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Showing posts with label church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label church. Show all posts

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Naples - St. Gennaro Festival, San Gregorio Armano and Shopping Galore

When we were in Rome, we heard that we should be very careful when visiting Naples (the next stop on our destination) because it had a reputation for being dangerous.  We were even told we probably wouldn't like it there.  In actuality, Naples ended up being one of our favorite stops on the trip.

We stayed at a hotel called Hotel Maison Degas in the historic district of Naples.  First, the location is ideal as you are walking distance from many of the sites and shopping areas there.  Second, the owners of the hotel - Francesco and Emmaneula - are absolutely wonderful.  They were very friendly and accommodating to us during our stay.  We felt as though we were visiting with friends when we stayed at their establishment.  I highly recommend them if you ever visit Naples.  You will not be disappointed.

The view of the piazza from our hotel room - Hotel Maison Degas.

Naples has some wonderful shopping.  There are lots of little winding streets filled with shops and vendors; more than you can possibly visit in a short stay.  There are also several street vendors selling their wares.  You can bargain with the vendors and walk away with some great deals. 

Anthony and Brianna checking out produce in Naples.

A butcher shop in Naples.  Yum!

One of my favorite places to shop in Naples is on San Gregorio Armeno.  There are hundreds of shops on this little street.  This neighborhood is known for their nativity sets (known as "presepe" in Italian.)  There are many variations of handmade presepes here, in many different sizes.  This is also a good location to find handmade Italian souvenirs. For doll makers, there is a shop that sells various clay and ceramic body parts if you want to make your own creations. During my visit to this area, I watched a shop owner meticulously paint nativity figures.  I also found some gorgeous mini Virgin Mary statues which I purchased and will eventually use in 3-D jewelry creations. 

The shops on San Gregorio Armeno are packed to the gills with goodies for purchase.

Hand painting nativity sets - one by one.
Doll making parts are available by the thousands.

One of the biggest celebrations in Naples occurs on San Gennaro's feast day.  San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples.  Most of the shops and businesses are closed that day; most of the city participates in the all-day celebration.  Thousands of people crowd into the Duomo Naples Cathedral to watch for the liquefaction of the saint's blood - a tradition which dates back to the 1300's.  From there, the crowds filter into the church to view the vial of blood and light candles while praying for the saint's intercession.  I was thrilled to be able to participate in this celebration.  It was quite beautiful and awe-inspiring to see so many people come together in peace and reverence.

The faithful line up to see San Gennaro's relic.

A side view in the Duomo of San Gennaro.

The faithful light candles asking for the saint's intercession.

Naples is known for it's delicious food and handmade, brick oven baked pizza.  I have to tell you - we ate pizza many times during our stay here.  It was fantastic.  Of course, it didn't hurt that a pizza establishment was located right across the street from our hotel. :)  In addition, there is some wonderful street food that is too good to pass up.  We had some tasty potato croquettes and arancini (fried rice and meat balls) made by Pizzeria Giuliano.  They were out of this world!  Last, but certainly not least, we also indulged in some handmade pastries that you really can find only in Italy.

Handmade brick-oven baked pizza!

Delicious pastries.

In my opinion - Naples is a "must see" kind of place.  I look forward to visiting again in the (hopefully) near future.  Next - a final highlight of the last stops on our trip and then back to the arts and crafts where this blog is concerned. :)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mugnano del Cardinale, Italy - The Shrine of St. Philomena

One of my favorite places we visited in Italy was the International Shrine of St. Philomena in Mugnano del Cardinale, Italy.  Mugnano is a tiny town located about 30 minutes outside of Naples.  We had quite a difficult time finding it, but it was well worth it.

This little town boasts a population of 4900 people.  It is very quaint and charming.  I had the chance to speak with several locals during my visit.  They were quite friendly and welcoming.  Crime is extremely rare in this area.  People leave their doors unlocked and kids can play outside without fear of being harmed.  It's that kind of place.  When we first arrived, it was on a Sunday, so many places in town were closed.  Several men from the area played card games outside of the community center located near the Shrine.  I enjoyed listening to their lively (Italian) conversation and watching their animated gestures and facial expressions.  Although I don't understand much Italian, I had a good idea of what was happening during their game.  They were quite entertaining.  I had a chance to wander around town before Mass and dinner and enjoyed finding my way around the little winding roads that make up this little town.

