Friday, July 16, 2010

Italy written by third party!

__2013 update_______________________________________________
So I am going to be right up front here, the lower words are not mine, yes I admit they are plagiarism at  its best!  Back in 2010 I wanted to post my amazing trip to family and friends on Facebook, being exhausted at the end of each day my mind was blank.  Mind you I said it was blank but it was still full of ingenuity so I stole, I mean borrowed a fellow pilgrim peeps words and dropped them in to my blog. I made it clear that these were the words of another but I thought it was time to clean it up a bit and add photos to go along with Kevin's very well written words.  The lower words can also be found where they originated on Lino Rulli's Fan page and Facebook page if you can scroll back to 2010   __________________________________________________________

Kevin and Norvina Sage reporting from the hotel here in Rome, a stone's throw from Vatican City (well, maybe not with my arm...). We volunteered to send in some reports from the Italy pilgrimage with Lino and crew. And after only two days, there's already so much to talk about. I'll try to be brief, but probably won't be. After all, we are talking about Lino.

Let's start off in New York... We were told by Mountain (our tour guide) to meet up at the gate at the JFK airport (which was sweltering hot due to weak air conditioning). But since Mountain was already in Rome and none of use knew each other, he basically said "look for Lino". As I suspected, Lino arrived kind of late, not too long before our scheduled takeoff time, and stopped by just long enough to say hi to the small group of us that were already there. I jokingly said that I was surprised he wasn't in the VIP lounge. His reply: "That's where I'm heading if I can find the rest of the crew!" He also told us that Father Jim was not coming anymore because he had "other commitments" and that Ryan Stewart - ex-producer of the Catholic Guy Show and current producer of Fully Alive - was taking his place. Exit Lino. Lou dropped by a few minutes later looking for Lino, said hi, and took off looking for Lino. All I could think was that this seems really organized...

As we were waiting, the loudspeaker started calling for an "Angelo Rulli". They had bumped him to first class. The listeners...and crew...were all in coach of course. When he arrived back to us common-folk again, Norvina and I gave him a couple bottles of Purell, which he loved and immediately used since he'd just shaken hands with everyone. As we boarded the plane, I saw Lino sitting in the back row of first class and asked how come he didn't save us a seat which point the flight attendant turned to Lino and said, "wow, everybody hates you!" I guess others were giving him grief too. Flight was uneventful (though late), but Fr. Rob was "running hot" because he had a window seat and the dude next to him wouldn't move to let him get into or out of his he stood for an hour in the aisle.

Fast forward something like 14 hours later, and we were all standing outside St. Peter's Basilica, ready to do the Scavi tour. This is a tour which is very hard to get onto, which takes you below St. Peter's to the old pagan necropolis underneath. Wandering through the old tunnels and tombs, you get to see two major spots: the original tomb of St. Peter, and his current resting place, where you can actually see fragments of his bones sitting in a hole in a dirt wall, underneath the original graffiti wall which reads "Peter is here."
Photo added by Dee in 2013

The Scavi tour was REALLY cool. Actually it was horribly hot and humid, but totally worth it. They split us up into two groups and Lino and crew were not in our group, so I can't really say much about what it was like to tour the Scavi with them, but as for our group, we enjoyed it but were all working on 0-2 hours of sleep and were trying really hard not to pass out. Lou interviewed us afterward to get our thoughts on whether St. Peter's bones were real...we both said yes, but I totally blanked talking about other aspects of the tour. I hope he edits that out! He seems cool so I'm sure he will. He's also very easy to talk to and a great partner (hey-oh!) for Lino on the show.

We went to dinner as a group the first night. Maureen gave a quick toast and Fr. Rob gave the traditional blessing...because Lino had complained about his improvised prayer earlier in the day! End day 1. I think it's safe to say everyone crashed hard when they got back to their rooms.

