The bags were packed, the tickets were printed, the cameras were charged. Our family of five was about to embark on an adventure that none of us had ever experienced before: Rome, Italy. After our red-eye flight, my mom, dad, and two brothers, Derek and Jonathan, emerged from the plane feeling tired, but excited. After some stereotypical, wild Italian driving, we arrived at the Central Park Marriott Hotel. When we looked out our hotel rooms’ windows, we had the perfect panoramic view of rolling Italian hills and suburbs, along with the beautiful dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. After a short nap, we took the train to Vatican City to go on the Necropolis Tour. We entered St. Peter’s Basilica and went to the first floor, which was completely underground. We saw ancient rooms and artifacts from the time of the apostles and learned a lot about biblical history. The most memorable thing we saw was a small hole in a wall that contained a box. This box held the bones of St. Peter, the first Roman Catholic Pope. My devoted Catholic family and I were so moved by this amazing sight.
Dinner that night consisted of a true Italian meal at a lovely restaurant in the Square. We munched on bread and oil, pizza, ravioli, and they even poured me a glass of wine (that I passed on to my mom)! The next day was New Years Eve. Every December 31st, the Pope does a mass for the people in St. Peter’s Basilica. Tickets were hard to come by, but my mom pulled through and scored five. We waited in a line that circled Vatican Square twice and even with our heavy coats, scarves, and hats, we shivered. Night was falling and we still had to pass through security. Once we got inside, we could only look up in awe at the beautiful church. The sculptures, murals, and tombs of former popes were breath-taking. We took our seats, along with hundreds of others, and waited. The brass trio and organist began to play, and in walked the head of our Catholic faith, Pope Benedict XVI. Although he was 84 years old, he spoke loudly and clearly, with a voice full of wisdom. The whole mass was in Latin and Italian, and my family enjoyed reading the song books and trying to pronounce all the words. When the service ended, everyone moved outside to Vatican Square. The Pope appeared, riding in his famous “Pope-mobile” and waving to the crowd. People gushed over him like he was the newest Hollywood movie star. It was so refreshing to see people laughing, crying, and chasing this wonderful man, instead of celebrities that are not the best of influences. After the Pope went back into the church and the commotion died down, my family went to the Spanish Steps to celebrate the New Year.
The steps were filled with Italians and tourists alike, ready to welcome 2011! We watched beautiful fireworks bursting in the Roman sky, heard the screeches of noisemakers, and counted down until the clock struck 12:00. It was the perfect ending to an amazing night. I learned so much about my Catholic faith and how important it was to the Italians. I was able to see cardinals and nuns, and realized that my religion was so much bigger than I could have imagined. I was able to take back so much from this once in a lifetime trip: a new appreciation of my faith, amazing pictures, and memories with my family that will last a lifetime.
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