I woke up last Sunday morning in a daze. No scent of caffé in the air. Where were the chocolate croissants? The buffalo mozzarella cheese and prosciutto? Fresh fruit and yogurt??
NOOOO. I wasn’t in Rome anymore. And I had Rome-lag.
For seven or eight days preceding, the Italian language rolled melodiously from tongues surrounding my son and I as we traversed the streets of the ancient city. On each corner, my breath hitched at some new vista of history and ornate beauty. Could there be a street that didn’t host a basilica that held centuries-old frescoes and mosaics and priceless art or hidden momentous underground ruins?
My son’s the history fanatic, and it was his dream to go to Italy, but I was pretty sure the Coliseum was in the area—and the Vatican. I soon found that a week was too short with so many landmarks such as the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the Sistine Chapel, the Borghese Galleria, St. Peter’s… you could spend decades in the city submerged in history.
We began our adventure with a small tour group of strangers, but we became fast friends under the leadership of an eloquent British gentleman guide. (A shout out to our awesome tour group if you’re reading!) He strove to teach us the culture and history. And the language. Each day he’d urge us to try to speak a few words of Italian. Can you say Trastevere? Buongiorno?
I avoided eye contact when he asked for volunteers. I practiced in my room. Thought about the words in my sleep. But each time I pushed them through my lips … the horror. I’m sorry, but Italian words with a Mississippi accent maybe aren’t meant to be spoken.
The previous Sunday, our first day in Rome, some of our new friends invited us to attend Mass at the church a block over. It turned out to be the beautiful San Clemente Basilica. The service was in Italian. Oddly, I was able to pick out when the priest read about the fruits of the Spirit and the Lord’s Prayer. The memory came to mind as I sat in my own church this past Sunday. I'd stood in a city where Peter perhaps taught the Lord’s Prayer or Paul penned a letter. Two thousand years later the words still carry such meaning and hope around the world, no matter the language. In the ancient city of Rome or in Jackson, Mississippi, there is one more ancient. A timeless God, the Ancient of Days, who speaks forgiveness and love wherever we are.
What adventure are you heading out on this year?
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson