Saturday, April 7, 2007
We awoke around 8am to pack up and get down to breakfast early. It always amazes me how long it takes to make it out of the room and done with breakfast with the whole crew and we were off to the Vatican around 9:30am. Before we had left we were actually able to get some free tickets to the papal event from the front desk, this meant we would actually get seats and not have to be way back, which was pretty cool.
We made it to the square and thru the security and thru the masses of people to find seats that were pretty far back but you could still see the stage well. The scene was crazy, a ton of people from all corners of the world, the only thing I can liken it to is a large sporting event, there was chanting of Viva pappa and flags from countries around the world. There were even signs people would hold up with messages to the pope, it was really cool. Once the papal music began playing people all got up on their chairs looking for where the pope mobile would emerge from. Then you could see the pope entering on the wide screen televisions on both sides of the square, the chants became louder and you could literally feel the anticipation of the crowd. I was really surprised once I finally caught a live glimpse of the pope as the pope mobile had no bullet proof glass, he was just riding in an open air mini car with no protection, I thought that was pretty cool. By the time the pope made it by us the square was very loud and we probably were about 30 feet from his caravan.
The ceremony began, it was pretty short, but they translated it into 7 different languages which made it pretty long and we were not out of there until around noon. We took a final look around and exited the square, it was a great experience and really interesting to see the world wide affection for the pope that really took me by surprise. We headed off to find a few more trinkets before leaving for Verona, we found a great open air market that is just 4-5 blocks from the Vatican that had everything under the sun, it was like a less touristy version of Seattle's pike place market, we picked some great fruit and we were off to Verona.
Oh yeah, I forgot, I get to drive through Rome again before leaving with my brand new car. I was pretty anxious to get this over with and it went as good as can be expected, we were out of the main city in around a half an hour and I did not even kill any scooters! The nav told us where to go, which was more or less north for 300 miles and we were there in no time. Verona is a pretty run down city, but I guess a lot of cities in Italy look like this in areas, so maybe we did not go through the more kept areas, we found our hotel, which was dated but really nice and fell into our room having been fairly drained from the trip and our time in Rome, my wife continued to be sick, so my Mary and I headed out to find an ATM and some aspirin.
By this time it was beginning to get dark and we really had no idea where to go in Verona, so we went towards an ATM we saw and began to walk the streets. We were able to be successful at the ATM, but we could not find any sort of store, as all of the gas stations were gas only (found this to be a pretty common thing in Italy) and so we wondered a bit further. Darkness sat in and we were not finding anything, I decided to take a different route back to see if we could find a store, that was a mistake..... after about a mile or so I realized my new route had taken us in an unexpected direction and we were lost, well not really lost but we had to go back the way we came and we had been gone for a good hour from the hotel. Luckily I was able to recall the route back and we arrived back at the hotel, but we had no aspirin and no idea of where to go for dinner.
This is when it happened, we almost sunk to the lowest of low levels and go to a McDonald's for dinner...yep I said the M word. Luckily my wife decided she was up for going downstairs to the hotel restaurant and we avoided the worst of the worst No No's of what to NOT do when going to Europe. The restaurant we went to was a trip, it was nice but very kitschy, we sat down and looked around, there were 5 other people in the restaurant and it was a 40 table restaurant. It was eerily quiet but we really did not care as we were hungry and getting tired. The dining experience ended up to be one of the best of the trip, the cuisine was top notch great flavors and presentation, I was astounded that dishes so fine came out of a restaurant in the basement of a dated hotel in Verona, but they did. I even had a half bottle of by far the best wine I had had all trip, it was a great meal and a good end to our Italian journey.