Roma Due


Day two and no need to discuss the weather – it was perfect. Clutching my map, I left my hotel dressed modestly in black as befits the object of my day’s outing. I have no sense of direction. Never have had, but I still managed to navigate forty-four countries without much difficulty. Travelling in Poland, a dentist friend said he used the ‘point and say in English’ method. I use my own ‘point, smile and have a go at the language’ method. It never fails. So by ten o’clock I had met about twenty friendly Italians who helped me as I pointed at my map, smiled angelically and tried to pronounce the place I was going to. Worked every time and I manage to walk clear across Rome from the Villa Borghese to the Vatican with a clue where I was going. A number of my helpers were Carabinieri. I know about these guys because I once saw a TV program called ‘Rex in Rome’ which was about a dog who posed with lots of male models pretending to be police, in pursuit of a brunette with glossy hair who had gone missing while riding her Vespa. Each one was charming and I had long conversations where they explained the route in detail and I smiled knowingly as they stared at my boobs. This is Italy, remember.

It took about 90 mins to walk to the Vatican. Coming past the Castel Sant’Angelo, a really scary looking place where the Inquisition set up shop for a few hundred years, there is a very odd sight. Ahead is St Peter’s Square and to the left is a huge billboard advertising the new Samsung Galaxy S7. Talk about sacred and profane. I would like to suggest that the revenue goes towards the enormous number of beggars, all mainly female, around the square.

I seemed to have missed a few meals recently so I found a restaurant with lots of charming waiters and for some reason, fireman.  Perhaps the Carabinieri put out an alert that I heading in that direction. Had a really huge plate of pasta followed by chocolate ice cream. My Fitbit had already buzzed so I think I earned it. Then it was time for the Vatican. I had one of those ‘skip the line’ tickets but it still took 30 minutes to get inside. This is not a user friendly place. Miles of marble halls and staircases. It was hot and airless and busting at the seams with tourists waving selfie sticks. After a couple of miles of marble male nudes even I started to get bored and composed a little dramatic scene as I waited in another long hall full of ugly dull tapestries that made me sneeze.

Pope to Papal Person:  I am tired of living here. It is cold in the winter and hot in the summer and the bathroom is miles away.

Papal Person: Well your Holiness, you have a lot of stuff.

Pope: Stuff? What stuff?

Papal Person: We pretty much looted, I mean bestowed our holy patronage on most of the known world for the last thousand years. That is a lot of marble statutes, carved boats and sundry gold objects kicking round.

Pope: What do you propose?

Papal Person: We could build some really upmarket apartments in one corner of the square and turn the rest into an enormous museum for the education of the heaving masses and make a huge fortune selling guide books and ugly rosaries.

Pope: Brilliant. Say, how would you like to be a cardinal?

By then we were at the Sistine Chapel. Don’t get me wrong. It is a lovely bit of art. A sort of religious cartoon on the ceiling. But masses of people stood starting at it in the belief that it might bestow some kind of holy blessing on them. It’s a painting. Get the tea towel and hold it over your head for a while. It will have the same affect. By then my feet were hurting, so I concentrated on finding something small that I really liked to remember my trip. There were two smashing astrolabes that the Spanish may or may not have donated willingly and a very sad stuffed swan. Also an enormous number of what I think were wardrobes lining miles of corridors. Either that is where the bodies are hidden or the Pope has a lot of clothes.