Home / 2009 / April

Roman Holiday, Part 1 Post: Now with Videos

I finally got the video uploading problems all sorted out, so I’ve added three videos to yesterday’s post on the churches Rob and I visited in Rome: One of Pope Benedict XVI speaking during Chrism Mass, one of an organist practicing at All Saints’ Anglican Church, and another of a capella singing at Trinità dei Monti. The videos are all very short (less than 20 seconds) so that I would have plenty of room on my memory card for pictures, but they are long enough to help you imagine what beautiful things we got to hear.

You can also watch the videos by visiting my profile at Vimeo.

Roman Holiday, Part 1: A Church on Every Corner

Rob and I took a wonderful week-long vacation to Rome during Holy Week, the week before Easter, and what a memorable trip it was! In this post, I’ll share pictures of some of the many beautiful churches we visited that week.

We visited between 30 and 40 churches, most of which were Renaissance style: Painted or carved ceilings, marble statues, lots of arches and columns, and in some, lots and lots of gold. Unlike most of the German churches I’ve been in, there wasn’t a lot of intricate stained glass windows. Ah, but why am I telling you about it? Here are some pictures. I’ve tried to highlight the art and the statues with these images. If you want to see more (much more!) stay tuned to my Picasa album. I’ll be uploading images as I work through and find the best ones.

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beautiful artwork, columns, and marble

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Amazing marble statue!

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beautiful rotunda

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The spiral columns remind of the ones on the alter in St. Peter's. Plus more marble artwork.

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I mean, wow!

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I really liked the angels, the dove, and the dove's light rays.

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Another beautiful rotunda

Illegal Picture of the Sistine Chapel and The Creation of Adam!

Illegal picture of the Sistine Chapel and The Creation of Adam!

An amazing statue at St. Peter's Basilica

An amazing statue (it's huge!) at St. Peter's Basilica

Us at St. Peter's Basilica with the Pope! (Sorry, Pope Benedict XVI is in another picture, unfortunately.)

Us at St. Peter's Basilica with the Pope! (Sorry, Pope Benedict XVI is in another picture, unfortunately.)

I loved how floral this gold design is.

I loved how floral this gold design is.

statue of Paul and paiting at St. Paul's Basilica

statue of Paul and painting at St. Paul's Basilica

huge painting at St. Paul's Basilica

huge painting at St. Paul's Basilica

Now, how did we see so many churches? Here’s what would happen.

Rob and Linden turn another corner.
Rob: Hey, that looks like another church. Wanna go in?
Linden: Sure, why not?
They leave the noisy Rome streets to meditative silence of a new church. Usually they sit for a few minutes, reflecting. Linden takes some pictures with the aid of her trusty tripod (no flash needed!).

Sometimes the roles were reversed and I’d spot the church first, but you get the basic idea.

There were 3 churches that I would like to talk about in a little more detail: St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Church of the Holy Stairs, and St. Paul’s Basilica.

St. Peter’s Basilica

We attended Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday. And the Pope was there! We got to hear him speak and chant, though in Latin. If Pope Benedict XVI would have spoken in his native language, maybe we could have understood, but alas. He blessed the oils and prayed for the people affected by the earthquake earlier that week in L’Aquila. Il Papa passed us twice, once within about 10 feet.

Look how close we got! (This is during the recessional)

Look how close we got! (This is during the recessional)

Here is a short video of the Pope during Chrism Mass.

The Pope during Chrism Mass 2009 from Linden A. Mueller on Vimeo.

The Church of the Holy Stairs

We intended to visit the church San Giovanni in Laterne, but the Pope was holding a mass there shortly after we arrived, so we weren’t able to fully enjoy the church. Our guidebook told us that across the street were the Holy Stairs, or Scala Sancta. We headed across the street and were so glad we did.

The Holy Stairs are the stairs that Jesus supposedly climbed at Pontius Pilate’s house before he was crucified. Whether or not these are the stairs that Jesus actually walked on, we had a great experience. You are not allowed to walk up the stairs, but instead, you must kneel on your knees and climb the 28 stairs that way. What a unique way to celebrate Easter: praying while ascending stairs that Jesus could have climbed shortly before he was crucified.

They covered the marble stairs in wood to protect and preserve them.

They covered the marble stairs in wood to protect and preserve them.

The view at the top of the stairs. Very symbolic.

The view at the top of the stairs. Very symbolic.

The Basilica of St. Paul

We almost missed this because it isn’t in Central Rome and our guidebook map didn’t quite show this part of town. But boy, were we glad we went! The Basilica of St. Paul has a stunning courtyard and its decoration is right in-step with the other churches we visited in Rome: gold everywhere, mosaics, carvings, arches, and columns. Having seen Pope Benedict XVI up close in the previous days, we particularly enjoyed the mosaic busts of all the popes which create the boundary between the tops of the columns and the beginning of the ceiling, with Pope Benedict’s circle being lit up.

