“Do Not Be Afraid to Dream Great Things” – Pope Francis

HEELLOOOOOOOOO Fam and frandsss!!

I’m currently sitting in the airport waiting to board a flight for what is hopefully going to be a beautiful week on the island of Crete! Our entire house ended up booking a flight and soon we’ll all be laying out on the Greek beaches, (sort of) studying for the finals that are fast approaching (yikes). But enough about the future because I still haven’t updated this blog about the past and what is likely to be my most memorable experience while abroad: our Easter weekend in Rome! And before you ask, no I was not mistaken for an international superstar, only to become a part of a scheme to embarrass the crap out of my international superstar counterpart and then sing a duet with my international superstar doppelgänger. It’s not as common as you’d think…

Okay so We arrived to Duquesne’s Rome campus – what is actually a convent for a Nazareth Charter of nuns –  located a bit outside the city center. Josie (my roomate) and I were reunited with our best friend and current Rome resident Ashley! We got to meet and make friends with a lot of the Duquesne students studying in Rome and share our experiences. The Rome Vs. Dublin experience is so incredibly opposite it’s impossible to compare the two and I have no idea which I would prefer.

ANYWAY we arrived Thursday morning and almost immediately our Easter weekend began. We celebrated Holy Thursday with a church crawl led by the only English speaking nun, and Philadelphia native Sister Mercedes along side a priest, some students from the Loyola Chicago Rome campus as well as a group of seminaries. We all were given a candle and a prayerbook and were guided through the streets of Rome visiting some of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen in my life.  Luckily I utilized my iphone this time around and I can finally post some more pictures than I’ve been able to!

After our church crawl we were treated to an amazing Italian meal and then sent on our way so we could get rested and be prepared for the following early morning. We woke up bright and early on Friday and made our way to the Vatican! Where world renowned art historian and an adjunct professor for Duquesne, Elizabeth Lev gave us a swift moving and sarcasm filled guided tour. I loved it and her. Although she’s american, she grew up in Italy as her mother was US ambassador to the Holy See and one of Pope Francis’ top advisors, Liz is fluent in Italian and has a family with a former priest!!  She also served as a main consultant during the writing and filming of the Da Vinci Code (I think). The woman is pretty freaking cool. The Vatican was unreal and I wish I could’ve retained half of the incredible facts Liz Lev provided us with butttttttt I could not. Soooo here comes my completely uneducated and description-ally (haha that is soo not a word) challenged explanation of our tour through the Vatican. I just remember thinking about how many incredible people lived and walked around the grounds I was touring. Obviously Michelangelo was a huge part of our tour. We saw the Belvedere torso. An ancient sculpture that inspired his anatomical style of sculpting. We also walked through a courtyard which is apparently where Michelangelo among other famous sculptors and artists would sit and gather inspiration. It was gorgeous and filled with Greek mythology inspired sculptures. We walked through rooms with walls and ceilings filled with incredibly detailed artwork and architecture until we eventually came to the Sistine Chapel. Now time for some fun, probably inaccurate, facts about the Sistine Chapel that I only sort of remember: Although Michelangelo was a sculptor he was asked by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Ceiling tells a story of Creation and human life on Earth with famous stories such as Noah’s Arc (P.s. the Russel Crowe movie.. blows. Don’t go see it.), and Adam and Eve. My absolute favorite painting (originally meant only for the pope among other esteemed Clergy’s eyes) is the one directly behind the alter depicting the day of judgement, appropriately named “The Last Judgement”. Michelangelo had first painted everyone in the photo nude and in their most beautiful form (ripped bods and six packs) in order to communicate the perfection that comes with the ascension to heaven.He included women and blacks ascending into heaven as well, depicting an idea of equality that was years before it’s time. The amount of detail that went into the painting could leave me typing for hours.  Eventually the painting reached the public eye and in order to avoid the massive backlash, the addition of fig leaves was added to the parts of the photo that weren’t as favorable to the public and therein lies the beginning of “fig-leafing” (Something I wish they’d do to the nude statue just put into place on UCD’s campus. Who puts a naked man in the middle of a college campus?). ANYWAYYYYYYYYYY (bored with me yet?) After that came St. Peter’s basilica and holy heaven (see what I did there?) that place was unlike any Basilica or church I’ve been in yet. I was in shock. I just kept walking around and around and underground until I was so late to meet the group they almost left me!


