A small group of us started the day at the Vatican at the weekly Wednesday Papal audience. It starts at 10:30 and we got there about 9:00 so we could get seats close to the outer aisle of the front section. That meant we'd get a closeup look at Benedict in his Pope Mobile. It is a sea of people that fills almost the whole square. You have to get a free ticket beforehand and we believe you can only get tickets if you are affiliated with a religious organization. You see flags from all over the world (Brazil, Spain, Poland, Sweden) and groups with lots of different matching outfits (orange hats, yellow scarves).
I asked Sister Anne if it was like Times Square on New Years with about 90% tourists. She said it was.
At about 10:15 the opening act started with a choir singing a quick song. Then someone came out to read off all the groups from Germany. It took him almost ten minutes to get through them all.
The anticipation in the crowd starts to mount and people leave their seats behind and press to the edges to get a good view. They change the image on the plasma screens (maybe 10 feet wide) from the overhead shot, we thought we saw the sun reflecting off Ralph's hairless head but couldn't be sure. I was able to spot the Pope Mobile coming to the fore and we watched it move ever so slowly - zig zagging back and forth through the aisles. As expected he came right past us. I captured it on video, others with still shots. We'll get it up here soon enough.
Once he passed some of us broke for the exit. They had to wait for him to get back toward the stage then the guards let us out. We were definitely going against the tide as many others were rushing in to get closer.
From there it was time to test my memory. Diana and I took the Metro to the main station (Termini) and searched. It wasn't where I thought it was but we found it. Not as awesome as I remembered and it looked pretty beaten up instead of the smooth marble surface I recalled. But there it was, some mythic man wrestling with a sea serpent, the water shooting from the mouth of the beast. Four mermaids dot the outer rim of the fountain, sprayed by water from smaller fishes.
Then we got back on the Metro for a trip to the Coliseum. In the small, small world of Rome, we bumped into a group of six or eight of our fellow pilgrims who had just been to the Sistine Chapel - twice. The Vatican Museum is set up with only one way out - they raced to see the Chapel then went back to see some works by Raphael - but to leave they had to go back through the Chapel.
We walked past the Coliseum, the Roman Forum and other ruins of ancient Rome and past Circus Maximus - which once held an arena of some 250,000 marble coated seats and now looks like a recently completed construction project, like they just laid a new mile long sewer line and the grass hasn't grown back yet. You'd think they'd have thought of a better fate.
Next it was up to the Jewish Quarter. I got some pictures of the synagogue and found a place to eat. I choose wrong. It took forever to get some not so good fish and made it so we had to hustle to get back. We raced along the Tiber River then got caught up at a tunnel; a wrong turn up a steep hill, some confusion and longer detour until we got back on track. We made it to the hotel with twenty minutes to spare before getting on the bus to St. John Lateran.
Tomorrow I want to get to the Pantheon - maybe go back to the Jewish Quarter - our way-too-long lunch meant I had no time to look around.
The Pope says "Hi" back by the way.