May 31, 2023
  • Napoleone

With the group now settled into the rhythm of The Rome Experience, Zachary Jarrell recounts some Week 1 Highlights:

1. Trattoria Napoleone
Travel “day” was a really long day. We hit the road from Cincinnati to Chicago at 8:30 AM Monday morning (American time). We did not arrive at our hotel in Florence until around 4:00 PM Tuesday evening (Italian time). So, imagine my delight, after an exhausting amount of travel, when we walked into a restaurant right next to our hotel, and the food just kept coming! After the bread and soup to begin the meal, our waitress brought out a pasta dish. I thought this was the end, but pasta is just another appetizer here. Then came the main entrée of beef, followed by one of the most unique (and delicious) takes on apple pie I’ve ever seen. All accompanied by a glass of wine and finished off with espresso. We ate there four times before leaving Florence.

2. Il Duomo Santa Maria di Fiore
It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to see this cathedral. I learned of this massive brick dome many years ago, a true engineering marvel. The aerial view we received flying over the city showed how dominating this church was. The dome is the tallest point in the city. While other churches in the area are large, nothing quite matches Italy’s largest church. The baptistery (a separate building) alone could enclose many American churches. While there was plenty of scandal and corruption when this church was built, it was still a time when the world gave its best to the Church, allowing the stones themselves to witness God’s glory.

3. Christina Mifsud
Our tour guide in Florence was fantastic. Christina is incredibly knowledgeable and made the 15th Century streets of Florence come alive. You could almost see the Grand Duke Medici walking through his specially made thoroughfares, the Franciscans discussing in their chapter house at Santa Croce, or men stumbling out of a back-alley pub late at night and looking up at a statue of Mary to remind them to mind their words. Her commentary was both scholarly and informed from the perspective of faith. It is popular these days to negate the aspect of religion from many of the significant figures of the Renaissance, but nothing could be further from the truth. Christina helped us to see that.

4. Luca Signorelli’s “Last Judgement”
Years ago, I saw a famous depiction of the anti-Christ, a figure rarely seen in Christian art. Then on Friday, upon entering a side chapel of the magnificent cathedral in Orvieto, I saw this anti-Christ on the wall! I was blown away and quickly asked my friend to take a picture (I had forgotten my camera on the bus). Seeing this painting in context was breathtaking! It depicts a man who looks much like Jesus, yet with a clearly demonic figure whispering in his ear and operating his hands like a puppet. It is a scary sight, especially when you see how effective his preaching is. This painting, located in a chapel directly opposite a corporal stained with the Blood of Christ, serves as a reminder to stay vigilant against the wiles of the Devil, who uses any method possible to draw men and women from the God who loves them.

5. The Fraternity
Seminarians sign up for this trip for many reasons, be it a chance to see Rome, a love of travel, or being asked to by their vocations director. I doubt anyone signs up because they want to spend a summer with 20 random guys they’ve never met and probably wouldn’t ever meet otherwise. But the fraternity is real! You bond quickly when you show up at an airport dressed in clerics with everyone else staring at you. Whether going together on a random adventure in the city, praying Liturgy of the Hours together, or grabbing some gelato late at night, it’s cool to see these men turn into brothers, all united by our shared goal of serving God’s people as holy priests.

Zachary Jarrell
Archdiocese of Cincinnati