Pope Benedict XVI's bust illuminated, with Pope John Paul II's next to it.

Pope Benedict XVI's bust illuminated, with Pope John Paul II's next to it.

To the upper-right of that person's head is Paul's tomb. Wow.

To the upper-right of that person's head is Paul's tomb. Wow.

We descended a short set of stairs in front of the alter not knowing what was down there. It is Paul’s coffin, partially exposed marble behind a glass window. Another amazing relic to experience during Easter week. Paul spent the last few months of his life in Rome and therefore I can reasonably believe that the person buried in that coffin could be Paul from the New Testament. Wow.

The Beautiful Music

One day, we happened upon an organist at All Saints’ Anglican Church practicing for a concert later that evening, and then not more than two hours later, a service with a capella singing by the nuns and priests at the church at the top of the Spanish Steps, the Trinità dei Monti. I couldn’t video all of it, but here are a couple short clips of those beautiful moments from our trip.


Organist practicing at All Saints’ Anglican Church (Rome) from Linden A. Mueller on Vimeo.


A Capella Singing at Trinita dei Monti (Rome) from Linden A. Mueller on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Rome’s churches and looking at all the pictures I could share (for now!). Stay tuned to hear more about Rome: Our explorations of the Ancient Roman ruins and our mouth-watering culinary exploits coming soon! Because these pictures blogs take more time than word-only blogs, I’m planning on posting about the Ancient Roman ruins this weekend. Until then, “Ciao!”

30-day Running Challenge: Days 1 and 2

Rob suggested last night that maybe we can run 30 days in a row. It’s an idea I’ve been tossing around for a while, so I said yes. Here are the rules.

  1. Run every day.
  2. Each run must be at least 30 minutes long.

Simple, right? Well, we’ll see. So far, so good. I won’t blog about the challenge every day, but I’ll keep you updated every few days or so.

Day 1: 5 miles in 54:58 (11:00)

Pushed it today and it felt good. We started running again this season on Tuesday, and I hadn’t run faster than 12-min miles yet, which is sad, considering that I ran my marathon in an 11:02 mile average. Sure, I haven’t (hardly) run since the marathon (bad, I know. But my lungs do not like the cold), but still.

Day 2: 5 miles in 1:01:18 (12:16)

Ugh. I was having some pains today. I need to be pretty serious about stretching, I think. Man, these calves! And today,  some groin pain. On top of that, I hadn’t had much water before the run and it was a little warm in the sunny parts of the route, so I just took it nice and slow. Even though I wanted to quit, I just settled into my mantras and stopped listening to that negative voice in my head. Just one foot in front of the other. After about 3.5 miles, Rob took off and finished in 55 minutes! He’s so good at this. I’m getting there!

Who else out there is picking up the workouts? How is it going?

P.S. I’m working on the Rome blogs! Coming soon, I promise!

Rome Quick-Blog Day 7

I’m trying to quick-blog Rome in 250 words a day (or less!). Here’s what we did on day 7, Easter Day.

Buono Pasqua! Our last full day in Rome was kind of a summary of our entire trip, plus a little extra. We started by finishing our postcards and mailing them in the post office near St. Peter’s Basilica. Then we headed out to St. Paul’s Basilica, one on our list to visit but that is pretty far away from the center of town.

At first we thought it was closed. Apparently we were on the wrong side. Thankfully, we decided to walk around the building and we found the entrance. It has a beautiful courtyard with a statue of St. Paul and a fresco (I think that’s what it’s called). Once inside, we found portraits of all the popes and—get this—St. Paul’s tomb. Now that is cool. Cooler than steps that Jesus maybe walked up.

There was one church on the map that we didn’t go to when we were near it, so we headed back towards the Colosseum to go to that one (loved the stained glass window of bees!), then we just slowly made our way back to l’archetto, our favorite restaurant. We started with a pizza with sausage and mushrooms, then Rob had spaghetti with salami, ricotta, and tomatoes (savory), and mine was with gorgonzola, spinach, cream, and parmesan (very rich). We rolled ourselves out the door and around to our favorite gelateria, Della Parma, to really end the trip right. Too bad we have to leave this land of delicious food. It’s probably better for our waistlines, though. 

Today was a great way to auskling* our trip to Rome! For the last time, Buono notte from Roma!

* Auskling is sort of like “ringing in the New Year” but for the end of something. I can’t really think of a verb for this. “End on a good note” is the closest I can think of, but it’s not quite the same thing.

Rome Quick-Blog Day 6

I’m trying to quick-blog Rome in 250 words a day (or less!). Here’s what we did on day 5, April 11.

