I did not realize at first that there are actually several Level 2 classes and books at the school. Another student pointed out the sequence of letters and numbers under the words “Livello 2” on our books. So we’ve been working in Book A2/N3. Today, the teacher moved us into a new book, A2/N4. We hadn’t finished the last lesson in the previous book, and then she jumped us into lesson 3 in this next book! Yikes, we’re moving fast.
After class, I decided to visit a gelato place recommended by a friend of mine from back home. Along the way, I decided to see if a couple churches were open.
First up was Santa Maria dell’Anime. That’s right, another Mary church! This one, however, is the official German church in Rome.
According to my guide book, it was supposed to be closed, but the door was still open, and a family walked in, so I just followed them. It was a beautiful church. Not as huge as some of the others in Rome, but still very pretty. Standing in front of the altar, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. I’m not sure if it was just the appearance of the church (there are so many pretty ones in Rome!) or if it was the beauty of realizing once again the universality of the Catholic faith. Here I was standing in Rome in a German church. Recalling my high school German, I offered up an Our Father “auf Deutsch,” stumbling only a little over the words at the end. I’m sure Frau Meyer would’ve been proud nonetheless.
It occurred to me that I was having one of those encounters with God that I read about last night in Father James Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. Fr. Martin talks about how God meets us where we are, in ways that we know how to encounter him. I guess since I’m a lover of languages, God met me there, in a church where I could’ve walked up to the guy at the entrance and spoken to him in three different languages (German, Italian, and English), and he probably would’ve understood all of them. And even if he didn’t understand me, we would still have the universal language of our faith to bind us.
Unfortunately, I could not stay long as they really were closing up for the afternoon. As the guy was ushering me out, I wanted to take a quick photo first. Which language to use to ask for permission?
German? Darf ich einen Foto nehmen?
Italian? Posso fare una foto?
English? May I take a photo?
When I turned to the guy, Italian came out naturally. He nodded his assent, and I snapped a quick photo before heading back out into the Italian sunshine, marveling yet again at the blessings I’ve received on this trip.
The second attempt to visit a church was not as successful. San Luigi dei Francesi (the French church in Rome) was already closed for their lunch break. Again, I marveled at the universality of our faith. A French church just steps from the German one. And again, I had to laugh at how God meets us where we are. Of course, he didn’t keep the French church open for me–I don’t speak French! But he did keep the German church open for me!
Finally, it was time to find “una geletaria” recommended by my friend. It wasn’t far from the churches but nestled into some narrow streets in Rome. I worried a bit about finding it, but it has its name in giant letters out front: GIOLITTI.
The place was busy, so I watched the operation for a bit and mused over the many flavors. You had to pay for your ice cream first at the cashier, then take your receipt to the gelato counter. For 2.50 Euro, you get a “small,” which actually includes two flavors of ice cream and whipped cream on top. The guy behind the counter gave a lot of instructions for people in basic English. They were not getting the idea of picking two flavors, and he was getting annoyed.
When my turn came, I had my order choice all ready.
Me: Limoncello e melone. (Limoncello and melon)
Gelato Guy: Perfetto. (Perfect!)
I’m not sure if he was complimenting my Italian pronunciation, my choice of flavors, or simply the fact that I understood I was to get two flavors. Either way, I was pleased when he asked me in Italian if I wanted whipped cream on top instead of just asking in English like he did for everyone else. I, of course, responded, “Si!”
I took my cone outside and stood near a shop window looking at some expensive Italian shoes while licking my gelato. I smiled when I caught my reflection in the window. I had inadvertantly been channeling Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. There I was with my hair pulled up in a bun, giant sunglasses on my face, an ice cream cone in my hand, and looking wistfully in the window of an expensive shop. All I needed was a black dress and some fake pearls! And of course, someone to snap my photo to capture the moment.
As I headed back to the apartment, I crossed over Ponte Sant’Angelo while a film crew was shooting a scene on the bridge. I may have ended up as an extra in that scene, so I guess today was really my movie star day!
After some rosary shopping and grocery shopping (and yay for me, I figured out how to get the sticker to put on the fruit this time!), I headed home for a short rest and to recharge the phone.
At 5:00 P.M. I headed back to school to meet my new Polish friend Ela for a special pronunciation class. (Side note: Why is it I make Polish friends when I visit Rome?) After class, Ela showed me her favorite gelato spot near the school and then we wandered for a bit until we found a nice place for dinner. It was your typical cute Italian restaurant with outdoor seating right along the street, perfect for people watching. After we sat down, I looked across the street and realized we had picked the restaurant across the street from the German church I had visited that afternoon! God seems insistent of reminding me of His presence on this trip.
In typical Roman style, Ela and I chatted for a few hours after dinner, and the waiter let us sit there. We had to ask for the bill, which is totally typical in Rome. Once you have a table, it’s rather assumed that it’s yours for the night.
On my walk home, I passed St. Peter’s again. It really is quite magnificent at night.