Italy 14 Sept – 2 Oct 2009 (Chrisna)

Much has been written about Italy, but not much about the country itself and what we saw and where we went. I wrote about the accident and the peaceful days of moving our focus back home and Dawie J's birthday, but nothing else. And that is not right, because Italy is a very special place.

It's a country that was a 1st world country 2000 years ago, but now it is almost more 3rd world than many places in Africa! The internet did not reach most places, at least not any coffee shop or restaurant. They firmly go for eat and drink in restaurants and definitely not working on the internet! This is not necessarily bad, it just shows their attitude toward life: Stop often to enjoy life with friends, food and wine and in between those times, drive like Formula 1 racers on 2 way traffic streets that are actually to narrow for 1 car!

Italians are open and friendly, loud and helpful. They only speak Italian, but are willing to listen en help with a mixture of English, Italian, Afrikaans and lots of sign language . The food in supermarkets in the small towns of Italy is also the lowest prices of any place where we've been in Europe– still more expensive than Namibia, but almost affordable! We thoroughly enjoyed the different pastas - it was on our menu every 2nd day! Two other special treats we allowed ourselves to buy in the Esselunga supermarket, were grapes and ice cream – wonderful!

Our house, built in the 1200's and renovated in the 1700's , is next to the church. It was always the bishop's house. The lowest floor was the pigsty and shelter for the cow, but now it serves as the kitchen and dining room. The walls are 1 m thick and the windows very small. Me and Dawie had a room on the middle level and the 2nd room was Dawie's office, where an ironboard was his desk ('n boer maak 'n plan). The boys slept on the 3rd floor. From the parking area to the house is a narrow cobblestone pathway hugged in from both sides by other equally old houses. It is almost unreal and it was a special blessing to be able to become part of the small town of Lanciole for 3 weeks.

We left Lanciole only 4 times. The first Sunday we went to Firenze with the train. A friendly Italian woman tried to help us to buy tickets at the machine that speaks only Italian. She has never done this before, but she really wanted to help us! At the end Tinus figured out what to do, we could catch the train and our Italian friend was relieved that all worked out – now she also knew how to buy tickets! Firenze has wonderful majestic cathedrals. They are not specifically the most beautiful ones in Europe, but I will vote for most impressive!

The doors are in solid brass with different panels telling Bible stories. We had fun figuring out which stories each panel portray. Quite sad is that the guides who have tour groups there, explain the panels with humanistic stories and do not mention that it is truths from the Bible! It was also in Firenze that we ran into David. We had picnic on the grass plain in front of another cathedral and found the open market with leather and Italian art and craft on our way back to the station. It was actually a blessing, otherwise we would have spent a long time browsing there and not experience so much of the rest of Firenze. God surely knows which ways to take us!

On Tuesday afternoon we went to Pisa. Let me assure you, that tower is really skew. Although expecting it to lean over, it surprises you just how much it is leaning. Amazing that it is still standing! There were 1000's of tourists – much more than in any other place on our world tour. The only places with more tourists, were in Rome – our last stop in Italy.

Another afternoon outing took us to Lucca, the neighboring town to Pescia (the town at the bottom of the mountain where the supermarket is). The old town is still encircled by a 100% complete city wall! Inside of the wall is a typical medieval village with cathedrals and narrow cobblestone streets. We had picnic on the city wall.

Our final excursion was to Rome. We left early the Sunday morning and drove through the country side of Tuscany and along the west coast all the way to Rome. "Picture beautiful" is a good description of the entire road. We parked our car in the center of Rome, a few meters from the Trevi fountain. We started walking, exploring, discovering, enjoying. The 1000's of people walking the streets created a very special atmosphere. We were tourists in Rome! We found the Spanish steps without looking for them and sat there with 10 000 other people, just sitting and enjoying. We found cathedrals and a street with one designer shop after the other – people actually buy from them! While strolling and going left and right through the streets, we stumbled on the Pantheon – an impressive building with massive pillars and a 100% perfect dome, built many centuries ago! The Italian builders and engineers of the centuries just before and after Christ were surely remarkable! God took us through the streets of Rome and showed us all the special places we were supposed to see!

We left the centre of Rome after sunset, to find a hotel. We found an affordable hotel where they still had a room available, but they needed to see all 5 our passports. Obvious, you might think. Problem: I brought only Dawie's passport and left the other 4 in our Lanciole house! Not clever at all, actually not thinking at all! The lady also warned us that she can easily phone the police to arrest us, because in Italy every person must at all times have identification on them. She also assured us that no hotel will rent us a room without the passports! Oh, the shame and the guilt and feeling bad I experienced! Only a miracle will help us now, otherwise we must drive back home straight away! We prayed and asked God for a miracle: An affordable hotel with vacancies and not asking for the passports. God is faithful and loving kind – He performed the miracle! Praise God! We had a place to sleep and another day in Rome!

Our "bonus day" in Rome was spent almost entirely at the Colosseum and the first city.

This was such a special 5 hours – going back into the history of an era just before and after the birth of Christ. This actually calls for a blog dedicated just towards these stories and the learning experience we had, so I will still try to convince Tinus to write something. After our tour, which only the 3 boys and I went on, we met Dawie in a small cellar restaurant and spent another 1 hour telling him all of our experiences. This was over a plate of very affordable and fantastic Italian pasta.

I would like to mention one thing about the Colosseum. It was a place built exclusively for the pleasure of the people – a place where people fought people until one died and where wild animals ripped people to pieces at the cheers of the crowd.

The material used to build the place, was entirely purchased with everything that was taken from the Temple in Jerusalem after the Roman empire took over Israel. One of the main events of the "shows" in the Colosseum, was to put Christians in the arena with hungry lions. These were people who's lives were different than the rest of the Romans, people who's lives were not filled with the sin and lust of those days, people who were light and salt and therefore were confronted with the question:"Are you a Christian? When they confessed their belief in Jesus Christ, they were fed to the lions! I kept on asking myself: if it was me, would I confess my belief or would I be a "secret agent"? And then the next question evaluating my life today: Will my life show to the world that I am a Christian? Do I look different than the world, or do I blend in so nicely, that I do not make a difference in God's Kingdom? Am I light and salt in a visible, feel-able way? Challenging questions that need to be answered honestly – it is only then that you can grow. The wonderful thing out of all this true and horrific stories, is that on the spot where the Emperor and his family sat to watch the games, on the exact spot, now stands a big wooden cross. The real King, the only King is on the throne! Praise God!

Our final hour in Rome was spent in the Vatican city, at the St Peters cathedral and the big plain. Impressive and special.

Then we took the 6 hour long drive back to our house in the mountains of Tuscany – content and thankful that we could experience Roma.

The next day was Dawie J's birthday followed by 1 workday (finishing goals, packing, cleaning). The 1st of October came all too soon. With everything ready to leave, the 5 of us gathered in the dining room. We said our thank you's to each other and we said our thank You's to God. We were overwhelmed with gratefulness for the wonderful blessing in our lives the past 9 months. It was time for "new life" to begin – the 40 weeks were almost over! We shared Holy Communion. We only had chocolate cake left, which took the place of bread (we cut it in the form of Africa) and we had red wine to drink. All 5 of us dedicated ourselves once again to our Lord and Saviour and said:"Here am I, send me"

We left Lanciole while it was raining. We all had a tear in the eye, but peace in our hearts. We have started our journey back to Africa, back to Namibia, back home.

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