The Shrine itself is quite beautiful.  St. Philomena's remains are housed here; they were discovered in the catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome in 1802, and moved here by in 1805 by an Italian priest.  Many miracles have been attributed to St. Philomena, who is known as the "saint of the impossible".  The shrine has on display numerous pictures and statues of the saint; they also have a wonderful little gift shop housed at the location.  Monsignor Giovanni Braschi presides over the shrine.  He is very kind and welcoming to visitors and he made us feel totally at home there.

We stayed the evening at the sanctuary and were served delicious homemade Italian meals made by church parishioners for dinner and breakfast.  As we were leaving the sanctuary, we witnessed the beginning of an Italian wedding ceremony.  It was such a beautiful occasion.  The church bells chimed loudly and could be heard blocks away. Ave Maria was also played from the loudspeaker of the church.   Local townspeople came out of their homes to view the arrival of the bride and her wedding party.  I was completely in awe of how the townspeople came together to acknowledge the wedding of the bride and groom.  This is truly the small town atmosphere one thinks of when they envision life in a small town.  I can't wait to go back.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Visiting the Vatican

As a life long Catholic, one of the places I absolutely had to visit while in Rome was the Vatican.  The Vatican itself is gorgeous.  It's huge, it's overwhelming, it's a "must see" kind of place.  My only regret during this portion of the trip is that I wore fashionable sandals instead of comfortable walking shoes at this time.  Never again.  The next time I go to Italy, tennis shoes will be the only shoes I take with me.
Not to worry - I ended up buying some New Balance tennis shoes while shopping in Naples.  What a relief to my poor aching feet!

Anyway, while at the Vatican, one of the highlights of this tour was being able to visit the tomb of Pope John Paul II.  I've adored this man for a long time and was very sad when he passed away.  This is an image of the area where his tomb lies at the Vatican.  A very large picture of St. Sebastian is displayed over the grave.

Other things I found interesting on display at the Vatican was the display of rings from past Popes and the sarcophagus' of Popes from days long past (located in the Vatican Grottoes).

And, of course, there is so much beautiful artwork and statuary to be seen everywhere in the Vatican.  Here are some of the statues that stood out to me:

And let's not forget the winding stairs:
When exiting the Vatican tours, we passed a wonderful little gift shop run by a group of nuns.  They sell all sorts of unique jewelry, tapestries, statues and other collectible and souvenir items.  We purchased several items during our visit.
Outside of the Vatican, there are tons (and I mean tons) of vendors hawking their goods and touristy-style items.  Many of the items are cheap, made-in-Asia items that you can find anywhere in most souvenir shops in Rome.  However, there was a nifty little magnet of David I just couldn't resist; it is now hanging proudly on my refrigerator door:
 Next up:  Our visit to the little town of Mugnano de Cardinale where we visited the Shrine of St. Philomena, and Naples.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

St. Rita, Cascia and a Craft Store in Spoleto!

St. Rita of Cascia - incorrupt body

One of the things I absolutely was compelled to do when we visited Italy was to visit the shrine of one of my favorite saints, St. Rita of Cascia.  We departed from Rome early in the morning in order to catch the only train to Spoleto.  From there, we'd hop on a bus to Cascia.

While on the train, we befriended a really nice Italian girl named Eleonora.  Eleonora had a great sense of humor and really helped the travel time to pass quickly.  In fact, we had such a great experience with her, that we are all friends on Facebook now. :)

Brianna and Anthony with our new Italian friend, Eleonora.

Once we arrived in Spoleto, we had a two hour wait for our bus ride.  We took advantage of the opportunity and strolled around this adorable, sleepy little town.  And, lo and behold - what do you think I found there, down the street from the bus/train station?  A little sewing/embroidery store!!!  This little store carried tons of buttons, and a small selection of lace, trims, embroidery floss and the like.  I couldn't resist purchasing some of the unusual buttons and some lace from this sweet little shop.

Buttons galore!

Lace and trims!

Once we got on the bus, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Umbrian country side as we trekked our way to St. Rita's shrine.

Umbria - view from the bus

Finally - we had arrived.  The shrine sits on top of a mountain-top, and in order to get to the top, you can either walk up the winding road or take a shuttle.  We opted for the shuttle because it was raining quite heavily that day.

St. Rita's Shrine - Cascia, Italy

St. Rita's Shrine - Cascia, Italy

A view of Cascia from the shrine (please excuse the foggy picture - it was raining!)

The shrine was breathtaking in every sense of the word.  St. Rita's incorrupt body is encased in a glass tomb in front of the church.  I can't express the joy I felt at finally being able to visit this saint that I have loved since I was a little girl.  All I can say is - it was amazing.

Where St. Rita's body is displayed.

St. Rita's incorrupt body.

