If there is not a Guardian Angel of the Week award in Heaven, maybe the Lord should start that now!

My heavenly guardian angel took home the gold yesterday, a day in which I was also assisted by two earthly guardian angels!

It’s a day I’m calling “roller coaster Sunday,” as in the ups and downs of a roller coaster ride!

After the 10:30 Mass at St. Patrick’s, the Rome church for Catholic Americans and other English-speaking Catholics, I went, as I do every Sunday, to Homebaked for Sunday brunch. I’ve written about Homebaked and posted numerous photos in the three years they’ve been open near St. Peter’s Square.

As always on a Sunday, it was jam-packed and people were also waiting outside but I always have a seat at the counter on Sundays so I just went in. Seconds after I sat down, a good friend who often comes in on Sundays sat down next to me and we started chatting. After perhaps 20 minutes, I said I had a photo to show him and went to get my phone in my purse and my purse was gone! Phone, house keys, small cosmetic holder with medicine, wallet with some money, 2 credit cards, Italian ID cards, my bus pass, health insurance card, etc. I had also put in a small umbrella that morning!

I have a small purse holder that I always use in restaurants, etc. The top, about the size of a half dollar, sits on the table and the metal part hangs down and holds the purse. I had not yet placed this on the counter and my purse was on the chair and I was about to move it when…..

In fact, Jesse’s first question was: was the purse on your little holder?

I don’t get hysterical or anything like that in such moments but I did have the breath knocked out of me!  Well, Jesse and Caroline of Homebaked and my friend Geoffrey started to get the ball rolling. Soon customers are looking under their chairs, especially a couple next to us at the counter – everyone checking the floor, etc. Jesse went to the restroom to see if someone had taken it and left it there. Carolina was visibly upset!

I knew that I could not even get into my apartment building to get on my laptop to cancel credit cards, phone people, etc. because our building’s main front door was brand new and each tenant was given only one key. However, I knew that if I
could at least get into the building and find our doorman, Carlo, he had keys to my apartment. But I had no keys and his number was in my now gone cell phone!

I live only two blocks from Homebaked. Geoffrey walked me to my place and, thank the Lord, a family was walking in the building and we followed. I rang Carlo’s apartment but no answer – I didn’t expect one on a Sunday. We then checked my apartment to see if whoever took my purse and keys and an address but could see no evidence of anyone being there.

We ran into another man who lives in the building, Claudio, whom I did not know and he could not have been nicer. We went to his house and his wife had Carlo’s phone number so we called Carlo who said he be there as soon as possible with keys. I truly felt terrible disturbing him on his only day off!

Just as Claudio was speaking to Carlo and then handing me the phone, Geoffrey’s phone rang and it was Carolina from Homebaked who said – absolutely unbelievably! – that the police had my purse and I was to go to the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square!  I handed the phone back to Claudio and asked him to tell Carlo they had found my purse (even though we did not know if the keys were there). I said, given that we had to meet the police, Carlo could leave the keys at Capitano Cono, a coffee bar-gelateria-restaurant next to our apartment building and perhaps continue his Sunday afternoon.

Geoffrey and I went back to Homebaked, Jesse told us what do and we went to the square and sure enough, a real miracle, two totally delightful policeman had my bag!  The only thing missing were two credit cards, my Italian bancomat (ATM) card and 110€!

Here’s the kicker!

This is where the guardian angels came into play (though Geoffrey had been with me all along)!

Jesse, my earthly guardian angel, had been so upset when he heard my purse was gone that he did two amazing things!  He went to all the dumpsters he knew of within blocks of Homebaked because often thieves throw a purse in a dumpster after they’ve taken what they want.

Secondly: In between and while searching dumpsters, Jesse kept calling my cell phone!  A total of 14 times! And that is what one of the policemen heard as he walked around the square! He heard my phone ringing under the left hand colonnade, spotted the purse, and answered the phone!

I am not making this up!

Two miracles associated with the phone: 1. Thankfully, I had charged it that morning. 2. I always switch the phone from ringer to vibrate when I am in church and 90% of the time or more, I forget, for a day or two, to turn the ringer back on. Yesterday, who knows why (a nudge from a guardian angel?), I actually remembered to turn the ringer on!

