April 13th, 2014

Yesterday was a magical day. It would be easy to say it was because we saw some incredible things. We saw the Coliseum, the Roman Forums, Circus Maximus, and the Pantheon in a single day, but that wasn’t even what began to make this day so special. It was a collection of small moments of awe filled wonder that took my breath away with their sheer magnitude, even though the moments themselves were fleeting and gone in a blink of an eye. It was the very thing that ruined many peoples’ day that for me was the source of true majestic wonder. That thing, the ruiner of a tourist’s day, but the maker of epic grandeur that can even surpass the majesty of epic timeless wonders of history, was the weather.

Yesterday I survived my first Italian storm. Twice in one day, the storm created an evanescent moment of beauty that took my breath away.

Two of my roommates and I voyaged far from our home in Prati yesterday to go to Circus Maximus where we went on a guided tour of Ancient Rome, graciously led by one of the professors at my new university, Professor Corrado. It was sprinkling the whole hour walk over there, and when the tour began the real storm rolled in behind us. The sky darkened and the wind blew clouds past us so quickly it was almost frightening. Then as we were hearing about the old chariot track that Circus Maximus used to be, the torrential downpour began out of nowhere. We all quickly continued walking, huddling under umbrellas attempting in vain to stay dry as it began to rain even harder. The walk between Circus Maximus and the Coliseum was a crazed rush of pounding rain and lightning. Lightning struck right near us and thundered deeply in addition to the rain as we hurried to the Coliseum. Many people abandoned ship and left the tour for drier and warm places, but we decided to hang in there and continue despite the storm. Many tourists had left the area because of the storm, but we stayed and listened to a talk about the Coliseum in a brief hiatus of rain.

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We moved all around the ancient ruins, seeing one amazing monument or historical artifact after another that truly was impressive. But the moment that left me breathless came once the tour had finished, and we left behind the crowds for our walk home. Every day to get to class we not only pass the Vatican, we also must cross the Tiber River via a beautiful bridge that overlooks a grand castle. I say this casually, but the walk to and from school everyday is always a staggering event filled with amazing sights at every corner.

This day however, was a different day, this was the day of a storm. Just as we reached the bridge the storm broke for just a second overhead and sun shone through in the rain, creating a double rainbow perfectly arching from the river over the castle. With rain still falling and rippling the water of the great Tiber River below, but the sun shining brightly on the bridge and the castle beyond, it was astonishing. My housemate and I stopped in our tracks and just stared at it, not sure whether to take pictures or just bask in its beauty. We opted for photos so that we could prove that it had indeed happened since it was so magical.

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I felt like crying it was so beautiful, so perfect, so pristine and even though it was fleeting and gone in a matter of a few short minutes, it was a moment I will never forget. Pictures cannot capture the actual bewildering beauty of the moment and just how special it felt, but they will have to make due.

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The rainbows cut the sky in half, dividing into light and dark, the sky darkened with storm clouds, but the first rainbow seemed to cradle the castle below its multi-colored wing, covering it from the storm and casting light across it. Everything stood still in that moment, even the traffic had stopped because people had started stopping in the middle of the road to get out of their cars to take pictures of the beautiful scene.

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But just like that, it was gone. Faded back into darkness, a moment of color and light swallowed back up into the very storm that allowed it to exist.

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We continued on, shell shocked by how unbelievable the moment had been. We made our way to the Vatican after that because we had decided to attend 5:30 Holy Mass. Needless to say the Vatican was incredible, the marble exquisite and incredibly grand.

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The service was very interesting because it was all in Italian and I actually managed to understand most of it.

Ecco, l’agnello di Dio.

At the end of the service, it was again the storm that was the added detail of the day that struck my heart. The bolts of lightning that flashed outside illuminated the windows of the Vatican from the inside and the thundering claps that followed them shuddered the Vatican. As we left after the service a bolt of lightning fractured and split like the branches of a tree across the sky of Saint Peter’s Square followed by a huge clap of thunder.

Umiltà

Humility; the subject of the sermon at the Vatican and subject of my day. I stood on the marbled steps of the Vatican, having just exited St. Peter’s Basilica and looked up at a sky lit up by electric fire. Nothing makes you feel small, humbled, and profound quite like lightning. Standing in a torrential downpour on the steps of the Vatican with our faces turned skyward beholding the natural wonders of a storm touching ground before a temple of God. Humble to my core. Being humbled by my experience in Italy, this amazing blessing I have been afforded. Being humbled by the amazing moments that I was lucky enough to have witnessed and been able to appreciate. Those precious fleeting moments that show the true Italy with the veil pulled back from its beautiful natural face even if it be the fierce face of a storm or the colors of a rainbow doubled in a dark sky. Bit by bit, I am beginning to know the face of Roma. Bella Roma, beheld in the eyes of a storm.

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