Rome 2023: Friday, April 7

Aventine Keyhole

Aventine keyhole

Today we started at the Aventine keyhole. I know it sounds like a strange destination. I too was baffled as to why this was an important site to see, but heard several who had been previously comment on the value of the experience. While waiting to go in and go up to the keyhole, which is literally just a tiny hole in a big wall, we enjoyed listening to a busker playing guitar and singing out front.

The key hole was worth the hype. When you look through the hole, you can see the Basilica of Saint peter‘s framed by a pathway of trees. It appears quite close, certainly not more than a mile. In fact, it is an optical illusion created by the walkway and trees. It would be quite a long walk to travel from the keyhole to Saint peter’s and apparently the Basilica appears to get smaller the closer you get to it.

Cuba connection

Earlier, the busker had played Quizás, Quizása song I am familiar with from Cuba. When I thanked him later, he said, “If you like, I’ll play it again“. When he played it again, I danced to the music thinking fondly of my Cuban friends and longing for their freedom from the oppressive embargo the US has strangled them with for so very long.

Basilica of Santa Sabina

We left the Aventine Keyhole, walked just a few steps, and arrived at the Basilica of Santa Sabina. This exquisite ancient beauty was built in the mid 400s and is one of the oldest churches in Rome. It reminded me a lot of the Church of the Nativity in Jerusalem with its simple eloquence. The church has a full set of identical ancient columns and mammoth wooden doors that are at least 1800 years old. Did you get that? Carved WOODEN doors in pristine condition from the year 400-something! Unbelievable!

While we were visiting Santa Sabina, Dawn reached into her backpack and produced tracing paper and graphite crayons. She then invited her students to create rubbings from the wall engravings, creating English or Latin words from the letters there. The kids jumped on it and were so creative using their Latin in this fun way.

A great view and the best mealGreat view near Santa SabinaGreat view near Santa Sabina

We left there and stopped by an overlook that offered what our guide called one of the best and most underrated views of the city. The students enjoyed capturing great photos of themselves and the city there.

Lunch with some free time was next. Dawn, Heather, and I peeled off from Mike and Mitch and stopped at a random place that happened to be along the way. The restaurant boasted of homemade pasta; and in fact, through the window, we saw one of the chefs as she was twirling the pasta.

If I ever needed evidence that homemade pasta is better than the boxed supermarket brand, I certainly got the proof at that restaurant. I had ravioli. stuffed with ricotta and sage, and tossed in a butter and Parmesan sauce. All three of us got different things, so we could sample the variety. We agreed that the ravioli was the best. It was a delicious and restorative lunch.

A quick detour

When we finished our meal, Dawn said she had something to show us. On the way, we walked through an alleyway where I was treated to a sweet blast-from-the-past memory. A family of five walked together: parents, a baby in a stroller, and two older siblings. Bringing to mind how my older kids fussed over their little sister, the older siblings stood on either side of the stroller, each one holding one of the baby’s hands. It is both precious and poignant when the past blasts into the present, isn’t it?

Dawn’s destination for us? Rome’s installation of the homeless Jesus. The figure lies shrouded on a park bench, head covered and knees drawn up with only his pierced feet indicating who he is. Tourists rush by. Some with turn their backs, most do not even notice the sleeping form.

The experience reminded me of when we were in the train station going to and from Florence. Homeless people were encamped, tucked in crevices and backed up against sources of heat. They seem to be part of the decor rather than people who mattered. It gives me pause: I wonder if we in each other the face of Christ, would make a difference?

I fear it would not, as I myself have walked by those asking for change, breaking into lines of tourists, begging for spare change. Not knowing the language, not having the proper coinage, or any coinage at all, I have failed to share with him. Or maybe, I’ve failed actually to see them.

The day is not yet done, but this post is plenty long enough! More tomorrow!

By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.