We woke at 5 so Donna could have enough time to get ready (it takes a bit of time) -- we were downstairs for breakfast at 6:45 and by 7:15 we were in a cab heading to St. Peter's Square.
We met our tour guide Stephanie at the meeting place after I checked in with the City Wonders staff person (she remembered me from yesterday's check in for the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel tour). At 7:40 we started moving towards the entrance to the Papal Audience. Stephanie warned us before we left the area by the newspaper stand (our meeting point) that we needed to listen to her through the headphones -- if she said to move slowly, that's what we were to do. If she said to move quickly, that's what we needed to do. So everyone listened (we were part of a group of 17 people).
Stephanie escorted us through the metal detectors and we hurriedly followed her to the last row -- center section -- of an area. "You want to sit here because the Pope will come right by here". She then went on to explain what was going to happen -- and to give us a history of St. Peter's and the Christian Church.
Stephanie left us before the audience started -- she didn't need to be with us the rest of the time. Although the ticket to the audience is free, getting it through Viator (and CityLights tours) was the best use of my money -- I would have never known to sit where we did, and for those who didn't know the history of the square or the Church, her explanation was very helpful.
When the audience was about to begin the Pope came right by us in the Popemobile. He stopped at our corner (Donna was on that corner) to kiss two babies. The sun was blazing down on us so I kept snapping pictures with my phone -- I couldn't see anything in the phone lens so I was hoping I got some good pictures. I did! A miracle!
The mother of this little boy sat in front of us -- I sent her this picture!
At the end of his time making his rounds around the plaza, he came back to our aisle again! I was busy working on something on my phone and snapped these later than I had hoped!
The audience started -- a reading from Matthew's gospel -- the baptism of Jesus. The Pope then offered a teaching on the passage -- he talked about love, forgiveness, the cross. His lengthy sermon was done in Italian, with a synopsis offered in English, French, Dutch, Flemish, Arabic, Spanish, Portugese, German, Slavic -- and I think a few other languages as well. At each offering the Pope welcomed the pilgrims from those areas. At the end of the audience we were lead in singing the Lord's Prayer in Latin, then the Pope offered a Papal blessing -- to be extended to all those in our families and on our hearts, especially those who are ill, poor, or suffering in spirit. I had many people on my heart this day, and I was glad for that blessing. I had four pairs of rosary beads in my purse and other items to be blessed for people for whom having the Papal Apostolic Blessing would be a welcome balm -- I will be delivering those when I get home.
As soon as one of the barricades was slightly opened I got our small party of 4 out of the area through making my way past guards. It was a sea of people.
We made it over to the taxi stand and then on to the Pantheon. Not the nicest taxi cab driver in the world!
I love the Pantheon -- the ceiling is amazing. I took the group over to see the grave of Rafael, someone they came to know via his paintings and the explanations given by our guide Sev yesterday at the Vatican.
I love the ceiling in the Pantheon:
Here's Donna and Deb:
The grave of Rafael in the Pantheon:
We went across the street to the linen shop where I bought so many tea towels in October -- and once again I was buying more towels. I love the quality and the price is so good. The shopkeeper suggested a restaurant right around the corner for lunch. Turns out it was closed, so we went to the one across the street -- the Taverna del Seminario -- it was tasty and reasonably priced!
We then started our walk towards Chiesa Gesu, the church where St. Ignatius Loyola is buried. When we got there we discovered the church was closed. I took a picture of the outside, though:
Next we walked over to the Trevi fountain -- when I was here in October it was being refurbished. It was flowing in all it's glory today, though!
We walked by and admired the Barberini Fountain:
A man was filling up his water bottle in the fountain right before I snapped this picture:
We walked over to the Capuchin Crypt -- while we couldn't take pictures inside the museum or the crypt itself, it was as moving this time as it was in October"
We were all hot and tired, so we headed on back to the hotel. After freshening up a bit, Deb, Mike and I headed up to look through the keyhole at the top of the hill (the Sweets sign was hanging off a truck, not on top of the door of the keyhole -- just to be clear:
I couldn't get a picture through the keyhole, but it was fun to show it to Mike and Deb.
We also visited the Benedictine Monastery and church:
Next we were able to get into the area next to a school and look over at Vatican Hill:
I love the walk through the neighborhood -- I saw a church I didn't know was there:
We walked back to the hotel where Donna was waiting for us. We had a sandwich at the hotel and called it dinner -- none of us had the energy to go out! And at the Hotel Villa San Pio:
Donna and Aga:
Aga made our sandwich dinner:
It has been an amazing day. Seeing the Pope -- being THAT close to him twice in six months -- wow.
Steps today: 12,046 -- 4.63 miles.