St. Peter’s Square in the rain as seen from the Vatican steps…
By the time we left Castel St. Angelo’s it was raining, and we only had one working umbrella. One had collapsed from fatigue and the other was still AWOL.
Frank had scheduled a tour of the Vatican for 1:00 p.m. We had about two hours to walk there, and maybe have a nice sit down lunch.
I remember standing in the rain, waiting at a traffic light and trying to remain positive despite the black clouds that were beginning to gather in my mood to match those circling the skies over Rome.
After crossing the street, we came across some venders selling umbrellas and ponchos.
Street venders are for the most part, immigrants from third world countries who have made their way to Italy in hopes of a better life. Unemployment is very high in Rome, so selling merchandise is all they have for income. They work hard. Very hard.
Last time we were in Rome, the big sales item was Roses.
That wasn’t the case anymore… maybe because of the time of year.
Umbrellas and clear rain ponchos seem to be popular as there is a vender on every street corner… maybe with some silk scarves on the side.
“Quanta costa,” I asked an old man selling some pretty umbrellas.
“Dieci,” he replied.
Ten euros for an umbrella was on the pricey side. That would be about thirteen dollars. But they were sturdy looking and the colors were attractive. Besides there was only one umbrella for the three of us and the rain showed no sign of letting up.
I passed the gentleman twenty euros, and had my pick of portable or standard umbrellas.
I picked the standard, as they were larger, lovelier, and when not in use, I could use it as a walking cane.
We arrived at the designated meeting site for our Vatican tour an hour or so early. Lucky there was a ristorante right across the street from the Vatican opening gates.
After a very expensive, yet enjoyable chicken Caesar salad, and some pasta… we were ready to get moving again.
Finding our tour guide and group was no problem and before we knew it we were entering the Vatican Museum.
My first impression as I walked through the gates was that I was queuing line at an airport customs and security checkpoint.
Instead of the artsy renaissance look, the decor was cool, sleek and chic, not what you’d expect to see.
And the sea of thronging humanity trying to enter the Vatican museum was very impressive.
Our entrance fees had been pre-paid, so we just had to go through security.
It was then that we were told that we would have to surrender our brand new umbrellas, (We were allowed to keep the one we brought from home because it was portable.)
The guide explained that Vatican security considered our umbrellas a threat. We were told that they were long enough to do serious damage to the Vatican treasures if anyone took a mind to do so.
We would be allowed to reclaim them after the tour.
Now, our tour was beginning with the Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel, and then would end at St. Peter’s Square in front of the Vatican. This is a four hour walking tour.
When you are finished , they will not allow you to go back through the building to the Vatican museum to reclaim your umbrellas.
Rather you have to walk around the entire perimeter of both the Vatican and the museums and the gardens plus add in a number of city blocks because there is no defined perimeter.
In case you didn’t know, the Vatican is considered the smallest country in the world.
It has a population of about a thousand people.
In order to reclaim two umbrellas, we would virtually have to walk at least three quarters away around the country.
In the rain….
With only one umbrella!
That was not going to happen.
We handed over our brand new umbrellas….
Never to see them again!
Surely, there would be more opportunities to buy more umbrellas!
For the rest of the trip, every time we turned a corner,
Someone would be stopping us asking if we were interested in a…
In that entire trip, we went through at least seven “Brellas”,
…and one poncho!
No word of a lie.
God as my witness…