Today was another laid back day. We slept in a bit, I fixed the internet connection problem we were having, we moseyed our way to the metro station. We got out at Pyramide, took some pictures, then headed out to the coast. We stopped at Ostia Antica to visit some old ruins. This ancient city was once a bustling center of trade right on the mouth of the Tiber, and the remains are fairly well preserved. We ate our lunch on a bench just inside the gates, then wandered around in the ruins for a couple hours.

After refilling our water bottles, we got back on the train and headed to Lido di Ostia and went straight to the beach. We found a somewhat empty area and sat there, playing in the sand, writing post cards, and enjoying the peacefulness of the coast.

Two fun/interesting things from the beach. First, the topless woman and her boyfriend who were laying out near us liked making out. They were far enough away that it wasn’t disgusting. Second, the venders who populate all of the tourist spots in Rome also visit the beach. And instead of peddling something useful like cold drinks, towels or beach blankets, and umbrellas, they were selling the same wares: cheap sunglasses and jewelry, temporary tattoos, and bandanas. At one point, a particularly persistent vendor went up to the couple making out.

We ate at a restaurant we had spotted on our way to the beach and had some really delicious gnocci with clams in a shrimp-radicchio sauce. Rob is claiming it as his favorite meal so far, and it definitely was delicious, very fresh. Then we returned to Rome and went to Della Palma again. Rob had Rafaello and I got chocolate fondant (the best chocolate I’ve had this entire trip, maybe in my life), caffe espresso, and pistachio. We’ll probably go back tomorrow (if they’re open).

One more full day left, then it’s back to normal life. :( Buono notte!

Rome Quick-Blog Day 5

I’m trying to quick-blog Rome in 250 words a day (or less!). Here’s what we did on day 5, Good Friday.

We started the day at the Trevi Fountain, a church with what looked like thousands of padlocks on the gate for some yet-unknown reason, the Marcus Aurelius column, and the Pantheon. On our way, we had some mango gelato, which was quite the refreshing mid-morning snack. I could get used to this!

We tested our veracity at the Mouth of Truth and we both passed, then it was on to Circus Maximus and a great panoramic view of Palantine Hill. By this time, we were getting hungry and decided to try to find two restaurants that Rob had mapped out ahead of time. One was too expensive and we never found the other. We ended up at a fun place, Satyricon, where I enjoyed some really delicious lasagna (I’m starting to get my sense of taste back!) and Rob tried gnocchi. The food was great, the servers were fun, but they had weird monkey and ape paintings on the walls, staring at you while you ate.

We found probably our favorite gelato place, Della Palma, today. They have over 100 flavors and each one looks tantalizingly delicious.

We were headed back home, but passed over a bridge we hadn’t been to before and saw the Corte di Cassazione and a gothic-looking church that we just had to check out. Sacred Heart of the Sufferers was much more German than most of the other churches we have seen on this trip, less ornate, but quite amazing.

We stopped by the hotel for a while, then headed back out to get some night shots of some of the sights, like the Trevi Fountain, the Vittorio Emmanuel II Memorial, and the Colosseum.

Quite the delicious day—both for the palate and eyes. Buono notte!

Rome Quick-Blog Day 4

I’m trying to quick-blog Rome in 250 words a day (or less!). Here’s what we did on day 4, Maundy Thursday.

EARLY morning today. We had tickets to watch the Chrism Mass (Blessing of the Holy Oils) at 9:30, and we were told that we should arrive 2 hours early if we wanted good seats. We were pretty close and twice were within 10 feet or so of the Holy Father. Very cool.

We found a gelato place early and shared a Moukkato scoop. I don’t know what a direct translation is, but we decided it must mean “amazingly delicious.” It had chocolate pieces and toffee crumbs in it.

Since every church was closed, we decided to go to a spaghetti restaurant we had spotted yesterday and it was well worth the walk. L’archetto Spaghetteria-Pizzeria really hit the spot. Unfortunately, I’m still sick and can barely taste anything! This is frustrating!

After lunch, we headed to San Crispino, a gelato store that we had scoped out before the trip. We weren’t really impressed: It was expensive for the serving size, and the flavors weren’t out of the world amazing. Good, but not markedly better than the other’s we’ve had.

We headed out to Piazza San Giovani and had no idea what was in store for us. Rob was taking us to a 3400-year-old obelisk, and at first we couldn’t find it. We walked up to the front of the church there, but it looked like people were waiting in line with their tickets ready. Rob suggested that maybe the Pope was going to be there again, but I didn’t think that was it. Probably just some other important person. We headed around back to find the obelisk, and it looked like a famous person was arriving. We found out that the Pope was going to be there–we got to see his processional! Then we went to one last church before we left that area, and it was possibly the best we’ve been to yet. As you walk in the door, you see a rather long staircase in front of you. These are the Holy Stairs. Supposedly, these are the stairs from Pontius Pilate’s home that Jesus walked up. You must climb them on your knees, so we did.