St. Rita's incorrupt body.

Inside the shrine.

Look at the beautiful artwork on the ceiling.

The altar.

After we exited the church, we stopped by the gift shop where we purchased several souvenirs.  I purchased several mini pocket statues of St. Rita (among other things) and will be using them in future jewelry creations.
The shrine gift shop contains hundreds of souvenirs of St. Rita.

Because we were short on time, we only visited the shrine for a couple of hours, so unfortunately for us, we didn't get to see everything that we wanted to.  However, the next time I visit Italy, I will definitely plan to visit Cascia for at least a couple of days in order to be able to experience all that this little town has to offer.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life Got in the Way - But I'm Back!

It's hard to believe that my last blog post was in September at the time I departed for my long-awaited trip to Italy.  I apologize for my absence in blogger-land.  I have absolutely no excuse for this except for the fact that life got in the way.
That's not necessarily a bad thing.  I came home from Italy to find my sweet husband had surprised me by giving our home a much-needed update.  With the help of my son, Joey and daughter-in-law, Hailey, he repainted our bedroom, replaced all of the carpeting in the house with new carpeting in the bedrooms and wood flooring in the hallway and living room areas.  I'd been wanting wood floors in our home for a long time, and I was thrilled to come home to find all of the beautiful changes.  In addition, I was swamped with jewelry orders for November Confirmations and the Christmas holiday.  (Not that I mind - I love making jewelry, as you know! ;) )  Last, but certainly not least, for the first time in over 30 years, I stopped working full time.  I am working a part-time job now, and I began going to college as a full-time student.  I graduated from high school 30 years ago, so this is a huge adjustment for me.  My latest endeavor has me determined to earn my four year degree in three years, so I will be attending college full-time and during the summer to achieve this goal.  Wish me luck!

Anyway - to get back on track - we had a wonderful vacation.  I learned a lot during our trip, and I'm longing to go again in the near future.  I absolutely fell in love with Italy and her wonderful people.  It truly was the trip of my dreams and I cannot wait to do it all again.

I'm planning to share my experiences and photos from beautiful Italy with you here on my blog.  There's a lot to cover, so I will do it in increments.  In addition, I want to share other information here with you.  I have a lot of catching up to do, so let's get started.

Our trip began in Rome.  We stayed at a hotel called "Hotel de Monti".  It is in a convenient location - right down the street from the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica and walking distance from the Termini train station.  The hotel has a wonderful continental breakfast which is included in the room rate.  Each morning, we dined on our choice of various meats, cheeses, fruit, juices and beverages.  There is nothing quite as delicious as fresh squeezed blood-orange juice, homemade Formaggio cheese, prosciutto, croissants, biscotti and cappuccino for breakfast (among other things).

Here is a view of the street where our hotel was located.  In the center of the picture, you can see Santa Maria Maggiore.  It's not the best picture, but it was quite rainy in Rome that day.  And by quite rainy, I mean we ended up getting soaked.  But it was well worth it.  You don't get to see Italy every day, you know.

After we checked into our hotel, we wandered around our neighborhood and enjoyed all that Rome had to offer.  We stopped for lunch at a cool little restaurant called "La Carbonara."  The food was delicious and lots of locals eat there, which is a good sign.  Plus, they have a great sense of humor.  Check out this little card which was on our table:

After lunch, we walked over to Santa Maria Maggiore.  It is such a beautiful church - quite ornate, as they all appear to be in Italy.

 We shopped at this fantastic little gift shop called "Rosario" located near the Basilica.   You name it, they have it...everything from handmade rosaries, to statues of saints, medals galore.  There was a lot to see, and a lot to buy.  If you are ever in the area, be sure to stop there.  The prices are pretty reasonable and most everything there is really made in Italy, as opposed to China (like many of the gift stores in Rome.)

 One thing that I found quite interesting is that there appear to be no rules when it comes to parking and driving in Italy.  Now, I've heard those stories about speedy Italian drivers and the like, but I had no idea that in Rome, if you can't find a parking space, you can just leave your car in the middle of a street, and go about your business.  That's what happened here:

And don't even get me started on the parking:

Honestly, I don't know how people can get out of such a tight spot.  It's amazing to me...
I'd like to live in Italy one day, even if it's just to have a vacation home there.  It looks like I am going to have to learn how to drive and park like an Italian.  :)

I think that covers everything for this installment.  Be sure to check back for future chapters about our trip to Italy - including, but not limited to: the Vatican, Cascia, Naples, Pompeii, Venice and other fascinating cities in this beautiful land.

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