Love in The Eternal City Part 1: The Arrival

Date of Travel: May 06, 2010

Rome.  The Eternal City, the birthplace of modern civilization.  Kings and peasants have walked its seven hills, and each has borne witness to some of the most epic events in our history.  But what makes Rome truly eternal is its ability to offer each traveler a unique and different experience.  It’s as if the city bestows part of its essence, its soul, upon those who seek it out.  Born out of legend, built with passion, and drowned with the blood of emperors, Rome cuts a path through human history as wide as the Tiber itself.  It can offer power to one and sanctuary to another.  Or love.  It did for me.

After several months of intense planning we were finally on our way to Rome.  As we boarded the Boeing 777 from Washington Dulles International Airport and took our seats in first class, a sudden wave of euphoria and excitement came over me.  It wasn’t the same feelings I would get when the Captain and I took spontaneous trips, it was much more rapturous and intense.  Of course this wasn’t just any trip, the Captain and I were about to embark on a journey that would change our lives forever – we were on our way to Rome to get married.

The Captain and I are passionate travelers and knew from the very beginning that we wanted a destination wedding in Italy, albeit never having set foot in the country before.  My husband and I are both known as the adventurous frequent travelers in our families so it wasn’t really a surprise to them when we announced our intent to marry abroad.  We considered Venice, Florence and Rome.

A month and a half into our engagement we were browsing through various travel books on Rome and Italy when the Captain stumbled upon a picture of one of the pinnacles of renaissance inspiration: the gilded dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.  “We should get married here!” he exclaimed facetiously as he pointed at the page.

“We should!” I replied and went back to reading my travel book.  At the time we assumed that everyday people like him and I were unable to get married at such an extraordinary place, but curiosity got the best of us and it wasn’t long before we were doing research on the computer.  Surprisingly, we discovered that through an American parish in Rome it was indeed possible.  The Captain and I had preconceived notions about the type of people who could marry at the Vatican and felt unworthy, but nonetheless, sent an email inquiring about the requirements.

Within a few days we received a reply answering all of our questions and also a long list of requirements that seemed difficult to obtain.  Saint Peter’s Basilica is the very center of our faith so we were up for the challenge despite knowing that it might not work out, and that all the money we spent on the wedding could go to waste.  Along with the requirements we had to choose three wedding dates, of which only one would be approved.  It took several months to get an official date so I had to plan a destination wedding without even knowing when or where it was to take place.  Brides know how frustrating and stressful it is to plan a wedding so you can only imagine what it was like to have so little control over a monumental event.  You are probably wondering whether or not I turned into a Bridezilla and will be pleased to know that I did not.  All the years of traveling standby has made me a more patient person and I remained sedulous.

While I was making arrangements for our wedding the Captain had the more difficult task of collecting paperwork and planning the honeymoon.  I’m grateful that he put in a lot of time and effort in planning our big day.  I honestly could not have done it myself.

Once we landed at Fiumicino Airport and collected our belongings at baggage claim we were on our way to the hotel.  It was quite a drive to the city but the landscape was beautiful.  Soon we were in the very heart of Rome; staring out the window at the marvelous architecture replenished me, and I was ready to go out and explore.

When we arrived at the Hotel Raphael with it’s magnificent ivied facade I was immediately impressed. Its interior was decorated with sculptures, artifacts, a collection of ceramics by Picasso, paintings, and even Mayan art.  We arrived earlier than expected and had to wait a few minutes before the hotel staff could check us in.  They served the most delicious cup of cappuccino I have ever tasted so I didn’t mind the wait.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around the streets and taking pictures.  I had a great time hanging out with the Captain and my friend M, who happened to know her way around Rome and parts of Italy after studying there for some time.  We stopped by for some gelato and had dinner at a restaurant where I ordered carbonara.  While the Captain’s parents were already in town, M’s and mine weren’t.  My parents were scheduled to land the following day while M’s the day after and so were our other guests.  Besides, the usual wedding related stress I was also worried about Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that erupted last year (less than a month before our wedding) and wreaked havoc on air travel.  Although the Captain and I had plane tickets to Rome, for two weeks I was worried that the ash from the volcano would prevent us from traveling.  Luckily, we made it just days before the big day, but were still anxious about our guests who were flying in from all over the United States.

The Captain and I still had a lot of work to do before our actual wedding date could be finalized.  We had to go to the United States Embassy in Rome to obtain a Nulla Osta and to meet with the parish priest at Santa Susanna who would be performing our ceremony.  We didn’t realize that the United States Embassy in Rome was only open a few days and were fortunate to be in town on the last day before it closed up for the week.  Also, on our list was a meeting with the staff at the rooftop restaurant where we were having the reception, the photographer, and the florist.

After dinner we walked to the Vatican where the Captain and I caught a glimpse of Saint Peter’s Basilica for the very first time.  To stand amongst the pillars and columns that had guarded the bedrock of Christendom for centuries was simply incredible.  I can’t even begin to describe the feelings it elicited in me.  As we got closer to this, the holiest of Catholic sites and the place where I was going to enter into the sacrament of marriage with the love of my life, all of my worries disappeared.  There, staring up at Michelangelo’s dome and surrounded by the work of countless masters, I truly felt as one with the eternal city.  In that moment I was the happiest girl in the world.

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