From May 8-17 2016, I led a group of 21 people from St. Dominic parish in Cincinnati to Rome. We stayed seven nights and visited many of the important Christian sites in Rome including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel, and the Catacomb of St. Sebastian. We also attended a papal audience where Pope Francis stopped right in front of, and blessed, two people from our group. We also visited the Colosseum and Pantheon, and took a day-trip to Assisi where we walked in the footsteps of St. Francis. The highlight of the trip was a private mass we had with Fr. Chris Lack (from St. Dominic) in the Polish Chapel in the grottoes of St. Peter’s Basilica. Following the mass, the entire group climbed the dome of St. Peter’s.
Another memorable highlight was the day-trip that nine of us took to Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius. We took an early train from Rome to Naples, but when we got to Naples the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii was closed due to a strike so all 9 of us piled into a van that drove us the 20 minutes to Pompeii. After visiting the excavations we then had the bumpiest ride you can imagine up to the top of Mt. Vesuvius. It is a ride that none of us will soon forget.
The St. Dominic group also gets the award for the best post-trip reunion. Often on the day we return to the US the group members will say, “We should have a post-trip get together” – but it hardly ever happens. Kudos to Rick and Debbie for planning the reunion at their house. We all had a great time and some of us didn’t leave until after midnight.
Here’s a quick look at our itinerary:
Sunday, May 8
Depart Cincinnati, fly overnight to Rome
Monday, May 9
-Arrive in Rome
-Walk to Termini station and learn the group meeting point and the location of the supermarket, ATM machines, and public bathrooms.
-Introductory visit to Vatican City/St. Peter’s Basilica (1st of the four primary basilicas of Rome)
-Dinner at Pastarito Pizzarito – my favorite restaurant in Rome (good food, big portions, excellent prices)
Tuesday, May 10
-Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (2nd of the four primary basilicas of Rome)
–Basilica of St. John Lateran (3rd of the four primary basilicas of Rome) and the Scala Santa (Holy Stairs)
-Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem) – see the relics of Christ’s crucifixion
-Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, (see the Carravaggios)
-Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, and the Gesu Church
-Trevi Fountain area (with gelato at Valentino’s)
Wednesday, May 11
-Papal audience, and a blessing from Pope Francis!
-Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (4th of the four primary basilicas of Rome)
-Circus Maximus, Colosseum, and Forum
Thursday, May 12
-Mass with Fr. Chris in the grottoes of St. Peter’s Basilica
-Climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
-Free time at St. Peter’s Basilica
-Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel
Friday, May 13
-Catacomb of Saint Sebastian
Free time options:
-Borghese Gallery (Rome)
-Capitoline Museum (Rome)
-Half-day trip Ostia Antica (ancient Roman city, similar to Pompeii), or to the lido (beach)
-Day trip to Hadrian’s Villa
Saturday, May 14
Day trip to Assisi
-Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli – Porziuncola (St. Francis’ chapel) as well as the site of St. Francis’ death
-Basilica of St Francis (San Francesco) – St. Francis’ tomb
-Basilica of St Claire (Santa Chiara) – Cross of San Damiano that told St. Francis to “rebuild my church”
Sunday: May 15
-Mass at the Church of Santa Susanna (American Church in Rome)
-Sculpture St Teresa in Ecstasy at the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria.
-Explore Trastevere neighborhood
Monday, May 16
Day-trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
Tuesday, May 17
Return to Cincinnati