(Photo of me added 2013) first dinner In Rome

photo added in 2013 -Street music, first dinner in Rome
Day 2: In addition to the unexpected treat of the Scavi tour on day 1, we had also learned a couple days before the trip that we were going to visit Castel Gandolfo (the Pope's summer home outside Rome) and would get to see the Pope for The Angelus at noon. We were all carrying bags of religious items (rosaries, crucifixes, etc.) to be blessed by the Pope...Lino's bag contained a pair of his pants! We all teased him about having his pants blessed, but he wittingly replied was "my pants are blessed everyday!". (Hey-oh!) Actually he only brought the pants in case he needed to change out of shorts later for mass at St. Paul's...

One of the funniest moments happened 5 minutes after boarding the bus. Lino got on the mic to explain that they were going to draw two names out of a hat each day, and the lucky winners would get to have a private (or in Maureen's words, "intimate") lunch with Lino. About 10 seconds later, Lino announced Maureen had forgotten the hat of names....then covered with "this tour is about as well-produced as the show!" They improvised by picking seat numbers instead. After announcing that "Lou just grabbed it for me" (hey-oh!), Lino read out the numbers that Lou had grabbed. And nobody answered for a few seconds. A defeated Lino complained that nobody wants to eat with him and retreated to his seat. Of course someone eventually realized they'd won and started yelling joyfully. Congrats Dee!
My roommate Mindy, Lino "The Catholic Guy" and Me - Lunch at the plaza outside Castel Gandolfo
Castel Gandolfo was's up in the hills about an hour East of Rome set on Lake Albano. Not a bad place to spend the summer. The Pope makes his appearance for the Angelus in a small courtyard, packed to standing room only with sweaty Italians and other pilgrims. While waiting, we got to spend a lot of time talking with Ryan. He's a very friendly, funny, hard-working guy. To our surprise, he told us that not only is he helping Lino and crew with getting material together for next week's shows, he's also actually still producing Fully Alive this week from his Rome hotel room! So much for vacation!

The clock hit 12:00 and out came the Pope, to a thunderous applause, cheers, song, and chants of "we love Papa!" in numerous languages. It was great to see so many Catholics from so many countries all there to show their love for the Pope and the universality of Catholicism. I (Kevin) being the token non-Catholic of the entire group, found it really moving to see such enthusiasm and joy for the Vicar of Christ. After the Angelus, he addressed us in a number of languages to welcome us and bless us. It was great.

Norvina and I were standing with Ryan in the middle of the courtyard. Lino came by before it started to tell us we should move to the side for better pictures so we could see the Pope's legs... creepy. We figured the middle would be better so said no thanks. Although I didn't tell him to his face, I should say it here (since Lino Rulli is #1 here): he was right. Not about the legs, because that would be weird. But you could see better from the side because the Pope's face was not blocked by the podium there. Lino: 1, Kevin: 0.

We wandered around Castel Gandalfo individually for a while, had lunch, and checked out the parish Cathedral of St. Thomas of Villanova. And we took a group shot with Lake Albano behind us. Priceless. On the way back to the bus we got to chat with Fr. Rob quite a bit... he's just like you imagine him. Funny, honest, has a tendency to "run hot", and is just great fun to be around. (Did I mention he didn't wear his collar at all the first day? We all clapped in the bus when he showed up in the Roman collar on day two.) Anyway, he's a great guy and is a tremendous source of information about Rome (and Catholicism of course).
The group at Castel Gandalfo (added by Dee 2013)
Later we visited the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, located over the tomb of St. Paul, where you can even see a piece of the chain that imprisoned St. Paul. Inside, Fr. Rob celebrated Sunday Mass with the group in a small chapel inside the church. Contrary to what Lino has hypothesized on the show, Fr. Rob is a great homilist...he's engaging, to the point, and relates it well to everyday life. And he's quick, which is a true blessing when it's 100 degrees and 90% humidity. We fist-bumped Lino during the sign of peace, which he appreciated...and immediately after mass, out came the Purell. So no, the Purell comments on the show are not a joke! (lower photo's added by Dee 2013)

We also visited the San Callistus Catacombs before St. Paul's...however, you should tune in next week to the Catholic Guy broadcasts from Vatican Radio to hear about it, because I can guarantee that there will be much discussion of the visit to the catacombs. There was an absolutely hilarious, um... incident... involving Fr. Rob (the priest in the group of all people) that you MUST hear to believe! I'll stop myself here before I divulge any of the details...let's just say Maureen has some audio from the catacombs of the incident... So tune into Sirius 159/XM 117 next week!

