Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Rome - Pasta, Pizza, Pictures and People and the Temple

So we are just in the airport, ready to leave Rome, Italy.  We have been here for the past 5-6 days, including one P Day.  This blog is entirely dedicated to our experience here.  When we arrived last Friday, the first site that we saw was the very best of all, the Rome Temple, which is still under construction.

Photo taken from a shopping mall nearby.

Outside work is stopped, while upgrades are going on inside.

As we visited with members of the Church over the past several days, many talked about this temple. It will be a blessing to the members of Italy.  After viewing the temple, we spent the afternoon with Ether Simoncini, our Self-Reliance Services manager, discussing the challenges and successes in Italy.  We have been in Italy before with Ether, but we have never run out of things to talk about.  He is creative and dedicated and doing all that he can to help the Self-Reliance initiative to succeed in Italy.  That evening we attended a Starting and Growing My Business self-reliance group, that was facilitated by Ether's wife.

Starting and Growing My Business self-reliance group

The next day we went with Elder and Sister Simoncini to the Naples area of Italy to spend the next two days.  Elder and Sister Simoncini are the parents of our SRS manager and a full-time Self-Reliance missionary couple.  Elder Simoncini speaks fair English, but our communication is certainly limited with them.  However we feel their wonderful spirit for this work and are inspired by their dedication.  They were both among the early members of the Church in Italy, being baptized over 50 years ago.

On the way down we passed Mount Vesuvius, the most active volcano in Europe.  It's most famous  eruption in 79 AD totally destroyed three nearby cities, which have all since been rebuilt.  Today this is the most densely populated volcano region in the world (per Wikipedia).  Since it was raining, the following photo only shows the base of the volcano as it disappears into the clouds.

While in Naples we gave some leadership training to one of the branch presidents.  The five wards/branches in the Naples area are part of the Rome West stake, which is based more than two hours away.  This training took place upon their request.

After finishing the training we drove to a nearby town, Castellammare di Stabia, which is in a beautiful setting on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and on the side of a mountain.  We finally got our first meal since breakfast at Mamma Mias restaurant.  This photo is with Elder and Sister Simoncini at the restaurant. 

The following photo is taken across the street from the restaurant, showing the Mediteranean Sea at night.

After dinner we went to a hotel up the mountain, actually into a different city, the city of Gragnano.  This city claims to be the birthplace of Italian pasta.  In fact in the city, it was previously outlawed to have a building over 2 stories so that there would not be too many shadows which would disrupt the drying of pasta on the streets.  As we prepared for bed, we heard fireworks.  When I tried to look out the window, I found that we had a nice terrace outside of our room with an amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea and the city below.  Unfortunately, we were still experiencing cloudy and rainy conditions, but the following photos taken the net morning still show a little of the beauty.

Panoramic Photo from our terrace at the hotel, rainy morning, Mediterranean Sea in the background
With this beautiful setting, we went to our Sunday meetings in the local branch.  We had translation help from a young missionary.  I assumed that he was an American, but when I talked to him I found that he was from Northern Italy.  He spoke perfect English.  After the block meetings we had a branch lunch, which was served in Italian style, with four courses.   First the risotto, second the pasta, third the meat and finally the desert.  We were certainly well fed spiritually and temporally.

After the meeting and the meal, we proceeded to hold our My Path Devotional.  Elder and Sister Simoncini were masterful as they followed the booklet perfectly.  While one was facilitating, the other was helping the members.  It was a small group of about 12 members, but it went off very well.  At the end of the devotional, it was decided to hold one Starting and Growing My Business Group for the branch, primarily made up of the leadership of the Branch, including the branch president.

During the Devotional (Workshop)

Completing theSelf-Assessment
Forming the Group
On the two and a half hour ride back to Rome, we were able to review the successes and challenges of the weekend.  We often find that time in the car is some of the most productive time of our visits as it gives us time to talk about everything that needs discussion.

The next day we took a P Day and decided to visit the tourist sites of Rome.  Ether dropped us off at the train station, then we took a train for 40 minutes and transferred to the metro for another 15 minutes, finally arriving at the Colosseum to see this overwhelming site:

Needless to say, the Colosseum is amazing.  We spent some time in lines to buy tickets and get in, but it was worth it.  The following are just a few of the photos that we took in and around the Colosseum.

Just to prove that we were there

The sun came out all day for a day that was supposed to be rainy.  What a tender mercy!

Inside the Colosseum
The area that was under the floor of the Colosseum where the animals and prisoners were kept

Photos of the Roman Forum and other sites looking from the Colosseum:

Part of the Roman Forum from up closer

We finally left the Colosseum and got onto he Hop On Hop Off Bus and saw other sites on our way to Vatican City.

Circo Massimo
Piazza Venezia
Piazza Pia

As we got off of the bus for Vatican City, we were approached by a tour guide who invited us to join their group, which skips the lines and would get us to the Vatican Museum and the Sistene Chapel more quickly, of course for a price.  We agreed and then had to cover close to a mile at a quick pace to join the tour that was ready to go.  After wearing ourselves out, we joined the group and then were able to enter into the Museum, go through the tour and finish at the Sisten Chapel in a little over 2 hours.  There were so many people and so many things to see, there was no time or opportunity to sit and ponder, but we did see incredible art, sculptures, relics, etc.  The following are just a few of the photos that we were able to take:

Outside Door to the Vatican Museum

This ceiling painting was done by Michelangelo.  It is one dimensional but is painted to appear 3 dimensional

The ceilings in the museum were amazing and went on and on

A little more close up of this ceiling
Part of an old Greek sculpture  the Belvedere Torso, found in Rome in the 15th century, dates back to the 1st Century B.C.
One of many tapestries that were woven of the life of the Savior.  Each took 30 years to complete.  One of Sister Rueckert's favorites

Inner court of Vatican Museum
After going through the Vatican Museum, we were able to go into the Sistine Chapel.  It was amazing, but no photos were allowed.   Michelangelo painted this ceiling over a period of 5 years and other paintings in the chapel later in his life.  There is much more to the paintings in this chapel than I had ever imagined.  Here is a sample of the ceiling from the internet.

  After leaving the Sistine Chapel we were able to go through the Basilica of St. Peter and the courtyard.  This is where the Pope appears when he makes his public appearances.  A few photos of the Basilica and part of the courtyard

When we finished all of the viewing in the Vatican City, I was impressed with the relics and art, but did not feel that all that we saw was appropriate as a religious monument.  It seemed so worldly and full of grandeur, but not the simple images that I would relate to our Savior.  I return to my comments at the beginning of the blog, the most impressive thing we saw in Rome, was the temple that is under construction.  I am glad we saw the rest, but it did not bring the peace and joy that the temples of our Lord bring to me.

As we finished our day, we saw a few more sights on the way out that we wanted to share:
Orange trees in the streets of Rome

We enjoyed this street entertainment with no faces

One of many of these super small cars that we have seen all over Italy. 

That evening (Monday) we participated in a Family Home Evening with Ether and his family.   What a joy it is to see young families living the gospels and teaching their children.  The photo below shows their three year old son, Jared, conducting Family Home Evening.  It was a wonderful evening!

We finished up our visit on Tuesday, participating in a Skype self-reliance group and a visit with the new Area 70 in Italy.  This was surrounded with additional visiting and discussions with Ether.  On Wednesday we got caught up on our work in the morning and left for home.  We feel that we have had enough pasta and pizza to last for awhile and are happy to be back home.

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