Rome Visit 2018

See all the photos of our trip on my wife’s Flickr

Dad with Nathanael visiting Sisters of St. Bridget.

(St. Birgitta of Sweden is my patron saint. I’m the dad and Nathanael is our eldest son of three boys. Denise, DeeDee, is my wife. Our other two sons are Aaron and Micah.)


  1. DeeDee’s prayer room, praying for our pilgrimage to Rome. 2. Looking out the plane’s window at specks of light; apart from God’s love, what meaning could our lives possibly hold?  3. The first time Dee and I played Black Jack together; we waited in a Turkish airport for our connection; even after 33 years of marriage, we still have firsts! 4. Pizza in Rome is worth standing for–many restaurants there have no chairs; people in Rome don’t have trouble with their weight.






It seems that even the ruins of Rome put American architecture to shame. At least, while feeling awestruck by these wonders, I could listen to a live band playing “Hotel California”–WHAT have we done?





Most of our trip was pilgrimage (the rest of it was walking!). Ancient Rome took obelisks from Egypt. This one, in Saint Peter’s Square, was seen by Joseph, by the Jews while leaving Egypt, and by Peter and many other martyrs just before being executed. Now the Cross sits atop. After viewing this, we took the Scavy tour, to St. Peter’s tomb–just under the alter of St. Peter’s; I knelt in prayer there, viewing his bones. QUITE the “denominational headquarters.”





DeeDee and I in front of a church in Assisi. (Thanks to a Fransiscan Sister, Sue, for taking it.)


Our eldest son, Nathanael (right) with me behind him, having dinner with several of the fine seminarians from the D.C. diocese. My wife most often is the one behind the camera. The statue of St. Francis, and praying at his tomb, brought him out of the history books; his testimony still strongly influences the Church–the hippie religious don’t own him!


The Pantheon, formerly a house of demon worship, now a Church. How often this motif played out in Rome!





Sculptural and architectural wonders accent fine gelato ice cream. Lighting candles and praying for the living and the dead also soothes the soul.


Nathanael takes some of his classes here. It’s a block away from the air-B&B we stayed at.


Great places to take the first selfies we’ve ever done! (The Colosseum and The Forum). A Cross now stands where so many Christians became cat food–we’re still, by far, the most persecuted people in the world today. “To live is Christ, to die is gain,” I heard quoted tonight in the recent movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” just before they depicted his beheading.





Plenty of rain in March, but we enjoyed it–not too cold and fewer tourists than in spring or summer.





Attend this Augustine Church each week and all penance is covered! In all, Dee’s iPhone says we walked 90 flights of stairs during our 11 day trip. We walked about 9 miles per day. I really should have made better use of that gym membership for several months before this vacation! (Thanks to Grand Rapids Community College for allowing me a week off, beyond the normal semester break!)





  1. Scooters and motorcycles rule–my kind of town! 2. By our last day, touring the Borghese Gallery and grounds, with blisters on my feet, we were happy to pay for the children’s train ride! 3. On our last connection home, I fell asleep at the airport–no shame!





Mary is a mom who understands suffering for one’s child. We’re thankful for her intercession.





  1. When a pope commissions a well, contractors get to the bottom of it. 2. Catholicism never neglects Philosophy. 3. Nothing backward about Medieval streets in my book (and yes, cars drive on them).





Think of all the money Judas could have gone on to save for Christ’s Church, after pointing out wasted perfume spilled on Jesus!





Even the most ancient parishes evoke wonder and reverence.





My wife’s birthday, March 3, was a rainy one; she found the perfect purse in Assisi. With two umbrellas up while waiting outside one shop after the other, I stayed dry. I did get laughed at by passersby, though.






  1. We bought a special gift for Nathanael at this, our favorite shop in Assisi (top left). 2. In becoming Catholic four years ago, DeeDee and I did “cross the Tiber.” 6. The Queen of Sweden abdicated her throne in becoming Catholic (bottom, third in).