So the highs and lows, the ups and downs (actually the downs and then ups!) of my roller coaster Sunday!

And Carlo brought keys to Capitano Cono, the last piece to fall into place.

Jesse and Carolina might have been more distressed than I was when this happened but, thank the Lord, the purse was found, no one was hurt and it ended as Shakespeare said: “All’s well that ends well!”

I did, however, get a fraud alert from Chase bank asking me if a transaction at Footlocker was mine or not. I said it was fraud and they immediately cancelled that card and charge.

Part of Sunday afternoon and this morning I was busy taking care of the other credit card and my Italian ATM card. I had alerted the bank yesterday and a new card was already waiting for me this morning when I arrived at the bank to sign papers.

By late afternoon, half of me was quite wound up and the other half was extremely
tired.  I said a rosary of thanksgiving – especially for Guardian Angels! – and had a quiet evening at home.

I thanked the Lord for his several miracles of the day, for the positive outcome of what had been a very distressing moment and for making me more aware than ever of the many people in my life who care so much for me and who jumped in to help immediately, no questions asked. People who bring a big smile to my face as I end this saga!

I asked God to bless my earthly guardian angels and perhaps tell my heavenly one, “job well done!”



The following is one of those stories that is so unbelievable, it has to be true!

As most of you already know, one of my favorite places to go for breakfast, brunch or lunch is Homebaked, a place near St. Peter’s Square that Jesse, an American from Buffalo and his Roman wife, Carolina opened two and a half years ago. They’ve had a similar but much smaller place for 8 years on Monteverde and opened the one on Via di Porta Cavalleggeri in April 2019.

Homebaked offers amazing breakfasts, terrific and abundant sandwiches, wraps, salads, nachos and so many other things.  I go every Saturday for lunch and every Sunday after Mass for brunch when I delight in their French toast, their wonderful bacon, coffee and a mimosa.

Carolina is there 3 days a week (they close Tuesdays) and Jesse on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I always go on weekends and sometimes during the week. Occasionally, as I did yesterday, I go on Mondays so that I can see Carolina.

That is all by way of background and now here is the amazing part:

I was sitting at one of the outside tables eating lunch, close to an open window with display cases featuring Jesse’s homebaked sweets (you’ll never eat a better blueberry muffin!). Carolina and I were chatting when a mailman came up to her, held out a letter and asked: Is this for you?  She started to say ‘no’ but then saw my name on the envelope and handed it to me!

It was a letter from a close friend of mine in the States who, by one digit, had written the wrong address of my apartment building on Via di Porta Cavalleggeri.   So the mailman went to the address that seemed likely to correspond to the number on the envelope and it was Homebaked!

Caroline and I were speechless, to say the least!!

It gave a whole new meaning to the expression “What a small world!”

Truly, the absolute most astonishing part is this story is that I, the recipient of the letter, was actually sitting there as the postman came!

Another amazing moment yesterday:

Last evening I was at La Vittoria for dinner (and most of you know this is my other favorite eatery) where I often go on Monday evenings. The place was packed – all outside tables and tables in both inside rooms. Claudio found a table for me and all was well.

At a certain point, having ordered dinner, I was checking email on my phone and, sensing a presence, looked to my right and saw the smiling face of a darling little girl with beautiful eyes and lovely long hair! I spoke to her in both Italian and English and she continued to smile and then turned around as she heard her parents call her. I turned and smiled back at them.

Minutes later, Claudio came to tell me the parents and little girl recognized me from a meeting at La Vittoria two years ago!

As they were leaving, the family came to my table, Lisa remaining by my side the whole time (it was very noisy and I hope I heard her name correctly). I so wanted to put her on my lap! Her father reminded me that two years earlier, when she was just over two years old, they were in Rome for a number of days as she had a health issue and was to be checked out at Bambin Gesu pediatric hospital, located on Janiculum Hill above the area where La Vittoria is. They were staying in a hotel near the restaurant at the time and had most of their meals at LV.