Hopefully by our next report we'll have gotten to have lunch with Lino (if I can win something for once in my life).

Monday, July 12, 2010

I am the guide look at me when I speak!

The flight:

The flight from DFW to JFK was full and over weight, after 45 min of shuffling things around they requested two stand by people to disembark and finally we departed! I was a nervous wreck that we would not make it to JFK in time. The plane only held 76 people, I expected a much larger plane for this flight. Once at JFK I learned the flight find the flight to Rome was also delayed so all was good. Fellow pilgrim's began to arrive and we introduced ourselves and visited. Lino (Host of the Catholic Guy show on Sirius/XM) introduced him self and headed off to the sky club till it was time to board. Lucky dog.
The eight hour flight from to JFK to Rome was smooth but I was not able to sleep a wink! This lack of sleep turned my Friday and Saturday in to one very long day! Our late departure put us in to Rome several hours late but we finally landed in Italy, I thought this day would never come. The good part about the late arrival was we were able to check in to our rooms and drop of our luggage and rest a few minutes prior to starting the days activities.
Our hotel is located up the hill from the Vatican. Hotel Alimandi is a family operated hotel, they are treating us very well. After a few minutes of rest we headed off for our first tour, The Scavi Tour which is a tour of the Vatican necropolis ( a burial ground that is not above ground). This tour must be planned in advance as few spots exist for enterance. This is the site of where Saint Peter was buried. At the end we passed an area where they have the remains of Saint Peter. Above the burial ground is Saint Peters Basilica. The necropolis very hot and humid BUT very worth it. Sunday we will see the Pope so we had a few hours to shop foe items we may want blessed. Dinner was a group adventure this evening and was delicious. The meal consisted of Pasta with cheese orange sauce, yum, a stuffed fried olive,OMG!! And roast chicken and potatoes. Finally to bed!

Day two:

Even though I set the alarm for 8:30pm my roomie and I made it to breakfast on the hotel roof prior to our departure for the day activities. The coffee was wonderful, tomorrow I hope to be up early enough for cappuccino. After I scarfed down scrambled eggs with sauté mushrooms and this wonderful sliced chicken with tomatoes and olives we hopped on the bus and headed to Castel Gandolfo the Pope's summer village to attend the Noon Angelus. This was more than I could have ever expected! We were so close, you could see the warmth in his eyes. The crowd was excited and joyful. the spontaneous singing echoed in the court yard and was so beautiful. The feelings I had at that moment were indescribable!
My roomie and I "won" lunch with Lino and crew. Lino ordered lunch for us and it was good. We had this wonderful rice ball (I forget the Italian name) with cheese in the middle and fried, we also had Pizza. Lino had gnocchi, he even let us all have a bite. After lunch we headed back to Rome and the San Callisto Catacombs. We were lucky enough to get the Italian nazi tour guide! The fun began in a small building the guides use to explain what we were about to see. Appears at one time the building we were in was a church, Father Rob had the nerve to say something and the guide informed him this was a church and he should show reverence and be quite. Mind you Father Rob did have his Collar on! This was the beginning of the end for Father Rob and the tourist guide. There are over 40 catacombs in Rome, this one had an estimated half a million Christians buried in it some being Popes. The sepulchres, now empty, once contained the remains of 9 Popes and of 8 Bishops of the 3rd century.
the last room we viewed Father Rob was looking up at the ceiling and the tour guide stopped and yelled "Father, I am the tour guide you are to look at me when I speak" OMG she lost the crowd, it was so hard to keep focused, to be respectful of the burial site and not just start laughing at Father Robs surprised reaction to this call out. Father Rob asked if he was not allowed to look around and she said "NO I am the guide, the speaker and it is respectful to look at me when I speak!"  When were out of the catacombs she asked where we were from and when she found out we were Catholic she went "momma Mia" and kept her hand covering her mouth till we boarded our bus! What bad Catholics are we! LOL

