Rome 002

We arrived in Rome by way of London on Monday, 30 December.

Eighteen of the 25 pilgrims rode up to Dulles from Waynesboro on Sunday, 29 December. It had been raining buckets all morning. But the rain stopped long enough for us to board our ride from the church parking lot. Yes, that was us probably inconveniencing those of you arriving just as the 11:30 am mass was about to start. The ride up was uneventful. We assembled at the airport with the rest of the group around 3:00 pm and checked in. Our flight was scheduled to take off at 6:15 pm, arriving at Heathrow in London at 6:20 am the next morning.

Security at Heathrow was slightly unnerving. I was surprised we were not allowed to breeze through to our connecting flight since we were flying the same airline (British Airways). It seems our airport security had been relaxed a bit, while they hadn’t done the same across the pond. Instead, we had to go through a security checkpoint again, putting our carry-on baggage through x-ray, going through metal detectors, etc. We had less than an hour lay-over, and the connecting flight had to be in a whole different terminal. We must have walked half a mile! I know, I know. I had to stay positive. We were going to Rome after all! Eventually, we were on our way.

At the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome we met our transfer agent Fabio before going through customs. Then we met our tour guide Debra and boarded our coach for the Smart Hotel in Rome. It was about 11:30 am and raining! Luckily, nothing was planned for that first day. We all very much needed to lie down and regroup.

smart hotel 003

Despite the wet weather, I took the free time to visit the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri in the Piazza de la Repubblica. The basilica was designed by Michaelangelo and is located among the ruins of the Baths (Terme) of Diocletian. According to our guide, the paintings contained in this basilica came from the Basilica di San Pietro, where they were replicated in a mosaic process that closely mimicked the originals, many can’t tell the difference.

On the first day of our stay in Rome, New Year’s Eve, we met our local guide Eleonora. We visited the Basilica San Clemente. “Archaeologically speaking, the structure is a three-tiered complex of buildings. The present basilica was built just before the year 1100 during the height of the Middle Ages. Beneath it is a 4th-century basilica that had been converted out of the home of a Roman nobleman, part of which had in the 1st century briefly served as an early church, and the basement of which had in the 2nd century briefly served as a worship space for followers of Mithraism. Beneath the home of the Roman nobleman was the foundations of a building that had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 64 A.D.” (Wikipedia) We toured the present basilica. Some in the California group would return another day to see the layers beneath.


We headed to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum, among the ruins of the old city.




The Arch of Constantine stands by the coliseum, with scenes depicting battles from the life of the emperor.

We got back on the coach and headed to the Spanish Steps and the Basilica della Trinita dei Monti. We didn’t have time to scale the steps, but we did take a group picture.


From the Spanish Steps, we boarded the coach for the Pantheon, an old Roman temple that had been converted for use as a church. “It is one of the best-preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs but informally known as Santa Maria Rotonda. The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.” (Wikipedia.)



After the Pantheon, we traveled by foot to Piazza Navona, where we boarded our coach for  the church of Sant ‘Alfonso di Liguori for mass. The church is under the care of the Redemptorists, and houses a mosaic of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Msgr. Dreling was the main celebrant, assisted by Msgr. McCormick. I played guitar with a handful of choir members from the other group. Amelia (was) volunteered to play the keyboard, but the power cord was missing. I surrendered the guitar to Ruben from the other group, who was more familiar with the music than I was. It all came together nicely, our skills and talents blending together with the praying assembly listening to the Word of God and celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

After mass, we headed back to the hotel where we had dinner. Some of us ventured out after dinner, finding a place for gelato … or an assortment of Italian pastries and desserts to close the day.

Rolo B Castillo © 2014