Travel guide focuses on Catholic pilgrims

ROME, Italy – Record crowds are expected in the Eternal City for the canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on April 27.

Add in the worldwide popularity of Pope Francis, and Rome has now become an even more desired destination for travelers.

“Rome and the Vatican – Guide 4 Pilgrims” is a new travel guide written by Wood County natives Ken and Betsy Nowell, who live in Vero Beach, Fla.

The book is rich in history with approximately 800 photographs detailing more than 100 pilgrim sites with numerous maps and convenient walking tours, as well as hundreds of tips with essential information any Rome traveler would value, said Ken Nowell, a 1974 graduate of Parkersburg Catholic High School.

For those pilgrims traveling to these canonizations, who want to dig deeper into the Eternal City and their Catholic faith, the Nowells share bonus sites and eccentricities that most Rome/Vatican travel books and tourists miss, they said.

“This book is at the top of my list as one of the most comprehensive Catholic travel guides to Rome,” said Teresa Tomeo, a Catholic radio and television show host who has led thousands of pilgrims to Rome for over 10 years.

“I am taking this book with me on all four of my pilgrimages to Rome this year. Although I have been to Rome many times, this book will help me to discover the hidden gems most miss when visiting the Eternal City,” Tomeo said.

Pilgrims are steered off the well-trodden tourist paths to out-of-the-way sites complete with 1,000 facts, history and trivia in the guide book. According to the Nowells, these sites most tourists miss include the preserved head of St. John the Baptist, a baptismal font used by St. Peter, the column upon which St. Paul was beheaded, the stone upon which soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ tunic, St. Paul’s remains, sarcophagus and the chains that held him, and a section of the scourging column of Jesus Christ.

“With this book in hand, you can see and appreciate what most Christians never learn, and to elevate your faith to a new level – what most tourists miss,” said Nowell.

“My wife and I wrote this book for people like us: those who want to experience their travels as life intensified, seeking to squeeze every ounce out of what they see, experience and learn. We want not only the city of Rome to be called eternal, but the memories of these beautiful sites as well.”

Betsy is a 1974 graduate of Parkersburg High School.

The Nowells graduated from West Virginia University in 1978. Ken received his MBA and JD degrees from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where he practiced law and also owned businesses. He sold all of his business interests in 2008, in order to focus more on his Christian faith, he said. He soon began writing a trilogy of Christian thrillers: The Rise, The Rebellion and The Return.

Rome and the Vatican – Guide 4 Pilgrims has made four best sellers lists on, including No.1 for Vatican travel guides.