19.07.2011 32 °C
Monday 18th July
Rome, special Monday.
No drama getting up early and keen for more sightseeing around the Vatican area before our "appointment with the pope" at 1pm, at least that's what I thought it said on the ticket!
Arrived at the Vatican area before the shops opened so we had a cappuccino and watched the masses heading to the Vatican although I think there were almost as many "official guides" offering their premium services for a guided tour or tickets to bypass the queues. We had a casual look around the side streets away from the crowds but Sue managed to attract the worst in Roman service:-
1) asked a shop owner what time he closed in the evening and he burst into outrage claiming that he was always open, was open now and if we wanted his products we should buy them now as the prices were ridiculously low ( they weren't in fact lower than other shops);
2) when not offering correct money in a small supermarket, the check-out lady complained in Italian to other customers about these tourists always wanting change;
3) pretty slick scammer having a go at us, whilst walking along the riverside we were stopped by a motorist in distress, he was lost and needed help with his map. Being the kind hearted folk we are, Sue goes over to talk and we proceed to show him the way. He is so grateful and being an important businessman ( dressed in suit & tie & smart car), the owner of a famous fashion label, Pieroni, ( he had the catalogue and business credentials to prove it) he would like to reward us for helping him in this city he is not familiar with. Pulling out a flash looking handbag he explains that it would be worth $1000 in George St or Collins St ( has done his homework!). However as he is running short of petrol and the gas stations wont take his credit card, so if we could just help him out with a few €, we can have the bag. When I suggested €20 he said that he needed more than that he suggested that he needed at least €50 to fill his tank. At that point we said enough is enough and no deal, so off he went, looking for some more tourists I suppose. Thought this was a pretty neat scam but when we Googled it, has been around for a while, damm, thought we were targeted by a "special" scam!
Sue was pretty fired up by now and pretended to buy some rosary beads, I think to calm herself down. Continued walking to Castle of St Angelo, but, you guessed it, closed on Mondays!
Kept walking and found an amazing store that sold every food stuff imaginable, including Vegemite.
By this time it was time to prepare to see the pope so we bought some salad rolls and a big bottle of water and found a nice little park to take lunch, even cleaning ourselves up in the fountain, got to look presentable at the Vatican you know!
As expected we walked straight past the LONG line of plebs without tickets outside the Vatican and walked straight up to the guards at the ticket line and after a quick scan of our tickets, says to us, "in you go Sir", happy days!
Then once inside the penny drops, it is just us and about 10,000 of the popes "other closest friends" and we just happened to turn up at the same time! Never mind, it must get better once we get truly inside, but after scanning our bags and taking another €7 for an audio tour, I began to get suspicious once I realised the pope had not left me a pesonalised tour message, but it was a "Telstra, have a nice day voice". Then it was just like Wagga sale yards on sheep sale day, every room was packed, tour guides yelling to their flock in a range of languages and Vatican guards, quietly herding everyone in the right direction, at a brisk pace. No time to pause and ponder the amazing statues, tapestries, paintings and architecture, keep moving people, except when you come to one of the 20 or so "gift shops". Who are they a gift to?
The most disappointing was the Sistine Chapel which was chock full of people all talking and the guards yelling at everyone to be quiet and keep moving. Not even 5 mins in there before we were pushed out.
Then it was stairs, half empty rooms and another 1/2 dozen gift shops, 2 walks through the Vatican Post office, return the audio tour and we were released onto the street, just like the homeless people we saw around the corner, deprived of some cash and very little in the way of an enlightening experience. Frankly it is a very nice museum but no more, maybe with smaller crowds it may be better but it is all so busy that there is no opportunity to take it all in, nor to understand it.
However it is a must see and an essential part of the Rome experience, just take it for what it is, not what you hope it is.
To recover from this we found a cafe nearby and had a cool one, before getting lost again, found again, a long walk, a short train ride, a trip to the supermarket and we were back on our balcony enjoying a cool breeze, a glass or 2 of sparkling Rose and munching on some local produce, again.
Sue whipped up a quick stir fry for tea and we settled in early, if 10.30 is early ( is by Rome time). Survived another Roman day !!