Today it is our anniversary. We spoke of it already so let’s not repeat ourselves. Our intention is to go to the City of Vatican and visit St.Anna church, to whose parish the entire state belongs. If time permits, we will also stop at the St.Peter basilica, the very center of the entire Western civilization, and meditate there for a while.
All right. A bus, train and we are at the Ottaviano-san Pietro station. Crossing of Via Ottaviano and Viale Giulio Cesare. Via Ottaviano leads straight to the Piazza del Resorgimento and farther to Via di Porta Angelica, which meets Via Sant’Anna and entrance gate to the church and Vatican.
Right upon exit from Metro station to the city, we are hit by monstrous crowd and street stands selling colorful and cheap junk, bells and whistles. Irritating noise, squeaking, ringing and yelling of the peddlers overcomes even usual street traffic murmur. What a prelude to our intended reflection time at the church…
As we get closer to the Walls of Citta della Vaticana, the commerce intensifies. Plastic rosaries are sold for ten euros a dozen, plastic figurines of Holy Mary and saints, sometime even glowing fluorescently, tasteless miniatures of Colosseum and other landmarks, T-shirts and baseball hats with Rome and Italy inscriptions, or other messages, sometimes not necessarily decent. African refugees are selling foldable wooden candy baskets, smash balls and what have you. The most annoying are numerous street agents trying to convince tourists to sign in for a guided Vatican tours. No, we are not interested in organized walk, we are here to celebrate our little occasion.
Via di Porta Angelica is parallel to the eastern section of the City walls. Now there are beggars in addition to all the turmoil. Some of them are aggressive, trying to make you feel guilty for being relatively better situated. They are difficult to ignore, yet we do well so far. One of them, a man in his maybe middle thirties has no hands, is sitting quietly in the shade of the wall. Yes, we gave him an euro or two.
Here we are, at front door of our church. The entrance is, however, hopelessly closed and locked. A Swiss guard informs us politely that the church will open in two hours. Fine, let’s go to the basilica.
Saint Peter’s square is located maybe one hundred yards to the south. There are barricades under the columnade with several pass gates. Monumental building, the largest church in the world, invites us in.
Not so fast, you naive visitors. There is a line to the security check points. It begins in between arcades and ends who knows where. Estimated length of the queue is close to half mile and telling by its speed of movement, waiting time may be up to four or five hours. Water salesmen make their profit selling fountain water in plastic bottles. Of course, it is better to spend a few euros for refreshing gulp of relatively cold drink than go to the fountain nearby and lose one’s place in line.
No, we are not that religious to wait four hours in the full sun. We better look for some other way to get to the grave of the first pope.
Now let’s take a brief walk through the square and go for some lunch. It is Roman tradition to invite people to the restaurant straight from the street by a waiter. We were handed a menu and seeing what we like, decided to step downstairs on the Tunis street (Via Tunisi). to the Taverna Lino. Spaghetti con vongole sweetened our frustration a little. Food is an integral part of Roman life. We are Romans today.
Saint Anna church is rather small but generously decorated, like all the churches in old Rome. Its construction started almost five centuries ago and it took two hundred and ten years to complete. The elliptical floor plan was characteristic for early Baroque. We sat in the front row and imagined for a moment that we were thirty five years younger and that much better looking.
Well, what else to do? Our Rome is not the Rome we remember. It is not possible to run over the town any more like we used to three decades ago, now you have to push yourself with elbows through uncountable crowd of tourists and merchants. There is a Polish store across the street form the St. Anna gate, where we stopped to say hello. We tested our bank card by getting a few Euros from the ATM machine and started heading home. A quick cena at a trattoria on Cornelia street concluded the day. Happy Anniversary.