Just a brief note today to say I am back in Rome after a period of both work and rest while I was in Sorrento. I saw my friends, spent some wonderful time relaxing over terrific meals, bought a few gifts for people and just did some reading!  No deadlines, no schedules, no alarm clocks!

I kept up with the news, of course, and posted a blog on Friday and then posted the amazing announcement of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy called by Pope Francis on Facebook, as I did other important stories over the weekend. So I was not out of the loop (a very tough thing for a journalist to do!).

Visiting the Amalfi Coast this time of year is a very different experience from a trip in late spring, summertime or early fall when the tourists fill every nook and cranny, every beach, terrace restaurant and café and life swings till well past midnight when even the stores are open at that hour.

This time I found most of the top, five-star hotels (and many four-stars) closed but renovating and every single one of my favorite restaurants was closed! However, my friend Maggie, whose husband is the maitre d’ at my favorite restaurant in Sorrento and perhaps all of Italy, L’Antica Trattoria) introduced me to a superb find and I will soon post photos of the meals I consumed at Ristorante Tasso!

During the low tourist season, which usually starts right after the Epiphany and runs up to either the March 19 feast of St. Joseph (Father’s day in Italy) or Holy Week, many hotels and restaurants close.  The staff has several months off but I learned something interesting this trip: The staff may be off but they continue to receive some pay from the government for whom the tourist industry is too important to let hotels or restaurants or other businesses fail in the low season. Paying some compensation assures the staff of a year around job and assures the hotels and restaurants of having a staff they know and trust.

As I walked by so many familiar but closed hotels and restaurants, I saw a lot of repair work underway: buldings getting fresh coats of paint, inside and out, shutters and doors and tiles (and anything else that needed it!) being repaired, as well as improvements perhaps in lighting, plumbing, furniture, etc.  Lots of gardening going on also – new vases and planters brought in or old ones painted, new flowers carefully planted, etc.

It was a fun experience but I can’t wait to go back when the doors of my favorite haunts are open and there is hustle, bustle and great food!

I do have to say that where I stayed was a real jewel, a true discovery, and I’d be happy to stay here every time I come to Sorrento and to advise friends to do the same. Antico Palazzo Scala is not a hotel, but six wonderful apartments located right in the center of absolutely everything BUT on a very small, very quiet street (no cars or motorbikes) and the silence was beyond enjoyable!  The building has a ton of history, and is about 100 feet from one of the most beautiful churches in Sorrento – Santa Maria delle Grazie!

Yesterday, Sunday, I had a terrific time because I went to the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii for the 11 am Mass and to take some photos of this lovely basilica that Pope Francis will visit next Saturday before going on to Naples. An acquaintance of mine from the days we both worked in the Roman Curia, ArchbishopTommaso Caputo, the prelate of this beloved Marian shrine, celebrated the 11 am Mass and I was blessed to have a chance to speak with him in the sacristy before Mass, with the help of a volunteer Dame of Malta, Cristiana.

I’ll be posting photos and the story of the shrine and my absolutely amazing first visit there in 1997 on Friday, the day before Pope Francis travels south.

There are two interesting stories I want to post today: the first about the papal audience to the reigning Captains Regent of San Marino and then the Holy Father’s beautiful homily at Mass this morning, I do not often focus on the daily papal homilies – you know where to find them – but this was too wonderful and I had to feature it!  Pope Francis’ enthusiasm for God’s love for all of us, for each and every one of us, his description of God’s love will become part of you forever. You will want to print this, laminate it and read it often, just to remind yourself of God’s overwhelming love for us, his children.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday received in audience their Excellencies Giancarlo Terenzi and Guerrino Zanotti, the Captains Regent of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino.


A Vatican press released said that during the cordial discussions, deep satisfaction was expressed regarding the good relations between the Holy See and the Republic of San Marino, and the active collaboration in the social field between public institutions and the Church was underlined.

In addition, mention was made of the fruitful collaboration between the Holy See and the Republic of San Marino at a bilateral level and in the context of the international community.

After being received by the Pope, their Excellencies Giancarlo Terenzi and Guerrino Zanotti  met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

The Captains Regent of San Marino are elected every six months by the Grand and General Council – the country’s parliament. They serve as heads of state and government. Normally the Regents are chosen from opposing parties and their mandate lasts six months. The investiture of the Captains Regent takes place on 1 April and 1 October every year, beginning in 1243.

The practice of dual heads of government (Diarchy) is derived directly from the customs of the Roman Republic, equivalent to the consuls of ancient Rome.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says we are loved by God in a way that no theologian can explain.

He was speaking during morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.

Taking his cue from the first letter of the prophet Isaiah in which the Lord says He is “about to create new heavens and a new earth”, Pope Francis said that God’s second creation is even more “wonderful” than the first because when he makes the world over he does so in Jesus Christ. He renews everything and manifests his immense joy:

“We find that the Lord has so much enthusiasm: he speaks of joy and says ‘I will exult in my people’. The Lord thinks of what He will do and of how He will rejoice with His people. It’s almost as if he has a dream. He has a dream. His dream is about us. ‘Oh, how beautiful it will be when we are all together, when this and that person will walk with me… I will exult in that moment!’ To bring you an example that can help us better understand, it’s like when a girl or a boy think of their beloved: ‘when we will be together, when we marry…’. It’s God’s ‘dream’”.

“God – the Pope continued – thinks of each of us and loves each of us. He ‘dreams’ about us. He dreams of how He will rejoice with us. That’s why the Lord wants to ‘re-create’ us, He wants to renew our hearts so that joy can triumph:

“Have you thought about it? The Lord dreams of me! He thinks of me! I am in the Lord’s mind and in His heart! The Lord can change my life! And he has many projects: ‘we will build houses and plant vineyards, we will share our meals’… these are the dreams of someone who is in love…. Thus we can see that the Lord is in love with his people. And when he says to his people: ‘I haven’t chosen you because you are the strongest, the biggest, the most powerful. I have chosen you because you are the smallest of them all. You could add: the most miserable. This is whom I have chosen’. This is love”.

God “is in love with us” – Francis repeated, as he commented on the Gospel reading that speaks of the miraculous healing of the son of a Royal official:

“I don’t think a theologian exists who can explain this: it is impossible to explain. We can only think about it, we can feel, we can cry with joy. The Lord can change us. ‘And what must I do?’ Believe. I must believe that the Lord can change me, that He has the power to do so: just like the man in the Gospel whose son was sick. ‘Sir, come down before my child dies’. ‘You may go (Jesus said to him). Your son will live!’ That man believed in the words of Jesus and had set off. He believed. He believed that Jesus had the power to change his child, the health of his child. And he won. To have faith is to make space for God’s love, to make space for his power, for God’s power. Not for the power of a powerful person, but for the power of one who loves me, who is in love with me and who wants to rejoice with me. This is faith. This is believing: making space for the Lord so that he can come and change me”.