Pope, Coliseum, & Roman Forum

Day 14 – Rome, Italy

We got up early today, anxious to catch the pope at his papal blessing. We arrived with no problem at 9 45, and found seats on the aisle, easier to sneak out if necessary. The man next to us was from Asheville, NC. We chatted with him for a while and found out that his son is a travel writer.

It was nice and sunny when we sat down. Twenty minutes later the rain started to fall. Luckily I had worn my sweater, but no jacket. Ricky had no jacket either. We figured it would pass. Umbrellas popped up all around us.

As it started to rain harder, my husband pulled two emergency ponchos out of his backpack. Thank God he was a boy scout! As we sat, nice and dry with our ponchos on, the heavens opened and poured down on us! (I think they were laughing up above!) People began screaming, running, and pushing. Some giggled, like us, who enjoyed watching the chaos.

The rain seeped in through any openings it could find in my poncho. Luckily, our cameras were safely stowed inside our backpacks, which were also tucked under our ponchos. The ground below us became a huge puddle of water. People used anything possible to cover up. I saw a man with a plastic bag ripped apart, and placed over his shirt. Others actually grabbed chairs and put them over their heads! Still a half hour until the pope was scheduled to arrive.

Right before he came out, the clouds parted, and the suddenly the sun shone through! Like a miracle before our eyes. People began climbing on their chairs, and my irritation grew. Then it began. Young and old alike scrambled onto their chairs, giving me a perfect view of everyone’s legs. I looked around and realized it was hopeless; I could either join them, climbing on wet chairs with slippery sandals, or not fight it at all. I watched a woman take a tumble off her chair onto the wet ground, and chose the latter. As they screamed and yelled and cried, I was mesmerized, not by the pope, but by people.

I waited for the commotion to die down, and watched people push forward and climb onto any chair they could find. Suddenly, the pope asked people to take their seat, and hundreds of people scattered, trying to figure out where their original seat was. I think I was the only one whose chair didn’t move in our entire row, which was obviously no longer a row.

What a way to ruin the moment. If everyone sat or stood for that matter, wouldn’t we have the same view as everyone standing on chairs? I don’t get people sometimes. We fought to move out of the commotion a bit, I got a nice clear view of the pope, mostly from the large TV screens on the outer edges. We watched for a while as the pope did a blessing over everyone.

Next stop: Roman Forum and Coliseum.  It took me a half hour to figure out what I was looking at, but it was cool nonetheless. We lucked out with free admission at the Coliseum, due to some cultural event that week in Rome. We enjoyed that very much, imagining the gladiators and crazed audiences thousands of years ago filling the arena.  We couldn’t resist having pictures taken with the dressed up gladiators out in front. They were really fun.  Another highlight of our trip. What a day!