Our day ended with Mass at Saint Paul Outside the Walls. We BYOP (brought our own priest) and was able to use one of the beautiful chapels at the Basilica.
During the 4th century, Paul's remains were moved into a sarcophagus, except for the head, which according to church tradition rests at the Lateran. Paul's tomb is below a marble tombstone in the Basilica's crypt, at 1.37 metres (4.5 ft) below the altar. The mosaics works here are breath taking. The perception and depth are truly amazing.

Evening free time groups went separate ways some dinner others world cup and yes finally bed!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

2 days . Preping. Check.

So many things to think about to make the trip go smoothly, short hair? Curly hair? What shoes to take? What does one wear it Italy?  How many bags do I need to pack. Me oh my whats a girl to do!

Had the short hair last year on the cruise to Alaska.  Going with the perm this year.  Was hoping for wash and go, seems I ended up with wash and Bozo!!  Thank Goodness for all those 3oz hair products!

On to the important issue of packing:

I have searched internet land and have found  if one does not wish to look like a tourist while touring Italy do not wear white tennis shoes.  Okay do you really think that a group of 40 people hanging around each other is not going to look like a group of tourist! LOL.  Following the non tennis shoe recommendation I found a great pair of Keen Katie Strap Sandals.  LUV them!  Comfy, very supportive and cute.  Thank goodness I feel secure in not needing to pack a shoe for every outfit!  I also feel confident I will not have tired feet no matter how much walking I do.  

My other great purchase was a CitySafe 200 shoulder purse.  Not a day to day stylish purse but it will make a great travel purse.  Has steal meshing in the  front and bottom to protect you from purse slashings. The adjustable shoulder strap is  also wire-reinforced.  I will feel quiet secure carrying my IPAD and Camera.  The bag boasted a pocket to carry a water bottle, I have not found a small enough bottle for the pocket.  My camera will fit nicely in the bottle holder though.  Speaking of water bottles I found a great bottle with a filter that I can refill throughout the day, unfortunately it will have to roll around in the bottom of my purse.

Our Travel planner, Mountain (cool name huh), made several great recommendations for us.  The first one is to use a waist travel belt to carry our passport and money.  A Great tip that should be shared with anyone who plans on competing on Amazing Race!   Note to Brother Dan, sorry this is not a Fanny Pack, this goes unnoticed under your shirt.   The second suggestion sounds un-do-able BUT is very do-able and the suggestion is pack carry on only!

The airline 3-1-1 can be intimidating but with a little creativity IT CAN BE DONE.  Go for the natural look, powder make up such as bare minerals is just the trick.  Solid Deodorant does not have to go in the zippy bag. Woolite individual packets, great item to wash the quick dry clothes you packed.   Finally, purchase toothpaste and other cream/gel items in the airport or your destinations.

I think I have checked and double checked everything.  Flight from DFW to JFK departs Friday July 9th at 10:00an.  Can't wake up late as I have a two hour drive to DFW.   Pray for no delays as I only have 2 1/2 hours from arrival at JFK to catch my 5:35pm flight to Rome.   Good Luck has already been placed on our group as we recently found out the Scavi Tour (Saint Peter's Tomb) has been added to our agenda.  This tour is very hard to get, only 250 people a day are allowed on the tour.  I am very excited.

Will start my updates Saturday nite or Sunday morning Rome time as long as I have no technical difficulties.

See you then.