Last time I wrote about Rome, I mentioned that a lot of my favorite places seemed to be closed for good, including a little Adoration chapel in the middle of the city. I found out about a week ago that the chapel is not closed, and one of my Nashville Dominican friends not only reported the happy news, she prayed for me there! So that was happy news all around.
Back to Rome, to Monday post-riposo. It was unusual afternoon in Rome for tourists- it was a pretty typical afternoon for a native.
We went grocery shopping.
Both Megan and I had some souvenirs to purchase — not your normal ones, like miniature Colosseums or Italian soccer jerseys– but groceries, like Nutella and candy and gum. I was looking for some lotion that was only sold in Europe, and we both had lists from friends and family of things that were best purchased with the locals.
So we asked Massimo at the front desk where the nearest supermercato was, and he told us there was no supermercato nearby. (Of course– we were in the city, silly, and there aren’t supermarkets on every street corner.) There was, however, a market. We decided that would probably work, and he told us it was something like a hundred meters down the street. I don’t remember the number he told us now, but it was something like that. (I don’t think in meters, or even yards, for that matter. I think in minutes. Just one more difference between living in Trastevere and living in suburbia.)
Massimo’s name was not Massimo, of course. I never asked the hotel clerks their names, which was silly of me. I named Massimo Massimo because he sort of reminded me of the guy in The Wedding Planner, although he wasn’t so dashingly ridiculous, nor was he in love with me. But he was a young swarthy Italian. (In fact, I wrote in my journal, “He reminds me of the guy from The Wedding Planner. Although I’m not sure why, because he’s not that charming. Not like our other desk guy that has a funny accent like he learned English from some Canadian.” We never quite placed his accent, actually, but I wish I would have secretly recorded him, because he was awesome.)
Anyway, Massimo pointed us in the right direction (we thought) and we set off. But before we went in search of the grocery, we headed over to the church of St. Cecilia, which was a stone’s throw away from where we had been staying and we hadn’t been there yet.
I’m not sure why we didn’t go every day. And we found out they had a daily Mass at 7:30 am! While I’m glad I went to the Vatican every day for Mass, it would have been awfully convenient to just go down the street. Oh well. Next time!
We take a break from this post to tell you the story of St. Cecilia in under a minute…
St. Cecilia was a beautiful Roman noblewoman who was betrothed to young Valerian. Cecilia was a Christian and had made a vow of virginity. On their wedding night, she told Valerian about the angel who watched over her and would kill anyone who touched her. When Valerian wanted to see the angel, Cecilia asked him to be baptized. He was baptized by Pope Urban, as was his brother Tibertius soon afterward. The brothers risked their lives to bury the Christian dead, and when their work was discovered, they were martyred.
Cecilia had converted hundreds by her preaching, so she too was discovered and sentenced to death. They first tried to kill her by suffocating her in her own household baths. When this didn’t kill her, the emperor sent in the executioner. But the executioner struck her three times, unable to kill her. She eventually bled to death, but not before extending her fingers — three and one — to profess her faith in the Trinity to the end.
Her body was buried in the catacombs, but was later transferred to the church which was built over her house. In 1559, the body was still incorrupt, and she was as beautiful as the day she died. Before sealing her tomb, Pope Clement VIII commissioned Stefano Maderno to sculpt her as she lay.
You can pay a few euro to go down to the crypt under the church, where they have excavated Cecilia’s house, including the her baths and a Roman road. At the very end of the crypt, immediately under the high altar, there is a gorgeous chapel covered entirely in mosaic. Through the grill over the little altar, you can see the tomb that holds Cecilia, Valerian, Tibertius, and Cecilia’s executioner.
For some odd reason, they lock this chapel and don’t let you inside. The sister that holds the keys has even been known to turn away a group of 20+ Nashville Dominicans … you know, the Dominicans of St.Cecilia? Yeah, she’s tough.
I actually got locked in the chapel once, but that’s another story.
When Megan and I were there, an Italian priest somehow got the keys from the sister and took a friend in there. Megan and I peered through the bars on the door, trying to look pathetic and pious at the same time. When he and his friend were finished looking around, he mumbled something to us in Italian and let us in briefly! Score!
