As many of you will probably know (due to the spam of photos I’ve shared on social media!), a couple of weeks ago, myself and other members of Hope CathSoc went on pilgrimage to Rome together. We had such an amazing week together so I wanted to share with you all the specifics of what we did!
Grab yourself a brew (and probably a biscuit too), because this is going to be a long one! I’ve tried to split the writing up with a lot of photos so hopefully that’ll make it easier on the eyes?!
After a very early start (leaving uni for Manchester Airport at 4am!), we arrived at our hotel, Casa La Salle, in Rome. We were given just over an hour of free time so that we could find some lunch and purchase Metro tickets before we began exploring the city. As we found a McDonald’s around the corner from our hotel, most of us headed there! The whole group met up again at the hotel and we set off for our day of exploration. Catching the Metro at Cornelia (our local Metro stop), we travelled to Barberini which is the stop closest to the Trevi Fountain. And the walking began! It was about a fifteen minute walk from the Metro stop to Trevi which, although very crowded with tourists, was a great first photo opportunity!
Apart from Trevi, there were many sites we explored on Monday: St Ignatious Loyola Church; Four Seasons Fountain; the Pantheon; a quick walk past the Roman Forums and Colosseum.
We then returned to the hotel for tea before some people headed out again for a bit of evening sightseeing! I was absolutely exhausted after the travelling and so I chose to go to bed and catch up on some sleep instead… such a party animal, you know!
This was another early start, however, not quite as early as the day before! Our group leader, Fr Ste, had managed to get us tickets to have a tour of the scarvi which is right underground St Peter’s Basilica. This was really interesting as we were able to see the mausoleum (the tombs under St Peter’s) and as part of this, we were able to see the relics of St Peter. When we saw the relics of St Peter, we were able to spend a few moments in prayer before we renewed our baptismal promises together. It was a really moving experience to be able to do this somewhere that has so much history in our faith. After this, we went to the next level of the building and were able to see the tombs of many of the popes (such as Blessed Paul VI, Gregory V and John Paul I). The most sobering part of the tour was when we reached an empty space at the front of the corridor where many of the papal tombs are. Fr Ste then informed us that this is the place where the tomb of either Pope Emeritus Benedict or Pope Francis will be when they pass away (depending on who dies first).
We were then given free time for the rest of the day to do as we pleased before Mass and tea in the evening. Myself and some others decided to spend time exploring the ‘top floor’ of St Peter’s. As we had got there through the scarvi, we didn’t have to wait in the enormous queue to get in. I still can’t get over how beautiful St Peter’s is! There are statues everywhere, beautiful marble and the altar is absolutely stunning! It is totally unlike any other church I have ever been in. But that was the one thing I didn’t like about it… there were so many tourists walking round, shouting and taking photos that it didn’t actually feel like a church. Despite this, I really enjoyed looking round anyway, and it was really nice to see and pray at the tomb of Saint John Paul II, one of my favourite saints.
Following this, we headed to a nearby trattoria for some lunch. We enjoyed a nice meal together before setting off again to buy a few souvenirs and do some more sightseeing. While in one of the gift shops, we bumped into other members of the group and decided that we would go and visit the top of the dome of St Peter’s together. After choosing the lift tickets to save us walking up so many steps, we realised that we still had over 300 to climb. This was quite a challenge, as the stairs were quite steep, very narrow and many of them were spiral staircases! However, the view at the top made it completely worthwhile. You could see for miles.
As this took quite a while, we then headed back to the hotel for Mass and our evening meal together. The weather was bad that evening, so instead of going out, most of the group headed to a reception room where we just relaxed and a had a laugh together. It was a great opportunity to get to know other members of the group better.
Wednesday was our earliest start of the week as it was Papal Audience day! Unbeknownst to the rest of the group, Fr Ste had got up extra early and messaged our chaplain, Helen, to let us know that he was already at Vatican Square and was in the queue to get us seats! We hurried to join him, however, it took us quite a while to get there. By the time we arrived, Fr Ste had just about managed to hang onto our seats, which were located right at the back of the first block of seats. We were glad we arrived when we had, as people had been trying to use some of our seats and it was very difficult for just him to save them all!
As the audience was about to begin, we noticed the music suddenly pick up and people in the crowd were getting really excited. We then realised that Pope Francis was on his way through the crowds in his popemobile! We also became really excited, and even more so when they drove him right past us! There were a small group of Argentinian tourists at the front of the block behind us, and when Pope Francis saw them, he came back again and stopped to greet them. They offered him some tea (which he drank without hesitation) and then blessed several babies around us. It was so amazing to be so close to Pope Francis (who, as you may know, I absolutely love), and to just see the joy he brought to people.
After the Papal Audience, we again had free time to do whatever we liked with. Some of us wanted to do some more sightseeing. We energised ourselves with coffee in a nearby café, before catching a bus to the colosseum. The audio tour of the colosseum was really interesting, and I recommend it if you visit there as there are very little signs around it giving you information about things. So if you’ve paid to get in, you might as well learn something while you’re there! I also suggest taking your passport if you are an EU resident and between 18-25 because you can get in for a reduced rate.
With the rest of the day, we took some time out to find a restaurant for lunch before we visited the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain (about three times!) and a couple of beautiful churches.
After heading back to the hotel for tea, some of us went back out again to the centre of Rome, where we went to a bar for cocktails. It was a nice evening spending time together, chatting and enjoying the life music that was playing.
On Thursday we travelled outside of Rome’s city walls to visit St Paul’s Basilica. We were given just over an hour of free time to walk round and explore the church. Perhaps because of its location outside the centre of Rome, but St Paul’s had a very different atmosphere than most of the other churches we visited in Rome. It was much quieter, less busy and had a much more prayerful atmosphere. It felt like a real church!! The place where the relics of St Paul have been buried is on show, so that visitors are able to pray for St Paul’s intercession. The basilica is also full of small chapels and altars where we were able to go in, light candles and pray.
When we had explored the basilica, we headed down the road to the Beda College – where English-speaking ‘late vocations’ to the priesthood are trained on a much faster course than usual (4 years instead of 6/7). We really enjoyed the hospitality of the seminarians as we had Mass in their beautiful chapel and then enjoyed a lovely meal together. We spent quite a while in their garden, meeting some of the seminarians and soaking up the sunshine.
That evening, we all went out for tea – our last supper together. Fr Ste had booked us into a small restaurant down a sidestreet near the Pantheon and we enjoyed bruschetta, pizza and drinks. Afterwards, we did a final bit of souvenir-buying before some people went back to the hotel and others of us stayed out longer at the same cocktail bar as the previous night.
Time had finally come for us to go home. We were all really sad to be leaving Rome and each other. However, after throwing our coins in the Trevi Fountain and saying lots of prayers, I hope that God will take me to Rome again some day! We didn’t really do much on Friday – just finished packing, had breakfast and then left for the airport. After our flight was slightly delayed, we got on and eventually made it back to Manchester, then uni. As much as I had the most amazing week, all the walking had exhausted me so I needed to catch up on some sleep!
Massive thank you to Fr Ste for making the trip possible, and to Helen as well for doing a lot of the organising etc. I’m really grateful to you both.
And there we go! Pretty much everything we got up to on our fantastic pilgrimage to Rome! I included most things we did, (except the amount of chocolate gelato I ate!!!) and I hope that you enjoyed reading about Anna’s Adventures in Rome (and the first thing ticked off my 20 Before 20 list!)