Travel Tips

– Many restrooms don’t have toilet seats or TP–best to have a roll on hand (or something else will be).
– We walked about 9 miles a day. Over our 11 days, we walked 90 flights of stairs! Best to have a couple good pair of shoes. One pair I brought was excellent for running on smooth dirt or astroturf trails–useless in Rome; wish I brought my comfortable hiking boots, instead. I should have made good use of those running shoes several months before our trip! I came home with blistered feet, feeling I wasn’t ready for even one more day of this marathon. Seriously, exercise well before leaving for Rome!
– Get a SIM card from the TIM store, for your cell phone. You’ll heavily rely on your phone for navigation. If you’re traveling with others who you’ll periodically be separated from in the city, you’ll all want a new SIM card.
– At the TIM store or elsewhere, buy plenty of bus passes. Don’t bother with getting a bus tour pass; we got one, mostly to be stuck in traffic and to hear info in Italian.
– Download the MyTaxi app. It enables one to book rides and to pay taxi fare by phone.
– Buy your train tickets in advance.
– Spend a couple months, anyway, learning a handful of common tourist Italian phrases and questions. Most Italians don’t speak English. (I put up banners everywhere, demanding that they post all their travel signs in English, but my campaign had little effect–bigots!)

– Our Air-B&B was only E70 per night. We had to book it a couple months in advance. It was nice but rather small and utilitarian–not for entertaining; we didn’t mind this, since we used it only for sleeping, showering, and a eating a light breakfast. Being right in the heart of the city was ideal for touring! If you do want to hang out with family and friends, but not always in a crowded restaurant, you’d rather book a suite with a living room and comfortable furniture.
– In Asissi we stayed at St. Anthony’s House. Couldn’t recommend it more highly.
“The Lantern” restaurant, in Assisi,  likely served the finest meal we’ve ever had, and for under $100!
– Order the house wine with meals, to save money and still enjoy decent wine.
– If you like cream with your coffee, you’ll get it only in the mornings. If you’re used to sipping a large coffee for an hour as you read the paper–forget it! You’ll likely be standing for your coffee. Italians aren’t fat like us! When you do find a coffee shop with seating, don’t expect the lounge chair you fall into at Biggby or Starbucks. And don’t bother asking for large or grande–you’ll hold your with two fingers.
– Tips, if left at all, amount only to remaining change.
– Currently, plan on losing about 25% of your dollar on the exchange rate.
– Have cash on hand, in Euros. Some places don’t accept credit.
– Keep your money, cards, and passport in an aluminum protected wallet, hanging from your neck. My waste-belt was hard to get at (maybe yours wouldn’t hide under roles). Do not leave valuables in your backpack, unless wearing it in front of you.
– Bring a couple two-prong adapters. Your phone and laptop likely convert to 220V automatically; not all hair appliances do, though (for one that doesn’t, you’ll need a converter for 110V to 220V).
– Many churches are closed from noon-4:00.
– Bring chap-stick for the long flight.
– Before buying food at airports, add up the tab!
– Save money on airfare, if you need to; we did. After adding up the time involved, though, you might rather spend more for a direct flight: arriving 3 hours early (allowing for cab error or getting lost) + 11 hour flight + 4 hour layover + 2 hour flight + 2 hours waiting on luggage and customs and airport limousine; this makes for one long day!
– With tight security, you’ll feel safe walking all around Rome, day or night–just don’t tick off one of these guys! (How long until AntiFa necessitates this in America?)
– Sitting next to a fellow more heavy-set than myself, hardly able to move for the entire flight, I envied those sprawled out in business class. (This isn’t fair–the rich owe me–spread the room around or I’ll scream and yell on the plane next time!)
– March was a fine month for our pilgrimage: 40-60F degree days, half of them rainy, fewer tourists. I’d hate doing all the outside walking we did in crowded streets at 90F degrees.
– Don’t pollute your trip with toxic media and fake news! Unplug and turn to the great cloud of witnesses you’ll be surrounded by. Pray a decade of the Rosary in one cathedral after the other and come back dangerous!
– Buy any tour tickets months ahead.
– Apply for an international credit card and use it long before your trip, for it to earn you money from your purchases.
– Purchase traveler’s insurance. It’s practically essential for receiving medical care while abroad.
– Don’t even make eye contact with street vendors–they’re good! (I got two leather belts for the price of four.)
– Do not use the bidet as a urinal!
Rick Steve’s Pocket Rome was especially helpful in planning, telling one, for example, when various attractions are closed.