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Incredible Italian Adventure, Part One

On Thursday, February 22nd, Tom and I boarded a plane in Omaha and flew across the big pond to Italy - via Minneapolis and Amsterdam. That was the beginning of our 15-day incredible Italian adventure! We experienced all of the sights, sounds, and tastes of this beautiful country with a group of mostly Nebraskans organized by Tekton Ministries. We were led by Father Jamie Hottovy, a Catholic priest from the Lincoln Diocese who also happens to be the son of Tom’s first cousin. Father Hottovy has traveled extensively, is well educated in the area of architecture, and has led many tours over the years. This was, in fact, his 25th trip to Rome. We were thrilled when the opportunity for this trip came up and we were able to travel with him. 

Since this trip was billed as a Catholic pilgrimage we naturally toured many churches - 26 to be exact. And we learned about a lot of saints - around 24. And Father Hottovy said Mass for our group every day. This Lutheran was a little worried about that type of itinerary and how I would fit in as the only Protestant in the group. It was not a problem though as I did not feel like an outsider and I thoroughly enjoyed touring the churches and learning more about the saints. The trip was actually similar to one that I took when I was in college. Although I was a student at St. Olaf College in Minnesota I took a religion class during the month of January through Dana College in Blair. We studied the saints in five countries - England, Denmark, Germany, France, and Italy. It was great fun to return to some of the same places forty years later. And it was fun to see those places through Tom’s eyes as he was making his first trip abroad. 

We landed in Turin around 11:00 Italian time on Friday morning, February 23rd. We loaded our bus and went directly to the city center where our guide told us to find lunch and meet back at the bus in two hours. So there we were in a foreign country where we didn’t speak the language, with no Euros, and with people that we had only just met. Welcome to Italy! We managed to find a small pizza place that accepted our credit card. And a nice couple in our group directed us to a bank where we were able to exchange our dollars into Euros. Phew! 

Speaking of the food - it was one of the highlights of the trip. The most notable difference between our food and theirs was that everything was very fresh and homemade. Breakfast was always served in the hotel and consisted of a variety of spectacular pastries, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables. American hotels could definitely learn a thing or two about a continental breakfast from the Europeans! Lunch was on our own and the menu depended on where we were and what we were doing. If we were traveling on the bus we stopped at a truck stop along the road where we could order pizza or sandwiches. If we were touring in a town then we had options ranging from fast food (but not like McDonald’s) to a casual or even fancier restaurant. The best meal I had during the entire trip was in Assisi at a lovely restaurant where Tom and I ate with Father Jamie. I had ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach in a sauce with pears and almonds. Mouth-watering delicious!!

For the evening meals we ate together as a group in our hotel about half of the time. These meals always started with a pasta dish - similar to how we have soup or salad before the main dish. The type of pasta was different every time and was very filling. We would have been happy calling the meal done at that point. Next came the “second plate” which consisted of meat - usually pork or chicken - and a vegetable. And then there was dessert!! We were treated to tiramisu several times and also had a pastry and pudding-type dish. I’m not sure what that was called. And one time we had fresh fruit - healthy, yes, but disappointing! Who wants to end the meal after you’ve had tiramisu! The other half of the evening meals were on our own. A couple of times we checked out a nearby grocery store and bought something to eat in our hotel room. Other times we joined some in our group and checked out a local restaurant. The worst meal we had was in the hotel in Assisi where I ordered a smoked salmon salad. I chose this meal since it was on a Friday during Lent and I didn’t want to eat meat in front of all of the Catholics in our group who could not. I assumed that the salmon would be cooked but it was not. Ugh!

In a few weeks I’ll let you know about the sights and sounds that we were treated to in the cities of Milan, Venice, and Rome. We also visited several smaller towns such as Orvieto, Assisi, and San Giovanni Rotondo. So much beauty everywhere we looked! 

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May 01

OMGoodness that was a trip for the ages! Am anxious to read the next segment!

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