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Italy 2014: Order coffee like an Italian

So you’re going to Italy and you want to know how to order a coffee. Okay, well, first things first. If you ask for coffee, “un caffé,” you will get an espresso. It will be “short” and dark and may have a lovely golden rim around it. If you want something more akin to what you drink at home, you could ask or caffé americano or caffé lungo, and they’ll water down your espresso, but why would you want to do that? Caffé macchiato is an espresso “stained” with a little milk. Read more

Italy 2014: Quirky Italian ways

If you’re planning to join us in Italy this fall for the Feast for Body and Soul food-faith pilgrimage, start paging through books on Italian travel now. It will make the trip seem that much closer, and you’ll find lots of fun facts that will prove helpful when you’re actually wandering the streets of Florence or Rome or Sorrento (pictured here) or any of the other cities we’ll visit (Montecatini Terme, Siena, Assisi, Naples, Salerno, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Massa Lubrense, and the Isle of Capri). Read more

Leap of faith, passport required

My most recent Life Lines column, running in the current issue of Catholic New York, will give you a glimpse into the surprising way my food-faith pilgrimage to Italy came to be and how you can get on board: 

One day a few months back, I opened my email inbox to find a message from a travel agent asking if I’d be “willing” to lead a food and faith pilgrimage through Italy in October 2014. After staring at the email open-mouthed for what must have been a good five minutes, I turned the laptop to Dennis and said, “Do you think this is for real?” I couldn’t imagine that my dream of going back to Italy— not just to Rome this time but for a cross-country trek—might be on the verge of coming true. Read more

Italy alert: We are now under the one-year countdown to the most amazing pilgrimage

One year from now we will be just back from the most amazing pilgrimage, a 13-day food and faith tour of Italy that will take us from Montecatini, Florence, Siena, and Assisi to Rome, Naples, Salerno, Sorrento, and the Isle of Capri. There’s still plenty of time to save up some money and vacation days and join us for a wonderful weaving of spirituality, sightseeing, and one fabulous meal and hotel after another. You can find the full itinerary HERE. Read more

Come with me to Italy and feed your body and soul

Dear Fellow Adventurer,

For most of my adult life, I dreamed of going to Italy. I wanted to pray in St. Peter’s Basilica. I wanted to know the country of my grandfather’s birth. I wanted to eat the delicious food that had inspired so many family meals when I was growing up. Three years ago, when I stepped onto the streets of Rome for the first time, I cried from the sheer joy of being there, and I knew right then that I’d have to return some day soon. Italy had captured my heart! Read more

‘Let nothing make you afraid…’

Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome/By Mary DeTurris Poust

Happy Feast of St. Teresa of Avila. I have some of her words of wisdom posted prominently next to my desk at all times:

“Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains everything. God alone is enough.” – St. Teresa of Avila

To Rome, With Love

Two years ago at this time I was in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Rome. Soon after, I wrote this travel story for the Albany Times Union. It is my love letter to Rome. (Be sure to click through my photos at the top of the TU link):

When in Rome… Read more

For moms everywhere, on the Feast of St. Monica

Just about one year ago, when I spent 11 days in Rome, I had the chance to visit the Church of St. Augustine (seen here) multiple times since it was just around the corner from Santa Croce University, where I was attending a seminar for journalists.

In this beautiful church, complete with an altar and angels by Bernini and paintings by Raphael and Caravaggio, is the tomb of St. Augustine’s mother, Monica, whose feast we celebrate today.

I knelt before her tomb, so grateful just to be in Rome, and whispered prayers for all the moms who had asked me to remember their intentions while I was in the Eternal City. And I prayed for mothers everywhere, because no matter what our background, no matter how much we do, we often think its not enough, that we are not enough.

So today, as then, I am remembering all the moms I know and those I don’t, praying we find the patience and strength we need to live out our vocations fully and joyfully and that we also have eyes to see not only where we think we fall short but where we are doing our best — teaching our children, serving our families, trusting in God — day after day, year after year.

I remembered all of you this morning as I said Morning Prayer, and I will remember you again in just a little while when I go to Mass. Please remember me in your prayers as well. And let us turn to St. Monica for comfort when we do come up against those hard times and wonder how we will get through. She was living proof that the power of persistent prayer can change lives — our own and those of our children.

Sundials and solstice disks at St. Peter’s

When I went to Rome in September, my watch stopped working on my first day in the Eternal City. My initial reaction was to run out and, through pointing and gestures and lots of “grazies,” try to buy a new one. Then I decided to take the Roman approach and not worry so much about time.

Turns out I never had to worry at all. St. Peter’s Square is equipped with its own sundial, as well as markers to indicate the solstices and even the days when the sun enters various signs of the zodiac.

From a CNS story by Carol Glatz:

Hidden among the paving stones of St. Peter’s Square there is a simple clock and calendar. All you need is a sunny day.

The 83-foot stone obelisk in the middle of the square acts as a sundial that can accurately indicate midday and the two solstices thanks to a granite meridian and marble markers embedded in the square.

Pope Benedict XVI proudly pointed out the hidden timepiece during an Angelus address he gave on the winter solstice a few years ago.

“The great obelisk casts its shadow in a line that runs along the paving stones toward the fountain beneath this window and in these days, the shadow is at its longest of the year,” he told pilgrims from the window of his library.

In fact, at noon on Dec. 21, the obelisk’s shadow falls on the marble disk furthest from the obelisk’s base, while at noon on June 21 — the summer solstice — the tip of the shadow will fall just a few yards from the obelisk. In between are five other disks marking when the sun enters into which sign of the zodiac.

A long, thin granite strip running from the obelisk toward the pope’s window and through one of the fountains acts as the meridian: a line that indicates when the sun has reached true or solar noon and is at its highest point in the sky.

The pope, in his solstice soliloquy, reminded people that the church has always been keenly interested in astronomy to help guide and establish fundamental liturgical days and the times of prayer such as the Angelus, which is recited in the morning, at noon and in the evening. While sunrise and sunset are easy to figure out, sundials could accurately tell midday, he said.

The CNS story also points out that at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs, Pope Clement XI even had an astronomer build meridians to mark not only the noon hour but to “to make highly accurate celestial observations and solve complex astronomical problems.”

More from the CNS story:

John Heilbron, emeritus professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, told Catholic News Service that St. Mary of the Angels “could do things you couldn’t do with telescopes at the time” like find out precise information about the inclination of the Earth’s axis.

Heilbron, who wrote “The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories,” said the basilica’s meridian was also used “to establish a very good value for the length of the year.”

It’s fascinating stuff. And the facts once again give lie to the argument that the Church is opposed to science. Read the full story HERE.