day we passed the Colosseum and it never got old (pun intended). But what I miss is the quiet side of Rome (before the tourists arrived) and my conversations with Dan - we shared stories, we complained, we argued, we discussed theology, we were sometimes soaking wet...but we laughed a lot!
Our last day going to school.

8) Sitting in a piazza people watching

Rome js known for its piazze - plazas. There's not much better than sitting in one while an accordion plays in the background and playing the game "american or not" - yeah we tend to stick out.
Where I would study sometimes.

Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere - always something going on here.

7) Surprising people by responding in Italian

So like I said in #8 it was obvious that I am an American. My tennis shoes and baseball cap usually gave it away. But every now and then I got quite surprised looks when I broke into Italian. I was often asked, but aren't you American? We don't have a very good reputation when it comes to languages other than 'merican. It once helped me get through a police blockade, trying to get out of  the way of a "manifestazione" - a political rally.

6) Papa Francesco

Pope Francis.  Need I say more?  I was there the night he was elected. And sometimes I would wander down to St. Peter Square on Sundays for his noon Angelus talk just because I could. I can't even guess how many pictures that I took of him. He just captivated me.  And he's my kind of Pope, even if I never got to meet him personally.
My picture from the night he was elected.
The best parts of his talks is when he put the prepared speech down and just started talking off the cuff.

The closest I ever got to him...about three feet away.

5) Laughing at Italy

Parking. Bureaucracy. Traffic. The escalator in Barberini station that was broken for over a year. I shook my head a lot. But they did add a level of amusement to my life.
Park wherever you can find a spot.
The day we received our immigration documents.  Never again!

4) Random events, things, etc.

Praying with the Orthodox Patriarch of Armenia.  Running into (literally) a heard of sheep.  Seeing all types of relics of saints.  Watching Benedict's helicopter fly away on the night of his resignation.  These things just don't happen in Fort Wayne!
That was Pope Benedict leaving the Vatican as he resigned.

St. Clare of Assisi's ball of yarn.  (You can't make these things up, folks.)
My usual jogging companions in the park near our house....and we lived in the city.

3) History

To walk in Rome is to walk through history. Ancient, medieval, baroque. Rome has it all, and it is everywhere. The park in which I would often run had aqueduct ruins and there were pagan tombs on our property. And after three years, there are churches I never saw. Most things in Rome are older than the USA itself.

There's just too many pictures to post here!

 2) A good Italian family meal

This is connected to #10 but at a whole different level. This was typical: wine, prosciutto and bread, wine, lasagna, wine, another pasta, wine, two types of meat, two vegetables, wine, salad (which no one ever ate) and cheese, wine, 2 desserts, champagne, limoncello, sleep. Dinner was an event that included enjoying each others' company like I never experienced. Why the double of some things? Usually the cook couldn't decide what to make or what the guests would like, so you might as well make it all. Olive Garden might say "here you're family" but they just don't understand what it really means!
That's what I'm talking about.

I'm drooling right now.

Jenny and Sean learned how to be Italian when they visited.

And finally, the number 1 thing I miss about Rome....

1) The People

Of all things I miss, it is the people. Friends that have changed my life. Friends that taught me many things. Friends that put up with my poor Italian.  Friends that taught me how to give a proper Italian greeting (it's not a handshake and involves kissing.)  Friends that loved me and welcomed me as family and guarantee that I always have a home in Italy. And then there are the friends that came and visited me and shared in this experience.  All I can say to all of you is Grazie!

I culled through all my photos, and put together a snapshot of my last three years in Rome, as told by the scores of people who came into my life there.  You can view it here.



  1. Thank you Bob for your blog. I have really enjoyed seeing Rome through eyes and all of your wonderful adventures. It was especially great having you there during Francis election, I felt like I had a front row seat to history and a much better commentary than the nightly news. Having spent time this summer with Daniela nd Joseph I can only imagine the mischief and fun you three had together. Most of all your blog gave me another window into this thing we call the Marianist Family. Blessings as you begin the next step in your journey

    1. Thanks JMC! Now that I'm back in the States, we'll see what other adventures I have. (It was very touching for me that, as I witnessed the historical election of Francis, I could share it with all of you as well. There is something about this communion of saints to which we belong!)