With one more full day and one night left in our Roman stay, we had a simpler agenda for the day, plus we'd have to spend some time that evening packing. The morning began with another walk across the Tiber toward the Vatican, this time to visit St. Peter's basilica.
In 94 I visited the basilica three times -- the first day when our tour guide took us on a quick city tour, the next day for mass led by Pope John Paul II, and the third when our group returned for a slower-paced visit.
Despite this being my fourth time to enter the room, I gasped and grabbed for my pearls, dazzled by its scope and elegant beauty. Unlike so many churches decorated in the Baroque and thus gaudy, St. Peter's feels restrained, light, and airy. Some of this is because of sheer size. The pieces that might appear gaudy in smaller spaces, work in here. The restrained use of colour, which allows the gold elements to reflect the natural light, was a smart choice.
Though Michael's reaction was not as strong as mine, he too was taken with the building and went about taking many photos. I enjoyed our conversations as we discussed various elements.
My dear friend Rob Howard is a great admirer of John XXIII's, who now beatified rests in the basilica. So, I took some pictures beside his tomb for Rob's sake. John is in the same side chapel with Pius X whose body is visible through a glass coffin. That intrigued me in 94, but did nothing for me now. It was odd watching all the people gather around Pius and take pictures, while ignoring the far more important John XXIII. Some looked oddly at us as we were taking our pictures with him.
During the trip planning Michael had worried about how we were going to see the Royal Wedding. Fortunately, the night before, while passing an Irish pub in our neighborhood, we had seen their notice that they would be showing the wedding beginning at 10. We arrived shortly after 11, which was perfect timing, as the wedding party was just then beginning to drive over to the Abbey. Our waiter remarked, "When in Rome, go to an Irish pub and watch the British Royal Wedding."
The pub was filled mostly with Brits and a few Americans, and fortunately the wedding coincided with the lunch hour. It was also fun watching other passers-by on the street stop and watch from the window every now and then.
We really liked the wedding quite a bit. The trees in the Abbey were a nice touch, and I thought that the Bishop of London delivered an excellent sermon. I have since copied and saved it for myself, as I intend to steal some of his lines for use in my wedding services.
From lunch, we strolled up to the Tiber and along it, past the tomb of Augustus to the Piazza del Popolo and then up into the Borghese Gardens. We spent the afternoon idling away the hours in the gardens, including seeing more spectacular pines of Rome. Circling the pond, we saw a family canoeing who had also been at the Irish pub watching the wedding. We hailed one another.
This became a minor theme for a few days on the trip, seeing people multiple times, despite being in large cities. The funniest was a beautiful young Australian couple whom we saw a total of four different times -- waiting in line to get into the Vatican Museum, later that afternoon still in the Museum as we were leaving, later that night as we were out walking we passed them having dinner outside at a restaurant, and then two days later they were seated two rows away from us on the train to Naples. Throughout the rest of the trip, we kept expecting them to appear again, but they did not. We never spoke to them.
The visit to the gardens was restful, until I made a mad dash for a restroom, and couldn't find one and sent us in a wild goose chase that would have been shortened by simply heading back to where we had last seen one. Michael handled this with great aplomb, but clearly I can at times be a frustrating traveling companion.
As 5:00 rolled around and time for the evening passegiata, we were ideally placed back in the Piazza del Popolo to take the "la dolce vita" stroll down the Via del Corso and entertain ourselves with our first serious shopping of the trip. We bought scarves, a tie, cologne, and undies, and really enjoyed some of the Roman department stores and new brands we encountered.
In 94 I had found the Romans to be impeccably well-dressed, and though styles are not as formal as they were seventeen years ago, there is a very strong fashion sense in Rome (Florence we found to be very casual in dress). Fortunately there are reasonably priced, fashionable clothes, which explains how everyone can be so well dressed. The standard look for young men is tight jeans, very well tailored suits with the jacket that is cut shorter than the standard, traditional length, aviator sun glasses, scarves, and prominent hair. The current American fashion trend of hats does not seem to exist in Italy, and I think it is because they like showing off their hair. Michael and I both didn't feel fashionable or in-shape compared to the Italians.
We concluded the evening with dinner back at the restaurant we had enjoyed our first night in Rome. It was just around the corner from our B&B. I had steak. Then we headed back to our hotel room, packed, and collapsed exhausted. The next day we must leave early and make the quick transition back to the train station for our train to Naples.
Oh, and here is one more shot of the stunning pines of Rome, this time in the Borghese Gardens: