A year ago Joe and I were living in Rome and focused on packing to head home to Maryland. I was intent on enjoying our last few weeks especially the Christmas decorations that were magically appearing around Rome. Not wanting to miss any new displays I would take a daily stroll around 4:30 pm to see the new lights that went up the day before.
Now and again I would cajole Joe into coming along. Fortunately this was the case on December 8, 2012. I think maybe we had read somewhere that this was a big day in Rome but as we approached the Spanish Steps we knew something really big was happening. There were barriers, carabinieri, and police everywhere. It was about 2:00 pm and as we walked down Via Condotti we found out that Pope Benedict XVI would be arriving to pay homage to the Virgin Mary by making a pilgrimage to Piazza Mignanelli, to pray and leave a floral wreath, in an annual tradition dating back to 1958.
We suddenly found ourselves at the bottom of the Spanish Steps standing just behind the barriers set up around Bernini’s Fontana della Barcaccia “Leaky Boat”. Thankfully we had dressed appropriately, gloves, hats, scarves, as it was one of the coldest day’s we had experienced thus far.
After a few hours of waiting we heard the wail of the sirens and the huge roar of cheering crowds as the Pope’s motorcade wound it’s way down Via Condotti. As luck would have it the lead car turned left as it approached the Piazza Spagna and rounded the fountain on our side of the barrier. We were about 10 feet from the side of the Pope’s car as he passed by. Joe cheering and me madly taking photos. An unbelievable day toward the end of our journey.
December 8th, as well as being a Catholic holy day (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) is also a national Italian holiday, with all public offices and schools closed. Shops however, remain open as it is generally seen as the official start of the Christmas shopping season.
For those of you who find yourself in Rome in the coming days, especially on December 8, I highly recommend that you walk over to the Spanish Steps around 3:00 pm and get a glimpse of Pope Francis I and enjoy the holiday spirit of Rome.