We meandered some more, then decided to head home since neither of us felt too spiffy. Hopefully the extra sleep will help us. Buono notte!

Rome Quick-Blog Day 3

I’m trying to try to quick-blog Rome in 250 words a day (or less!). Here’s what we did on day 3.

I. am. sick. This is not fun, but runny nose, chills, and all, today was a great day. We had only two strict items on our agenda: picking up out tickets to Chrism Mass (with the Pope!) for tomorrow, and the Vatican Museum at 3:00.

We started at the Spanish Steps and moseyed our way over to the Bishops Office where we would pick up our mass tickets. On the way, and even after, we saw so many amazing churches. We walked around the corner, saw another: “Want to go in?” “Of course!” They are completely different from German churches: more marble, sculptures, gold, and design everywhere, but less stained glass. All breath-taking.

Our gelato today was a place Rob had scoped out. Yummy! I had chocolate and coffee and Rob had pistachio. HUGE scoops just piled on the cones.

Basically, we wandered a lot today. Rob thinks we walked at least 5 miles, but it could have been 10. It was great. :)

The Vatican Museum was very cool, more than just the famous Sistine Chapel. Before you get into the Sistine Chapel, you walk through halls with artwork, some what you think of when you think of the Sistine Chapel (classic Italian artistry on the walls and ceilings), but several halls had more typical framed art by some famous painters and sculptors. We saw some Dali, . . . and some others that I cannot recall right now. And then we got to the Sistine Chapel. Wow.

We bought some fresh fruit on our way back to our hotel, rested our feet, then headed out for dinner. Rob had spaghetti carbonara and I had bucatini all’amatriciana (tomato sauce, onions, red hot pepper, and bacon). We finished with tiramisu—very different from any I had eaten before. Then, we found me some Kleenex with lotion and just wandered some more. Looking forward to the mass tomorrow at St. Peter’s! Buono notte!

Rome Quick-Blog Day 2

This is my second day of quick blogging our trip in Rome in 250 words or less.

Great day! We started off early at the Colosseum and pretty much had it to ourselves. Then we went across the street to the Palantine Hill and Roman Forum. Some great ruins! We spent most of the morning strolling around this area.

When we had seen all that we could (including a tree being cut down and the whole “Timber!!” thing), we left the Forum area and had to re-orient ourselves. We found the Vittorio Monument and climbed all the stairs to the top. I even went a little further up to the panorama viewing level and got a GREAT panoramic shot.

It was lunch time then. I had 4-cheese pizza (it was okay, but nothing to write home about) and Rob had his favorite—spaghetti Bolognese (very good). Then, gelato of course! I had two scoops (lemon and red berries) and Rob had Kinder cereali. Um, mine was amazing. Better than lunch, now that I think about it.

Next, we went to a church (something about St. Mary?) and it was pretty amazing. Then we headed back toward our hotel so that we could go grocery shopping and have a quick siesta. That rejuvenated us quite well and our feetsies thanked us.

Then it was back out to Piazza del Popola, the Spanish Steps, and more amazing churches. We were lucky enough to stumble upon a French service with acapella singing and a guy practicing the organ for a concert later tonight. (I got short videos of both.)

We ended the night with more gelato (hazelnut, so creamy) and pizza (mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and mozzarella, eat-there-again-GOOD). Now it’s time for a shower and sleep. Buono notte!

Rome Quick-Blog Day 1

I’m going to try to quick-blog Rome in 250 words a day (or less!). Here goes.

Best piece of advice: buy your Metro tickets at a Tabacchio. We waited maybe 2 minutes and were able to get right on our train.

Not as easy finding the hotel, but we did with only one turn around. We hit the jackpot with Residence Candia. I think we’re paying 80 EUR per night and the room is small but packed with value: Recently renovated with lots of IKEA stuff, a fully stocked kitchenette, armoir, nice TV, and spotty but functional Internet connection. It’s right outside of the Vatican. Nice.

We showered, then headed out. Found a gelataria pretty quickly and ate our first gelato of the night (check my Twitter profile for a link to a pic, if I can get it to work), then strolled towards an illuminated castle. Turns out it was a museum for Sant’ Angelo (?), but we also got some great shots of what I think is St. Peter’s Basilica at night.

We had seen a local coming out of a pizzeria as we headed out and decided that would be the perfect dinner, so we ordered two (one for breakfast!): one with mushrooms and the other with pepperoni and roasted peppers.

Now it’s time for bed because we have an early morning tomorrow: The Colosseum is first on our agenda. Buono Notte!