The Lebanese Connection

BY: Marisa Labozzetta


When a friend sent me a list of inexpensive hotels in Rome, I booked two rooms for Holy Week under the listing of "Lebanese Nuns"--partially out of desperation, mostly out of curiosity. Lebanese nuns in Rome? The thought of staying at a convent alarmed my 14-year-old son, who has been raised in a loose Judeo-Christian tradition. Would we have to partake in any religious rituals? he wanted to know.

No sooner did my husband, son, daughter, and I exit the G.R.A. (the beltway around Rome) but we became lost. When I approached two cyclists to ask directions to the area called Monteverdi Vecchio, one readily agreed to lead us there himself, as it was his neighborhood and he was heading home. Following him for several miles in and out of traffic, up and down hills, while he fearlessly took lefts and rights across large avenues, our stay in Rome was already turning out to be extraordinary.

A turn onto the horseshoe-shaped Via Fratelli Bandiera landed us in the midst of a labyrinth of streets carved into Rome's westernmost hill, Gianicolo. Beautiful old villas in what was once a very affluent section of the city rose in layers of wide tile roofs on the hillside. Behind a locked gate was the courtyard and entrance to the more contemporary three-story convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross.

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