The group, however, did not leave me, and upon finding them at the last minute, we headed out to make our way around the City of Rome! We found the pantheon which was breath taking. It was built between 27 BC and 14 AD as a temple to the Gods of Ancient Rome. The Granite columns seen at the front of the Pantheon came all the way from egypt by way of rivers. Which brought about the question I found myself asking on way, way more than one occasion: “How the heck did these people do this?” Our self guided tour around the city also brought us to the President’s mansion, the remains of four ancient temples only discovered in the 1920’s when the find halted plans to build there. It’s now believed those temples are the site of the assasination of Julius Caesar. Then we came to the Ancient Roman forums and eventually landed around the beautiful Vittorio Emanuele monument and the Colosseum where we were meant to meet our group for the 9 o’clock Station’s of the Cross with the one and only Papa Francesco! We knew the Pope would be difficult to see, and the stations would be recited in Italian, but the energy of the atmosphere was so amazing that just being able to be a part of it was unforgettable.

We arrived back at the convent a bit late and headed to bed. Saturday morning, the Rome and Dublin kids all took a bus trip to the Tivoli gardens guided my the Dr.’s Wilson. A married couple well known for their knowledge on art history. The Tivoli Gardens were amazing to walk through. Once home to Cardinal Ippolito II D’Este, in the 1500’s it’s now a UNESCO world heritage site. The gardens are filled with beautiful fountains and plants and the home is wall-to-wall in artwork.  After the Tivoli trip, we packed up and headed to Nemi. A small town in Italy known for their little baby strawberries called Fragoline. We all had a group lunch at a restaurant over looking Lake Nemi, a volcanic crater lake with an undetermined depth. There we took part in a mini wine tasting and got to know each respective Duquesne abroad campus a bit better. When we returned to the convent, Ashley and another Rome student Dave, took us out into the pouring rain and gave us their own tour of the city. They were the best for taking time out of their super busy schedule just to walk through the soaking wet streets of Rome for us. They took us to the Spanish stairs. So named due to their close location to the Spanish Embassy,  as well as a church and their favorite gelato place. So much Gelato before our trip to Greece probably wasn’t our most bathing suit friendly idea, but “When in Rome ;)” Ashley also gave us the origin of that now common phrase: It originated with St. Augustine in a letter to Januarius when Januarius asked how he should handle the differing Church customs of the Romans. St. Augustine’s advice became the now famous phrase: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Josie and I also got to make our wishes at the Trevi Fountain which we were able to experience at night and during a gorgeous Roman day. I can’t tell you which was more beautiful. Once we were soaked to the bone from the Rain we headed back to the convent to rest up for the big event: Easter Sunday!!

Easter Sunday 2014 will forever be unforgettable and something I’ll look back on and talk about for the rest of my life! We got up around 6 am in order to prepare for the 10:15 mass.The Roman transportation systems were a bit of a pain in the butt so we arrived a little less ahead of the crowd than we would have preferred, but as Sister Mercedes said “You can’t be nice at Easter Mass. Just push and push and push until you find your spot” and that’s exactly what we did. BUT as it turns out, we didn’t really have to. Sister Mercedes along with a few other students had arrived an hour earlier than us and reserved three whole rows front and center. None of us could believe our luck, and the level of bad-ass-ness little 70 year old Sister Mercedes possessed. We all knew we were experiencing something we’d always remember. The mass was incredible with at least five different languages used throughout. Luckily the mass booklet contained an English translation for everything.They even managed to serve Eucharist to almost all of those in attendance. Once the mass ended, the Pope made his processions in his suuuuuuper pimped out Pope mobile. He was just a few feet in front of us I couldn’t believe it! I tried as hard as I could to take pictures while also trying to be as present in the moment as possible which lead to a blurry pope but an incredibly detailed photo of the back of Ashley’s head. BUT we were lucky enough that we got a second chance as Papa Francesco made another trip past our young crew and I managed to take a much better photo. I can’t believe I was able to be that close to someone that is likely to be on of the most influential Catholic figures of my lifetime. Viva Il Papa!

