This post was published back in 2010 just after we returned home from a fabulous trip to Italy and Germany. Hans and I were lucky enough to see the Pope up close and personal. Here are a few photos of that memorable day.
Travel Tip #8: If you want to see the Pope, go on Wednesday. Here's a more detailed explanation:
My day started with this...
One thing I learned very quickly is that you must say CAFE Latte if you want caffeine. In other words, if you just order a Latte, you will get steamed milk. I call that a Steamer, but in Rome, you do as the Romans.
So, if you want to join me and have something to drink, there's the menu. Have at it. Oh, and by the way, these little coffee shops do come complete with a full bar. But, that's a different menu which you can't order from. It's too early in the morning. It's 7:30 a.m. !
While sipping caffeine and waiting on the tour guide, this is the scenery...typical attire for the younger girls. Sometimes the shorts are shorter (much), but since this is a PG-Rated Blog, I won't post those photos...mainly because they are on HansMan's iPhone.
Remember I mentioned earlier in one of my Travel Tips to use reputable tour guide companies ? We were told to meet at the Foot Locker close to the Vatican. So, we did. We waited. And waited. And waited for so long that I decided we had used an 'unreputable' company. Come to find out, the guide we reserved with didn't have a large enough group, so they finally combined us with another tour guide who also didn't have a large enough group and herded us together, handed out the 'whispers,' told us to stay in a group, and we were off and running.
(I wish Foot Locker had followed the style of the street sign just above their sign. I mean really. Don't you think they could have carved out F-O-O-T L-O-C-K-E-R into a block of stone so it matched the decor?)
The greatest church in Christendom, St. Peter's Basilica rises on the grandiose St. Peter's Square. We found ourselves slap-dad in the middle of two hundred million gazillllllion people. I'm not sure, but out of those two hundred million gazillllllion people, I think HansMan and I were the only non-Catholics in attendance.
See, I told you there were...
...two hundred million gazilllllion people !
The need to be able to rely on a small but trustworthy army spurred Pope Julius II to create the Swiss Guard Corps in 1506. An agreement with the Helvetic confederation guaranteed a supply of soldiers, all Catholics from the German-speaking cantons, ready to serve the Pope.
Since then, there have not been many changes in the criteria for their recruitment. Great pains are still taken in selecting them today, considering as indispensable prerequisites the moral reliability, physical integrity and aesthetic, appearance of the recruits.
In their colorful uniforms with slashed sleeves and puffed knickerbockers designed in the 16th century, the Swiss Guards have been involved since that time in the history of the Papal State. They were formerly reinforced by the Noble Guard, recruited from among Rome's nobility, by the Palatine Guard, and by the Papal Police Force.
After the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II by Mehmet Ali Agca, a much stronger emphasis has been placed on the Swiss Guards' functional, non-ceremonial roles. This has included enhanced training in unarmed combat and small arms.
On May 4, 1998, the Swiss Guard experienced one of its greatest scandals in over 100 years when the commander of the Guard, Alois Estermann was murdered in unclear circumstances in Vatican City. According to the official Vatican version, Estermann and his wife, Gladys Meza Romero, were killed by the young Swiss Guard, Cédric Tornay, who later committed suicide. Estermann had been named commander of the Swiss Guard the same day.
Michelangelo's mighty silver-blue dome dominates the scene, blending into the sky above, conveying a sense of the absolute and infinite, which touches the soul of all who gaze upon it. (Even though I'm not Catholic, it's impossible not to feel a sense of awe while standing there...looking up and all around.)
The construction of the dome proceeded through problems and obstacles of every kind. Michelangelo was already quite old when he began the project in 1546, and when he died in 1564, only the drum had been completed. The rest of the work was finished between 1588 and 1589 by Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana.