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Siena, today! We took a day trip to Siena, the town affiliated with St. Catherine of Siena, a very special saint who dedicated her life to Christ and His Church as a nun and received the grace of the stigmata. As we mentioned in a previous post, her body is in Rome, but her head is kept in Siena.The Church where St. Catherine’s head is kept, Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico, is very old and beautiful.

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Siena itself reminded us a little of Assisi; it’s a very cute town with lots of shops, coffee bars, and gelato. We went to get some gelato at La Costarella. It was really good, Kathleen’s favorite, although Ivana still left her heart at Old Bridge.

After our lovely snack, we went over to another cathedral, Duomo di Siena. We had to get a ticket to enter, although they were free, which was nice. The beauty of the cathedral did not disappoint! One might think that we would have become accustomed by now to so much beautiful architecture out here in Europe, but it never really gets old, and each church has it’s own individuality majesty of offer.

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Because of the rain, our stay in Siena was rather short, but still memorable!
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Ciao,
❤ i&k

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Yesterday, we went to the church of St. Paul Outside the Walls. This church is called “outside the walls” because it is outside the city near where Paul was executed, this was because no executions took place inside the city of the living. It is also the 4th papal church and is where St. Paul’s tomb is currently kept! Along the inside walls of the church, at the top, are pictures of all the popes, the spotlight being on Pope Francis, since he is the current pope. We also discovered, on our way out, that the pope had decreed that pilgrims who come to visit this church are blessed with a plenary indulgence, provided of course, that all the criteria for a plenary indulgence are met in addition to visiting the church. We definitely ceased this opportunity! What a magnificent church it is!
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Today, we went to a general audience with Pope Francis!!! WHAT!!?! Words cannot express the utter joy and peace we felt! We got an early start, the audience was at 10:00 am, we were told by the Swiss guard to get to the square by 8 a.m. So, what did we do? We left at about 6 am, naturally. We wanted to be sure we would get good seats, to be as close to Pope Francis as possible. We were a little frightened by the stories we had heard of people being super pushy, and seeming like they had elbows made of knives when it came to being close to the pope!

After waiting in line for a good while, we were allowed into St. Peter’s Square, we hurried to find some seats. The seats we got were perfect! We were right up against the isle the Holy Father was to pass through! We literally could not have gotten better seats.

During our two hour wait, we met an older couple from Spain. It was so much fun to talk with them (in Spanish) and tell them that we too would be traveling to Spain soon! Making friends in Europe is so much fun, we’ve been meeting the coolest people!

Finally, it was time! The crowd pushed in. People were getting stepped on. Two young American girls right behind us apologized in advance for possibly falling on top of us. They were standing in front of a few nuns who are the pushiest of all when it comes to seeing the pope. We tried to make room for them to squeeze in with us so they would be close also.
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It’s difficult to explain what we felt when Pope Francis drove by. We were right close to him! We couldn’t quite lean over to touch him, but we were close! We could feel his saintly presence and we were bursting with joy!

After he drove by and went up to the front, a passage from the bible was read in many different languages, then Pope Francis gave his address, which was also summarized in various languages, and then his papal blessing, which extended to us, the holy objects we had with us, and our families back at home. ❤

After the audience, we got some pasta for lunch and then, from the recommendations of our friends Nik and Reggie, went to Old Bridge for gelato! This gelato was absolutely amazing, gelato in general is really good, but wow – this was so good! Kathleen got a cone with pistachio & ricotta, blueberry, and yogurt & sweet candy. Ivana got a cup with pistachio & ricotta, chocolate with hazelnut (it had actually hazelnuts in it), and caramel. Yum!
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Ciao!

❤ i&k

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One word to describe our long trip to Rome: horrible, rainy, alone.
I realize this was actually three words but after the last two days they are all kind of blurring together and look like one…. So cut us some slack per favore.

We had realized when planning our agenda that this part of the trip would be the hardest going from Lourdes to Milan and then to Rome the very next night – it was going to be brutal. And it was. Our trip from Lourdes to Milan took all day. We had to travel back to Paris, catch a train in a completely different station across town and then travel seven hours to Italy. Things were going very smoothly, we made our connection and were on our way to Milan. However, as soon as we crossed the border the train stopped because of some sort of accident…we didn’t know where that accident was, but sat back to wait patiently… And then not so patiently for the next two hours. We still had three hours left of our journey and no way to communicate with anyone else; we felt pretty helpless and alone. We couldn’t really even understand the announcements that the conductor was making.

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We don’t really have very many happy pictures from this part of the trip, mostly just ones of us looking tired and sad…. But here is a cute picture of Ivana with her first ever snowman from Lourdes. 😉

We finally made it into Milan. We walked to our hostel with the help of Google Maps, we had saved the directions while we were still in Lourdes. We collapsed on our hostel beds and fell asleep.

The next day, we checked out by eleven and set out to wander the streets with all of our luggage. The first thing we did was go and buy our tickets to Rome for that night’s red eye, something that we had yet to do, and then we went to find breakfast. We stopped at a cute little cafe called The California Bakery, this place was amazing. We both got a chocolate coffee drink and a bagel with prosciutto on it.
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We sat here for as long as we could, not wanting to venture back out into the cold. Finally, we left and went to find a grocery store. Without internet, we were amazed that we ski ally stumbled upon a market and picked up some cheese, bread and meat for the day.

By the time 5 o’clock rolled around, we were tired and sore, and in desperate need of wifi so that Kathleen could call her bank. We finally went to a restaurant/bar and sat for a good while. Both of us called our parents. Heartbroken after such a difficult day, we each found ourselves holding back tears as our moms encouraged us to push forward.

After leaving the restaurant, we went to withdraw some cash from a bankomat. It was then that we discovered that Ivana’s credit card was missing! We went back to the train station to search her bags, and just as we were leaving, we stopped into the cafe that Ivana had bought water at earlier in the day to ask if they had seen her card. We knew the chance of them having it would be quite slim and Ivana was completely prepared to call her family right away and inform them of the tragedy. However, miraculously, the man behind the counter came to her aid and brought forth the little blue card! She had forgotten it when she had paid! It was the most beautiful sight she had seen all day! Needless to say we were both a bit frazzled, but this discovery raised our spirits quite a bit.

Because our train didn’t leave until 11 that night, we went to find a bench and eat some dinner. The ricotta was particularly delicious, smooth and creamy; it was lovely to dip our bread into it.

We met some fellow Americans who were also going to Rome on the same train as we were. We talked to them while we waited for our train. When it was finally time to board, we found our compartment and settled down to sleep. Luckily our seats kind of reclined and we were able to get a little more comfortable than we would have, had we been sitting upright. We woke up just as our train was pulling into the station. We followed our map to where our hostel was, and while we waited for our check-in time, we had some Indian beef curry for breakfast. So yummy and perfect after a long stressful night of travel.

We arrived at our hostel feeling slightly worse for wear, but grateful to finally have a place to put our luggage and a bed to stretch out on.
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We took a nap and then went to get some gelato. Ivana got limone and Kathleen got Strachiatella. A sweet end to a rocky few days of travel.
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Ciao!

❤ i&k