We got a late start on the morning of January 6th, and as we approached St. Peter's Square from the apartment Mom and Dad had rented we heard marching band music and noticed a large number of people bustling towards the square with us. Whoops! It was Epiphany, the culmination of the Christmas holiday, and we were arriving at the square with just enough time to soak in the scene before Pope Benedict gave his Epiphany address!
View Larger Map(scroll the map over to the West to get a sense of the scale of the square and basilica)
Almost the entire, massive square was filled with people, most simply standing clutching umbrellas, but many who were dressed in costume--whether the historical costume of their home region, or as La Befana, the Italian Christmas Witch, or as part of a theme with their club or organization (the giant lobster you see below was part of the local kayak club--it was chaperoned by people wearing kayaks with the bottoms cut out so they could walk around).
Finally, action! A large banner was unfurled from the window of the Papal apartment (top floor of the central building, second window from the right), and a figure emerged to speak! A quick check of the Jumbotron revealed that it was indeed the Pope! We hadn't bargained for this!
(this image is from the "wall of fame" at the City of Rome Sanitation Worker's Creche, the most beautiful in the city of Rome) The Pope gave a short message of greeting and blessing in Italian, German, English, and (most enthusiastically) in Spanish. Nothing too memorable. People started filtering out of the square almost as soon as he started to speak, which I hadn't expected--I had thought he would have a captive audience all the way through. The last to leave were the various groups in historical costume. It was something else to be walking down the Via della Conciliazione with people in full Renaissance-Faire garb smoking cigarettes and chatting on cellphones under their umbrellas.
Evening on Via dei Coronari.
Last family photo before Mom and Dad and Will split for the States. Not bad for a long exposure! We were in the Pantheon, just before we got dinner. Even though it was way touristy, we ate on the square--being part of the evening fabric, even as obvious tourists, was even more delicious than the food.