After Mass we enjoyed a nice little Easter lunch with some of the Rome kids and then Josie and I broke away from the group in a blind search for the Colosseum as we had yet to experience the inside. Note: If you go to the colosseum, do not be discouraged by the long and disorganized line that precedes your ticket purchase. It’s a much quicker wait than it looks. But in order to avoid the ticket line completely, reserve your tickets online. Things will go even more smoothly. Anyway. Along our colosseum search, we stumbled upon the church St. Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major), a church Ashley had explained to us is the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome. It was built between 432-440 AD and was one of the first churches built in honour of the Virgin Mary. And just like every other incredibly detailed church in Rome, it was breathtaking. Finally we stumbled upon the Colosseum and made our way inside. I wanted to type out all the fun facts and history of the colosseum but it’s a crap ton and with the amount of info I’ve already typed out I’d be surprised if anyone actually read this far instead of just quitting after my sad attempts at describing the Sistine Chapel to just start looking through the picture galleries I’ve been providing. But, I took lots of pictures of the information the Colosseum  provided and hopefully you’ll be able to read the info from there if you so chose!

Finally we enjoyed a wonderful Easter dinner the Nun’s prepared for us at the convent where Josie Ashley and I were able to catch up and enjoy our last hours together before Josie and I departed back to Ireland and Ashley departed back to America. She leaves April 30th! It’s funny because I was able to see and spend more time with Ashley while we were in Europe than I’ll be able to all summer while we’re both in America. It also made me realize how lucky I was to be able to travel and experience so much with my best friends. As David Gordon (Gordo) (Lizzie McGuire people!!) once wisely said “I’m in Rome with my best friend, what else would I wish for?!” <- I may have embellished that line a tiny bit.

And that concludes my lengthy recap on an unforgettable experience in the Eternal City. I’ve been so busy with travels and playing blog-catch up that I haven’t been able to update on my downtime in Dublin so that post should hopefully come during my upcoming downtime in Greece. After my week in Greece comes my week of UCD final exams (pray for me puhlease) and then a short week later I am returning home! I can’t even think about it though because as much as I miss every single person at home, I cannot imagine leaving Dublin and the amazing home and family I’ve been blessed with here! Anyway onwards to Greece! Hope everyone’s Easter was filled with lot’s of bunnies and chocolate and Jesus and maybe some Snoop Dog and such!

Caio for now!!!

xoxo Nellie


5 thoughts on ““Do Not Be Afraid to Dream Great Things” – Pope Francis

  1. Ellen Flynn says:

    Nellie, great post and pics. You did an amazing job describing Rome to those who have never been there. I was there in 1985 and 1987 and you reminded me of so many beautiful things I saw and experienced. Although I was not fortunate enough to see the Pope or even the Popemobile. My favorite story was going to visit the Colosseum on a hot sunny day remind me to tell u later… Thank God for the iPhone. Really all of those pics you can have for a lifetime. By the way I do think you look like an international superstar. Have fun in Crete. Be careful jumping from those cliffs but don’t stop being Brave and trying new things. I have to say it again You are an Amazing woman. Love you so much. Have fun. Be safe.

  2. Cecelia Flynn Wms says:

    Ahhh, your Easter blog is Eggcellent! Haha. I’ve never been to Rome so I was hanging on every word! You should have belted out the ‘Ave Maria’ while waiting in the crowd & I’m sure you would have been discovered! Happy early Birthday! Hope Greece is fantastic too! I’ve not been there either so pls give me lots of details & pics. Can’t wait till next one. Love You!!! XO. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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