Landing in Rome, we successfully navigated the obligatory immigration maze the airport architect took great delight in designing to properly greet and confuse visitors. This maze phenomenon certainly isn’t exclusive to Rome. There are immigration mazes at every international airport. Maybe there’s a rule book somewhere that oversees the immigration layout process with the more complex and confusing the walk from the gate to passport station the better.
Anyway, we got our passports stamped and found our hotel shuttle transfer. Unfortunately, we had just missed the earlier run and had to wait another two hours for the next one. As we waited, a large group of Chinese tourists was chattering behind us as we sat there. After nearly 24 hours of travel so far, each of us was ready to just lay down, stretch out, and get comfortable for a bit.
Rome could wait.
Actually, it couldn’t. Once our shuttle transfer came to take us to the hotel, we relaxed in air-conditioned comfort for the 30-minute ride in from the airport to our accommodations in the heart of Rome. I was surprised at how different the reality of Rome (outside the airport that is since if you’ve seen one big city airport, you’ve seen them all) is to what I imagined it would have been.
There are those places you imagine visiting that pretty much aligns with the perception you have of them in your mind before you get there, like Hawaii or New York City, or Paris. Rome didn’t align at all with what I had imagined. I guess I thought everything would be straight out of a Dan Brown novel. Instead, the places we saw on our way into the city and around the hotel are pretty straightforward Old European. Of course, we haven’t visited the sights of the city yet, so I imagine my perception will change.
Our tour guide greeted us when the bus pulled up. Her name was Emma and she appeared to be Scottish by birth, which she confirmed later in the evening, but she speaks perfect Italian and is cheerful and helpful. Which is a good thing because the bellmen promptly lost Leah’s carryon suitcase and took their sweet time finding it causing our 18-year-old daughter considerable angst and some tears later in the afternoon. Emma was very helpful in getting the process started to locate Leah’s things.
The hotel Cicerone was nice and pretty modern as European hotels go, and we received a quick orientation regarding the rest of the day before we were on our own.
Visting the Rome Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Since we had about four hours before the evening events began, we decided to get some lunch and take a taxi out to the Rome LDS Temple that had just been completed and dedicated in March of this year (2019). This temple’s dedication was particularly noteworthy out of all the church’s dedicated temples around the world because of the unusual step the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took in flying each member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and their wives to the dedication where they were all together for the first time in almost 20 years at a temple dedication..
I asked the reception desk to call us a cab and within minutes, one pulled up and took us through the maze of streets that is Rome. After 20 minutes of what felt like a very circuitous route, I was wondering if he was deliberately taking a long way around when suddenly, we came around a bend in the road, and there it was! The full temple compound in all its splendor was a welcoming sight. The fare was 20 Euro, which was a bit lower than I had anticipated, so I felt a little bad that I been suspicious of him.
We went immediately to the visitor’s center where we knew there would be missionaries to help answer any questions and show us around and take our picture together too. And we were right. A set of cute sister missionaries greeted us warmly and immediately showed us a remarkable stained glass installation depicting scenes from the Savior’s life and His parables. The image I’ve included below comes from the Deseret Book website. The entire wall behind the main room where the Christus statue stands with His original 12 Apostles is taken up with this remarkable installation. It shows many scenes from the Savior’s parables that have multiple meanings in each vignette. Created by the Holdman Studios in Lehi, Utah, the entire piece is as moving in its meaning as it is in its creative expression.
We then walked around to the other side and saw the twelve marble statues of the original Apostles and the magnificent Christus statue. Learn how these marble replicas of the originals that are located in Denmark came to be placed in the Rome Italy temple visitor’s center. It was a special experience to have been there.
While we continued our admiration of the beautiful statues, another set of sister missionaries greeted us and Leah asked her if she was called “Morgan” and after a pause, she said ‘yes.’ Leah then reminded her that they had gone to EFY (Especially for Youth, a summer camp of sorts for LDS youth) together a few years back and had been in the same group. It was a fun moment and a reminder that the world, and the church, are very small places indeed.
We walked out and around the temple grounds for a few more minutes before asking the reception sister to call us a cab so we could get back to our hotel. We would have stayed longer but the temperature was close to 100 degrees in Rome that day and we were pretty uncomfortable. The ride back cost me 35 Euro, which seemed odd, so maybe the second cabbie did take a long way.
Finding Leah’s Suitcase
As I mentioned earlier, Leah’s suitcase went missing after we turned our bags over to the hotel bellmen and only discovered we had a problem when we walked into our room and discovered that we had been provided someone else’s things. We first thought it had been switched with another travel guest in the room of the person whose suitcase we had, but that wasn’t the case.
I talked to Emma, our tour director, and she spoke with the hotel management. After a few hours of checking in all the obvious places, the bus staff finally visited every room until they found it. In the meantime, we three weren’t too happy about the prospect of Leah having to spend a week in Italy with only the clothes on her back and her makeup. To ease our minds, Amy suggested we kneel and pray that the Lord would bless all those involved to find the suitcase.
About that time, we had to meet our group of about 45 other people from all over the world, for an orientation drive around the city and have dinner. There were couples from Australia, Singapore, Canada, and all over the United States. Leah came with us even though I knew all she wanted to do was lay in bed and cry. But she showed remarkable courage and faith and came anyway. About 20 minutes into the bus ride, Emma came on the PA system and announced to all that Leah’s suitcase had been found. We all cheered and clapped and Leah smiled and shed a tear of gratitude. After the great suitcase caper, we all could just relax and enjoy the rest of the evening, which consisted of a brief bus tour around some of the sites, like the Palatine Hill, the site of Julius Cesar’s original ornate palace, and others we would see in subsequent days.
The evening ended with a lovely dinner in a place called “la Grotta Azzurra” or the Blue Grotto, which was an authentic Italian pizza restaurant. We enjoyed an antipasti plate with cold prosciutto, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers, which was delicious all by itself and then we were served the pizza. Oh, the pizza!
I didn’t know this, but when you have authentic Italian pizza, it comes as a thin, wood-fired oven crust with a variety of lovely toppings. We first enjoyed the traditional margarita (tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella cheese) that represents the colors of the Italian flag – red, green, and white. Then came three additional pizzas with different toppings but were also delicious. We then had a garden salad and a tiramisu cake for dessert.
After dinner, we took a walk down to Castle St. Angelo that was constructed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 138 AD. The city lights it at night which presents an imposing, yet inviting spectacle. We opted not to explore it and instead walked along the Tiber river and enjoyed the evening with the locals before returning to the hotel where we climbed into bed grateful for soft and comfortable accommodations after a long day, a night, and a day of getting settled in the Eternal City.
Tomorrow… Click The Vatican and the Colosseum. Buona notte.