|Civitavecchia at Sunset|
I spent far more time in Civitavecchia where our ship is docked. Civitavecchia is city well worth visiting for its own sake. I strolled along the seaside where I watched the sun set and took in an exhibit on Roman ship building. I ate a lot of delicious food, drank some tasty wine and heard one of the more interesting cover bands I’ve had the pleasure of encountering.
One of the highlights was stumbling upon a tiny church in the old city known as The Church of the Star which is dedicated to Santa Maria delle Grazie (Saint Mary of the Graces). It did not appear on any map and in fact I was actually looking for another church, Santa Mariadell’Orazione e Morte (Saint Mary of the Prayer and Death), which actually turned out to be closed. Though disappointed I continued to wander my way through Civitavecchia’s old city, a delight all on its own if you are here and have the time. I soon found myself in a small piazza with a fountain and several cafes.
Tucked in the corner was stucco covered building with a plain front. A single star hung high over the door. My instincts told me that despite its plain appearance this building was something special. I noted a sign the left of the door and approached it. It explained that the church was was founded by the Archonfraternity of Gonfalone in 1688. Intrigued I stepped through the door.
Upon entering a short, older Italian woman appeared. We soon discovered we did not speak each other’s language but she ushered me into the sanctuary with the motions of her hands. I turned and stood to take it all in.
I could describe in detail to you all that I saw in this hidden sanctuary – the colorful paintings of Ennio Galice or the beautifully carved wooden statue of St. Mary and child – but those are things that you can see in the included photo or in person should you decide to make the trip. Instead I will tell you of the stillness of the air and the sense of peace that permeated this small chapel. I will tell you how I sat for several minutes just breathing in the quietness as though I could fill myself with it and tuck some silence away for later. Unlike the other larger churches, cathedrals and basilicas that I had visited no one else entered while I sat in this place of meditation.
Anytime that I have travelled these are the sorts of moments that always remain with me. One can journey to a faraway place and follow the guidance of the tourist maps which will lead you to each well-loved monument and landmark, and one should as the places are famous for a reason, but be sure to allow yourself the time to wander, to make room for the unexpected pleasures that come from an unplanned meander. This is where the treasures are.
In other news we received the news yesterday that we will not be visiting Istanbul, Turkey due to the Syrian crisis. Instead we will be spending that time in Dobrovnik, Croatia, also an interesting destination. While I am disappointed that we are not visiting Turkey I am looking forward to seeing what unexpected joys are to be found in Dubrovnik. Between now and then we have short stop in Naples and two days of classes.