After St. Cecilia’s, we headed down the street to find the market… and never found it. We second-guessed the distance Massimo had told us, but when we got to Viale Trastevere, the main street that runs south straight through Trastevere, we figured we had missed it. So we decided to keep exploring Trastevere. We stopped into San Crisogono, a church that holds the incorrupt body of Bl. Anna Maria Taigi, then went to the beautiful church of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
We hadn’t given up our search for a market, so we wandered down Via San Francesco a Ripa, back to Viale Trastevere, and headed deeper into the residential recesses of the neighborhood of Trastevere. We bopped into Oviesse, an Italian department store where I think I bought a third of my wardrobe in 2008 (that’s what happens when you take one suitcase for 4 months and a season change).
We found a little market, so we went in to see what we could mark off our list. I bought some licorice mint gum for my friend Liza, not realizing that I was buying black licorice, not licorice-mint gum. I ended up buying one package of the correct gum and five or six packages of just licorice. Whoops. I still feel bad about it… you can get black licorice anywhere! Looks like I need to go back to Rome to get the right stuff.
Megan was convinced we would find a store if we continued down Viale Trastevere. I was familiar with the area because it had been on my bus route when I lived south of the city in 2008. Soon we were walking in a very residential area and knew there were no tourists within several blocks. It was strangely comforting. I knew if we got all the way to the train station, there was an awesome hole-in-the-wall piazza place where we could get a snack. But just before getting there, Megan saw something at the end of a side street. Could it be a market?
We had nothing to lose, so we crossed Viale Trastevere and headed down the side street. Victory! Not just a market — but a SUPERmarket!
It was fun to shop with the locals — it took me back to 2005 and 2008. The people were super nice, too — nicer than I would probably be if someone was wandering around my local grocery store only speaking Italian or something.
I never found Cric-Croc sticks, which was on my list, but we both loaded up with lots of candy for our places of employment. My sister had requested Nutella in a little glass jar, but the Nutella at the supermarket was in bigger jars, similar to how it’s sold here.
We headed back up Viale Trastevere on the tram and decided to go to dinner at a little place we passed every night on our way home. We were able to sit outside next to little heat lamps and the beautiful cobblestone alleys we had called home for the past week. We ate a little early, so we had to put up with annoying American women gossiping loudly in English, and I made a note to myself to avoid being them some day. : )
The waiters were terribly charming, and it wasn’t hard for them to convince us to get zucchini flowers for an appetizer. I love zucchini flowers and I love the light tempura batter you find on appetizers in Italy.
For dinner, I got the chef’s special. You usually can’t go wrong with the chef’s special, and as soon as I heard the word “swordfish,” I was sold. I had swordfish for the first time in Italy in 2001 and I’ve never forgotten it.
This dish was swordfish, tomatoes, and zucchini in a bit of a broth with deliciously large, al dente noodles. It was unlike anything I had eaten that week, and I was quite satisfied.
After dinner, we declined the charming waiters’ pleas for dessert and headed back to the hotel to drop off our groceries. Then we headed to get gelato. We were quickly realizing that we had a lot of food to check of our lists, and Frigidarium was a gelateria we had to visit.
I got hazelnut and chocolate. (surprise, surprise)
While I was ordering my gelato, Megan made friends with an American gentleman who was in an argument with his wife about which way they should walk back to their hotel. When I emerged from the gelateria, he seemed to already know me and asked me which way they should go. They were with two other married couples and the group had been following him for awhile and were beginning to doubt he knew where he was going.
We ended up walking to the Bridge of the Angels with them. When they found out we were walking the opposite direction from our hotel, we explained we were walking to see St. Peter’s. “Oh,” they said. “We saw that this morning.”
*sigh* We didn’t tell them we had seen it every day. We didn’t try to explain that there are few things so incredible as St. Peter’s at night. We didn’t try to tell them that our first Pope was buried underneath that breathtaking dome of Michelangelo, or that our trip was a pilgrimage to the tomb of our 264th Pope, also buried under that dome. We simply smiled and lingered on the bridge as they continued on, almost oblivious to the sight before them.
After we tore ourselves away, we headed home on the bus. Under the beautiful Italian sky, I was able to Skype with Jill and her boys from the courtyard of our house. A fun ending to another great day.
From that night’s journal:
Meeting people from America makes me thankful for the gift of faith. Sherry (the woman on the plane we went to Assisi with) commented that she didn’t know if they would spend a lot of time in Rome because her daughter hadn’t liked it. And I thought – yeah, I’m not sure I would like this city if I wasn’t Catholic. Thank God for what He’s given me! Because I love this city — not the dirt or the graffiti or the exhaust or the crazy people — but the history, the art, the Faith, the graces, the Pope, my Church!