“And you know what to do if he comes out onto that balcony? We all say ‘Happy Birthday’!”
When queuing, it’s not uncommon to overhear an amusing conversation. When bunched up so close to others, it’s virtually impossible not to be able to hear another English voice among the general melee of expectation. Or to be absolutely correct in this case, an Irish voice.
The family next to me can’t wait to get in. And they’re in great, vocal, Dublin humour. Because this no ordinary queue at an ordinary tourist attraction. This is full on Pope Idol, outside St Peter’s Basilica in the heart of Vatican City.
In case anyone mistakes my opening remarks for an insult, I should probably declare an interest. I’m a lapsed Catholic. Extremely so. And although I’ve come all the way to Rome, I wasn’t all that bothered about seeing the Vatican.
But my mate Mike is suitably persuasive when it comes to tackling the cynics. I say persuasive. H actually just walks towards the Vatican walls and into the museum – complete with its €15 entry fee – before I have time to complain.
However, once through the doors – and the thick walls – you can’t deny the impressive artwork. A cleverly constructed, lengthy route takes you through miles of corridors and galleries to literally the mother of all paint jobs, the Sistine Chapel.
Along with about a thousand tourists at any one time, this sacred place is constantly patrolled by Vatican security guards, with a constant cry of “No video! No photo!”. So, just to be clear, I definitely didn’t take this picture.
That’s the problem with Rome. It’s just one photo opportunity after another. Make sure your camera batteries are well charged. And a spare memory card might not be a bad idea. But if you’re planning that perfect romantic photo of you and yours throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, think again. These were the scenes on a Thursday night:
We head just up the street and choose from the multitude of restaurants. Like any capital city, there’s no shortage of choice. And in these austere financial times, Rome’s city centre prices are suitably competitive. A €12 main course seems perfectly reasonable, as does a €20 bottle of local wine. It’s somewhat perplexing,then, that dinner for three comes in at over €110. The generous portions of bread and mineral water seemingly don’t come that cheap.
We end the evening by catching up with Tim and his bride to be, Letizia – along with her family and friends from the United States – in an impressive ice cream parlour. For a nation of often svelte and stylish people, it’s impossible to know just how they can eat so much rich food. And don’t start all that “olive oil is good for you” nonsense. Actually, there are plenty of plump Romans knocking about the place, so don’t feel guilty about indulging.
Talking of which, today’s blog end with a series of suitably indulgent pictures. Belissimo.