Viva il Popa*

(*Credit goes to Julie Caan for the brilliant blog-post title.)

When a large number of college students willingly wake up at 6:30 am on their day off, you know something must be worth it. Who was worth it?…

…This guy! (Reference to this, of course.)

Our campus so generously provided us with tickets to today’s Papal Audience, which is either held in St. Peter’s Square or in Nervi Hall (today was a bit chilly at 10:30 am, so it was held inside; my feet and fingers say, Thank you, Pope!).

It was more of an experience than anything else. The moment the Pope stepped out (promptly, at 10:30, after us anxiously waiting in our 6th-row seats for 2+ hours!), we were all somewhat awestruck. And, fo’ realz, I’m not even Catholic! (A proud Lutheran here :)) Regardless of the religious denomination (or, in some cases, a lack thereof) of my fellow classmates and I, we all felt tremendously proud to be in such close proximity to Pope Benedict XVI — someone so special and highly regarded in the world. One word: unbelievable!

Erin (with the camera that I’m debating stealing from her room ;)) is our group “photog,” and I assure you, her pictures are not blurry like mine. (I’m sorry for the bad quality of these photos — I wanted to get them as “up close” as possible, but in the meantime, I sacrificed some quality haha.)

The hall that we were in was fairly large, but it didn’t even fill up when the clock struck half past ten. What I must tell you all, though, was that there was a whole host of different countries represented: Germany, Brazil, Spain, United States (what, what!), Italy, the Netherlands…. With so much waiting around, I was glad there was some fantastic people-watching (one of my mom and I’s favorite pastimes ;)):

The Papal Audience in itself was more or less a “service” where the Pope reads a passage in mulitple languages. Before each language, a bishop introduces the groups represented in the audience. For example, after a bishop’s brief words, he introduced a number of different people from the United States in the audience, such as a group of members from the archdiocese of New York and our school, of course. Then the pope waves and smiles at the particular group mentioned. The pope even gave me a special shout-out…totally unexpected! (In case you don’t know me that well just yet, that was some of my sarcasm in action.)

We were fareakkiinnng out when they announced our school and he waved at us. (Sidenote: He is so fragile! It looked like it took all the strength he had to muster up an arm-lift!) I am being completely honest here…I think he waved at me. Personally. No lie. After everyone had stopped clapping and such, I waved (which nobody else really did). And he waved at me! We are totally on a first-name basis.

Anywhoo, though we were typical American college students cheering our little bootays off, this group was totally wild in an uncontainable way:

They screamed, hooted, and hollered whenever they got the chance. (Viva la Popa! Viva la Popa! And…just when you thought it was over…whoop, no….VIVA LA POPA!)

As we were all distracted, looking to the rear of the hall at the enthusiastic bunch in the above photo, gasps emerged from those vigilant enough to have kept their eyes on the pope: a young boy had run up to Pope Benedict and kneeled before him. The whole audience erupted into applause, and the pope smiled and blessed the boy. Needless to say, the child (probably around 5) walked away beaming. One of my friends predicted that he’s going to do great things in life. (But so can I, right?! I mean…people, the pope waved at me.)

We were so grateful for the experience, but let’s be honest: we were all a little lost when the languages (possibly 6?) other than English were spoken. Luckily, I was sitting with a great group of “peeps” (OMG. do you remember that word? Holla to middle school!)…

We also had some good eye candy to keep us occupied…the Swiss guards!

How many of you want dibs on that outfit for Halloween? Wow, totally unprofessional of me. How colorful are those stripes!

The Vatican was stunning when we left the hall, around 12 noon. Bathed in gorgeous sunlight, I just had to stop the group to take a picture. We moved on quickly though. 7 am breakfasts don’t really keep one satisfied for 5 hours (unless it’s a hearty bowl of Quaker Oat Squares).

Where to for lunch?

Julie had heard of a great little sandwich shop near Old Bridge, called DueCentoGradi.

Bread & condiments? Why yes, I’ll happily oblige! 🙂

Julie and I likened this as the Jimmy John’s of Roma. They make your sandwiches freaky fast and, unlike a lot of the sandwich shops in the city, they make them fresh when you order them (rather than having them all prepared and then just warming them up).

I scoured their menu for a tbm (tomato, basil, mozzarella: literally what Layne & I got at every “sandwich” meal during our Italy trip a few summers ago). I hadn’t yet ordered one throughout my 3 weeks here, and I kind of felt like that was a sin.

Luckily, I spotted one on the menu!

(Do you like my tights in the background? Bahaha.)

Also known as a caprese sandwich (though not of the same name at this restaurant), this is one of my favorite things in the world. Just plain & simp. Plump, juicy, burst-in-your-mouth sun-ripened tomatoes, fresh-from-the-vine basil leaves, and thick slices of mozzarella cheese…

My only complaint (I guess it’s good that I’m becoming somewhat of “a critic?” It means I’m learning about the taste, textures, flavors, ingredients & temp of my food, right?!) is that it could have been a litttttllleee bit warmer. I like my food super-hot (one of my quirks, I guess), so I was slightly disappointed…until my tastebuds hollered at me that this bread was some of the best bread I have ever been blessed (get it, blessed?! The Pope blessed all of the rosaries, etc., that people brought today at the Papal Audience) enough to eat. Warm & toasted, the insides were pillow-soft, yet the crust provided enough of a bite to support all of those delicious ‘fillers!

After sitting down at one of the restaurant’s tables and being approached by a waitress who told us that we’d have to pay to keep sitting there, we enjoyed our sandwiches in the sun, on a bench in the middle of the square right smack-dab in front of the Vatican…

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that bring the most joy…

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About ciaotochow

ciao to chow: initially created as a little spot on the web devoted to the "chow" I find while studying abroad in Rome. But really, ciao to chow is about my life: the day-to-day experiences, funny stories, moments of laughter, and the food...that continue to inspire me and make me grateful for each new day.
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11 Responses to Viva il Popa*

  1. LinnE says:

    Anna you’re making me laugh all the way from Champaign! I literally burst out into laughter at the Swiss guard “eye candy.” Also, nice use of “bahaha.” Make mama proud!

  2. Layne says:

    Tbm! I want one so bad. Somehow making one here just wouldn’t be the same. Especially since my basil plant on steroids has been hibernating :o( I can’t believe you saw the pope! So awesome. I’m so excited that you guys are friends now ;o)

    Talk to you soooooonnn!!

  3. Natalie says:

    I’m glad to see the eye candy in Europe is much more interesting than the eye candy in Wisconsin ;).
    That is SOOoooo awesome that you saw the pope!
    Continue encountering amazing things in Rome (and eating delicious food which is making me SUPER jealous of you right now)!

    We MUST talk soon. 🙂

  4. dad says:

    All this great food is making me even more anxious to come visit. Mom’s still gone- and I’m thinking Arby’s 5 for $5 tonight 😦

  5. Looks like you’re having fun! 🙂 I love that saying at the end, that it’s the little things that bring the most joy. Totally agree! 🙂

  6. Andrew says:

    Hey Anna,

    Nice post. What kind of things is the Pope saying that makes these people go so gaga? I mean, he’s only one man.

  7. MareMare says:

    Ok, this post rocked, you Beatles-like STAR, you!!! What an amazing experience! And I thought going to a Bon Jovi concert was da bomb! Like LinE, I laughed hysterically at the same blog spot, and knew BEFORE you wrote what the improvement to the sandwich could have been to make it perfect for you! can you say, ‘goooeeeeeyyyy’ cheese?! Thanks for sharing your story — XXXOOO

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