Monday, March 28, 2011

Italy Day 4 pt2 {Rome: Finding St. Agnes}

In Navona Plaza, Tim and Zac dicipher the map in hopes of finding St. Agnes Church.

Centerpiece of the square in the Navona neighborhood (Rome)

St. Agnes Church, Rome, Italy

We buy fruit all the time.... really!

Found: the Colosseum!

Finding your way around a giant ancient city on foot isn't easy on an empty stomach, and when your map is written in a foreign language and not entirely accurate, things can get ugly. Things didn't really get ugly, but they did get a little harried Sunday afternoon on our quest for St. Agnes' Church. Walking a few miles east from the Vatican after Mass, we found a little deli to grab a quick bite, having passed dozens of restaurants en route (perhaps provoking hunger pains?). We hoped the deli owners could double as tour guides to to St. Agnes. They tried, but the language barrier made following their advice rather difficult. Wandering aimlessly, or so it seemed, through ally after ally (streets really, but only about as wide as a parking space and a half) we came to another unmarked T intersection and tried asking more non-English speaking restaurateurs for directions, with absolutely no success.   Meanwhile, I had been silently asking for St. Agnes' prayers that if it was God's will, we would come to find the Church.

Out of the blue a van pulled up and the driver (our airport-to-flat shuttle driver!) says, "I have your son's coat," and passes Peter's lost coat out the driver's window. We thanked him (in awe of the timing of his sudden appearance) and proceeded to ask him for directions to St. Agnes, which he simply gave and pulled away. As we started walking again, this time in stunned silence and joy, Tim asked, "How in the world did he find us? Am I the only one who finds this extremely strange?"

Hard to believe we hadn't seen St. Agnes when we were standing directly in front of it, but if we had seen it at that time, we wouldn't have been able to go inside as it was gated off.  A huge Sunday market filled the Piazzaa Navona and a large metal fence blocked the entry way.  We had seen it, stood right in front of it to consult the map, but not know it was St. Agnes' Church.  However, once we "found" it (and realized it was the locked building in the square) I asked the guys to wait a minute while I took a photo of  the building.  What I saw through the lens was a line of people entering and exiting the church, which had just been re-opened.  We entered the gorgeous church and were able to pray inside St. Agnes, at the place where this young martyr is buried.  Such a blessing, but not for the faint of heart! 
Trekking across town to the Colosseum after our visit with St. Agnes should have been fairly uneventful, but a grocery store faux pas and a bus stop debacle kept things interesting.  We dropped in to a grocery store along a busy road to pick up some fresh fruit for snacking.  It was a tiny maze of an inner city store, and our family of 5 clogged up the gears from start to finish... twice.  After waiting in the
l o n g check out line, we finally got very close to the check out.  The checker gave us a disgusted look and said something contrary to the current customer who politely explained in very broken English that there were no scales to weigh the fruit at check out.  So back to the produce department we weaved, and tried to figure out the tagging system for labelling our fruit.  C+ for effort, but next time we'll know to put the stickers on the little produce bags, not directly on the fruit!
Waiting at the bus stop for a lift to the Colosseum, Zac mentioned that the sign might read "only on weekdays."  Rather than standing at the bus stop for the remainder of Sunday afternoon, we asked a local if the bus would come today.  "No, not today. Where are you trying to go?"
"To the Colosseum."
"There it is, right there."  He pointed down the street, and sure enough, the Colosseum WAS right there!
Relieved that our seemingly endless walk would soon come to an end, and slightly embarrassed at our foible, we thank him, took our lives into our hands crossing another Roman street, and found the amazing landmark to be every bit as impressive as we had hoped it would be.  Except we arrived at closing time and will have to go back another day to go inside... 
And the journey continues!
  • Cotton socks really do take about 3 times as long to line dry after a hand wash.
  • Sometimes it's worth 75c to use a public toilet, other times, not so much.
  • A litre of tap water can cost up to $4. at an Italian restaurant.


Kathleen said...

Ahh the foreign laugage barrier....We shall pray for your guardian angel to guide you on your trip.

Jill said...

Loving your stories, Bridget! Keep them coming, we will follow along. And then you can hopefully help us get prepared for our visit this summer!!

Aimee said...

Tip #1: The only time I've set foot in a McDonalds in my adult life was traveling in Europe. Whether in Rome, London, or Paris, you can count on McDonalds and Starbucks for easy access to free bathrooms! Just walk right in and use the facilities - no one notices or cares, unlike most other cafes.

Tip #2: Eat gelato every day. It's what gets kids to keep going when they're tuckered out from all that walking. I always knew when it was "gelato time" for Hadley - it revived both of us for more exploring.

Have fun!

Aimee said...

Ahh, forgot Tip # 3: the water in Rome's drinking fountains is really good and safe to drink. We brought water bottles and filled them up throughout the day wherever we found a fountain - never bought water!

You may already know all of my "tips" - regardless, you'll undoubtably come up with new ones of your own each day!