Over the years, I’ve met many such families at La Vittoria whose children were being treated at Bambin Gesu and who stayed in nearby hotels or convents and ate at LV because the prices are right and the staff ever so friendly.

Last night, Lisa’s father – I forgot to ask his name as I was so astonished at the encounter! – reminded me that two years ago our tables were next to each other and I had started a conversation, drawn by their darling child. I had also answered questions they had about the neighborhood, the Vatican, etc., as LV is literally in the shadows of Vatican City. He said: “you really made our evening. You had such concern for our Lisa and told us so many stories that it was a happy evening. It is wonderful to meet again!” I so wish I had taken a photo or two!.

Lisa is back in town for more checkups at Bambin Gesu. She was admitted to the hospital today and my first thought this morning was a prayer for this beautiful young lady. I’ll try to see her parents again and get a health update.

You never know when you start a conversation where it will eventually go! I’ve had many unforgettable and serendipitous encounters over the years – meetings and friendships that started in a restaurant with a few words, perhaps even “Could you pass the olive oil?”



Easter was very quiet here as it was for tens of millions, probably hundreds of million of Christians around the world due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus. I had expected to “attend” Mass in the Catholic America parish of St. Patrick’s as the priests and lectors and our cantor, as they have done for weeks for the Sunday Masses, had all done their individual parts via video segments filmed at home and in church, and the segments were the all put together by talented Paulist Fathers in NY and DC.

However, I awoke to find I was without my landline phone and Internet, so I could not watch that Mass online as expected. I was able to watch Pope Francis’ Mass and powerful Urbi et Orbi address and blessings on EWTN.

Pope Francis spoke about contagion, principally the contagion of hope. As vaticannews reminded us: “Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message on Easter Sunday challenges us to ban indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness during this time of Covid-19 – and to spread the ‘contagion’ of hope.”

Definitely food for thought on this very different Easter Sunday.

EWTN broke away briefly at the end of Mass and, as I sought to see if anyone else was carrying the papal Mass and Urbi et Orbi, I was delighted to find that Fox News channel had transmitted the entire Mass and was transmitting the Urbi et Orbi as I tuned in! In fact their Sunday correspondents spoke about faith and hope and Easter after the transmission but also, for some time, kept images of St. Peter’s Basilica on a split screen!

I did celebrate the day with my usual Sunday brunch – this week wonderful, crispy bacon, scrambled eggs, toast and jelly and a mimosa!

I look forward to returning to Homebaked for brunch as soon as restrictions are lifted on places that serve food. My favorite is their great bacon and savory French toast combination!

I was able to do a few things during the day on my cell phone but basically found non-Internet things to do, being locked in my home and locked out of cyberspace.

Yesterday was Easter Monday – Pasquetta or Little Easter – and is also known here as Monday of the Angel, a big holiday in Italy. This day recalls the meeting between the women who went to Jesus’ tomb, sad to see it empty but then rejoicing when an angel comforted them, saying the Savior had risen!

Italians typically dedicate Easter Monday to family outings, most often celebrating a picnic meal at midday. If you google Pasquetta or Little Easter, chances are you’ll find more menus for picnics than you will information on its history!  However, I am sure the only family picnics took place on balconies or terraces this year!

And the weather on Easter Sunday and Monday was superb – sunny, blue skies and about 70 degrees!

By the way, the noon prayer in this post-Easter time is the Regina Coeli, not the Angelus.

Allow me to offer some beautiful words pronounced by Pope Benedict on Easter Monday 2012, his last pasquetta as pontiff,** that have always been seared into my mind and heart: He noted that the Gospel writers do not describe the Resurrection itself. “That event remains mysterious – not as something unreal, but as something beyond the reach of our knowledge – as a light so bright the eyes cannot bear it.”

Benedict said, “the Gospel narration begins with the morning after the sabbath when the women run to the sepulchre, find it empty and hear an angel tell them the Lord has risen. As they run in turn to tell the disciples, they meet Jesus….”

“In those days in Israel,” said Benedict, “women’s testimony could have no official legal value. Nevertheless, women have experienced a special bond with the Lord, that is fundamental to the day-to-day life of the Christian community, and this is always true, in every age, not only at the beginning of the Church’s pilgrim journey.”

