Rome through my eyes

KEELETSANG DIPHEKO
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Rome through my eyes BOTSWANA GUARDIAN

I never once imagined that I would visit Italy in my lifetime but when I heard about the trip from my church, I instantly knew in my heart that I would go too. 

After a lot of planning and excitement, the day finally arrived. As Robert Neelly Bellah once said, leaving home involves a kind of second birth in which we give birth to ourselves. I left Botswana on Monday the 29th of May from Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKI) to OR Tambo Airport in South Africa, and then connected to Abu Dhabi Airport and finally Fiumicino airport in Italy. Looking at all these airports, I noticed that we still have a long way to go in terms of development because the other airports were world-class and impressive. 

It was my first time to be in a flight that can take more than 500 people. Check in was slow, with only two desks open for economy passengers, a long queue ensuing. Surprisingly, when it was my turn to check in, they opened the desk for business class and I was the first person to check in at business class. I felt very important and was hopeful that good things shall follow me. The flight was excellent, on time and the seat comfortable. I was given an amenity kit with earplugs, headphones, socks and a toothbrush. There was an Excellent IFE selection - I passed the time watching the documentary on Becoming Warren Buffet, a fascinating documentary traces that the remarkable life, career and credo of Warren Buffet. BBC news reporting on the selection with large high quality screens. However, as a Christian I would have appreciated Christian movies and gospel music but I was disappointed to find none. The two special meals supplied, the rice with vegetable curries were tasty. 

We arrived in Abu Dhabi at around 5am in the morning and were welcomed by another huge and busy airport. When we left Abu Dhabi airport to Rome, I was surprised when I saw flights leaving the airports after every three minutes, about five left before us and we were the sixth to leave. From Abu Dhabi we went to our final destination the international airport in Fiumicino, Italy. It was an amazing experience to see huge and busy airports with a lot of people travelling to different parts of the world. And there I was among them, in the Vatican City, Italy. 

When we finally landed at the airport there were thousands of arrivals and departures from the airport, a huge airport with trains that transport people for about 20 km from the flights to the offices and back. I completely fell in love with the place. We arrived on Tuesday around lunch hour and headed to the hotel Cristoforo Colombo where we spent the rest of the day resting.

The first meal I had in Rome at the hotel was pasta with vegetables. In Italy food is served in small portions; the starter, starch is eaten alone, then the meat and the vegetable separately. On the first day I was irritated because I couldn’t understand why the food could not come at once. I noticed that a of lot people in Italy are slimmer, and I gathered it is because they eat healthy and in smaller portions. 

We could not understand each other with the management because of the language barrier. Most people in Italy speak Italian and French. It is difficult to find someone who speaks English except for the tour guides and other tourist attraction places. 

The following day was Wednesday and the program was to go for the Papal audience at St Peter Square. Papal audiences are held on Wednesdays if Pope is in Rome, giving pilgrims and visitors the chance to see the Pope and receive the Papal Blessing. There were representatives from 128 nations who came for the Catholic Charismatic 50th Anniversary. There were 120 delegates from Botswana. 

The audience with the Pope consists of small teachings and readings mainly in Italian but also in English. The Papal Audience is scheduled to start at 10.00 am but most people will arrive early to get a good seat. 

At the end of the Prayer as Head of the Catholic Church he will impart his Apostolic Blessing upon the crowd which also extends to loved ones that are sick and suffering and blesses any religious materials that people have brought with them for the purpose of the blessing. People who come for this general audience will be joyful, singing, praising God and at the same time cheering the Pope. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Pope Francis with my eyes, I have always seen Popes on television and newspapers, and being at the Vatican City was like a dream. The situation forced me to buy a selfie stick, because I got tired of asking people to take me pictures. 

As we all know, Rome was not build in a day so you can imagine the difficulty of trying to see the whole city at once. However, we packed the best of Rome and the Vatican into a week and attended other activities of the golden jubilee. By attending golden jubilee workshops I discovered that travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. 

There were a variety of shops with quality material clothes. Shopping started from the Vatican City where there are lot of shops selling clothes, church materials and souvenirs. In Italy most of the material is pure leather at reasonable prices. We enjoyed the shopping because of variety, and I learned my lesson that when you travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. 

The one thing that I appreciated the most was the architecture. The buildings in the city are breathtaking; tall, ancient buildings are found side by side with modern structures. The country definitely has a very broad and diverse architectural style. According to reports, Italian architecture has also widely influenced the architecture of the world. Another historic place we visited was a city called Assisi, which is known as the birthplace of Francis, Italy’s patron saint. Assisi, nestled in hills, is where religious pilgrims visit the place to see the Basilica of San Francesco where St. Francis is buried and the Basilica of Santa Chiara to see the tomb of St. Clare. Others visit  the Eremo delle Carceri to see caves where medieval hermits spent time to retreat from the world.

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