This is honestly the first time I have had an opportunity to sit down and record some thoughts regarding my current time in Italy. My wife Kelli was with me till yesterday morning, and now I am back in Mantova, having taken the EuroStar train from Rome to Modena yesterday afternoon. Here’s proof I really survived Rome. We visited the ruins of the Coliseum. First, some cultural comments.

What on earth is wrong with protein? 🙂

Italians think our bread lacks substance. I.e., warm, soft, buttery bread is bad, hard, crusty, butterless bread is good. OK, tell that to the folks at Olive Garden. I vote for the warm buttery kind.

Driving is driving anywhere in the world; we Americans just have much bigger cars. Most folks I know would not do well here at first, but, over time, you get the idea. Manhattan, London, Rome—all the same, to be honest, except I must admit round-abouts work a lot better than traffic lights, so give the Brits and the Europeans the point on that one (notice I differentiated between them: they do themselves, believe me). Also, the last thing I would ever want to be in Europe is a side-view mirror. If you’ve been here, you know what I mean.

I am now the Marlboro Man. I have smoked two packs since I got here, and I don’t smoke. I have breathed in more cigarette smoke since arriving in Italy than I did in the preceding twenty years in the US. I am not exaggerating there, either. While waiting in the main train terminal in Rome for a few hours yesterday it was so bad, so utterly ubiquitous, that I could feel my lungs burning, just like (I am told) the first time you smoke. I am sure I will smell of it when I get home. You just can’t escape it in public places. And at each stop on the train yesterday, at least half the people in the car got out to smoke. Pure addiction.

Now, I will post some pictures in the next installment, but let me note now the fact that when we all heard about the “1.1 billion Roman Catholics” in the world during the recent explosion of news regarding the Papacy, the number is pure bunk IF you count those who actually follow the religion with sufficient fervor for it to impact their daily life in even the most minimum fashion. This is a secular nation. Prostitution is open (first thing I saw upon entering Rome). If Romanism is the one true religion, well then, the one true religion can have zero impact upon the culture in which it is allegedly predominant. As much as my Roman Catholic friends will dislike this, Rome is a dead religion in this nation. When I visited the Vatican, I was visiting a very ornate, vastly expensive tomb. Little more. It did not speak of life. It spoke of death, and the vanity of those buried in its marble crypts. But more on that later.

It has been a privilege to seek to encourage the small, but dedicated Reformed evangelical community in Italy. I will invest some time in discussing them on the DL when I get home, Lord willing. But for now, I must run, as it is lunch time and time for…pizza! How rare! Oh for an Arby’s….

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