The Pope emeritus stressed how, “in all the Gospels, women play a big role in the stories of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, and also in the passion and death of Jesus.”

** Pope Francis was elected to the papacy on March 13, 2013 and Easter that year fell on March 31st.

Part of my Easter Monday was spent working on a computer virus. I am starting to dislike the number 13! On Friday, March 13 I arrived back in Italy from NYC to find I was joining millions in quarantine. And yesterday, April 13 there was another kind of virus

By the way, the Vatican said in a communique today that, “Following up on the press release of April 3, the Holy See extends until May 3 all the measures that have been adopted to date to deal with the health emergency from Covid-19.” 

Following is an interesting article about disinfecting historic sites during the coronavirus era. It is from Atlas Obscura, a fascinating website that offers daily emails with some of their interesting and unusual stories.  I subscribe and never let offers daily emails go unread. Fantastic if you have kids in school as well – a wonderful learning tool!


Unsung workers around the world on the front lines of the pandemic fight

By Winnie Lee, April 9, 2020

The Giza pyramid complex. The Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Western Wall. These historic sites and others all over the world are usually teeming with tourists, vendors, and guides. But as they close and empty due to COVID-19, the tourists have been replaced by other figures. Municipal workers from sanitation and utility departments, as well as volunteers, can be seen sanitizing these public places. Usually clad in masks, gloves, and protective suits, their job is often to pressure wash these famous spots or spray them with disinfectant.

Click here to continue and see photos: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/disinfecting-historic-sites?utm_source=Atlas+Obscura+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b4e810dc8a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_04_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f36db9c480-b4e810dc8a-65778941&mc_cid=b4e810dc8a&mc_eid=5388373051



Several years ago, a good friend who worked for the Vatican, invited me to breakfast at a place called Homebaked in the Monteverde neighborhood of Rome. The entire menu was American – bacon, eggs, toast, waffles, pancakes, bagels, OJ, coffee, etc. – all those good things we associate with an American breakfast and miss living in Rome. I was thoroughly delighted, enjoyed a delicious, ample, homemade breakfast and went back a number of times, always wishing it was closer to where I lived.

Well, Homebaked has now come to me – their second Rome location has opened just over two blocks from my home on 25 Via di Porta Cavalleggeri and about 100 yards from St. Peter’s Square! I discovered it last week as I got off a bus and found myself staring at this familiar name and a beautiful, inviting window filled with brownies, donuts and slices of fresh pie and the aroma of American coffee brewing next to the sweets.

I immediately went in and there were my friends, the owners, Jesse, American and his wife Carolina, Italian. Big smiles and hugs all around and a promise to return after a press conference I had to cover.

I did return and had a late lunch, brunch to be precise. I’ve been back almost daily even just for a coffee and to say Hi. I took some photos, as you will see and was honored to put the very first pin on the Homebaked map of the U.S. where visitors are asked to tag the city they are from or where they were born. (I tagged Chicago!). The Monteverde café has such a map and the tradition continues of Via di Porta Cavalleggeri!

The new location is a jewel – a beautifully executed interior that just begs you to enter – warm and inviting and filled with sunshine – the colors as well as the atmosphere.

So come on over for breakfast, brunch (French toast, bacon and a mimosa, maybe?), lunch or a mid-afternoon piece of pie (or a few brownies) and coffee.

And spread the word! Tell Jesse and Carolina that Joan sent you!

As it says on one of its FB pages, “Homebaked is a warm tiny place, that feels just like Grandma’s kitchen.
“Homebaked will embrace you with its hearty homemade apple pie or pumpkin pie, brownies, cookies, cheesecake, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, muffins and more. Everything is made from scratch from secret family recipes. At Homebaked you will also be able to find bagels, pancakes, American breakfast, and a vast array of sandwiches, wraps and salads. Last, but not least, Homebaked has real brewed coffee as well as espresso, the only Italian thing you will find here. Homebaked is the only real American eatery in Rome, run by Americans. It has quickly become the home to many expats and American students.”

Also this: https://www.facebook.com/Homebaked-Rome-173819339466563/