I'm not even making this up.
We had a contact who mentioned that he could get us into the Vatican without having to wait in line. The line at the Vatican is long! He was a student at Aine's English language school in Dublin. We called him up to take him up on his generous offer. We thought that he'd make a call on our behalf and we'd get through easy peasy.
Instead we got something better.
We got the man himself. We got Claudio.
Claudio works at the Vatican. He arrived in the flesh to take us on our own VIP tour. With Claudio, there are no lines. He waves to a guard, we walk through.
Notice that Claudio is hobbling around on crutches. He got in a motorcycle accident last month (crazy Italian drivers). Don't let the crutches fool you. Claudio collects black belts from a handful of martial arts and he could knock your block off if you got too close to the Pope. See, Claudio is a Vatican policeman. Not only is he a policeman, but he's one of the bodyguards of the Pope. The Pope Himself!
Which is why the guards must have turned a blind eye when we did what we did next.
Claudio led us to the top of the Vatican up the gazillion stairs...
This is me "ass"cending the stairs.
And Aine ascending the stairs....
To the magnificent views...
And to meet the statues up close...
"We pray for John Paul our Pope, for John Michael our Bishop and for all the clergy on whose constant intercession we rely for help."It was a great honor for me and my inner child to visit John Paul II. I offered up this simple prayer of gratitude. "Thank you for holding me." For holding my soul in the way that only the Pope of one's own lifetime can. It's a big job to hold the souls of all the Catholic people on earth. Claudio, who was also the bodyguard for John Paul II and knew him quite well said that he was a kind man. A really nice guy.
I think he missed his friend.
Anyway. Back to our little VIP adventure. Then we moved on to St. Peter's tomb. Now, the regular folks get to see the front glassed-in version, but Claudio opened a little gate and swooshed us through and we quietly and quickly skipped along to see the actual tomb of St. Peter.
The vibe at the tomb was stronger than any vibe I have felt in any other holy place in the world. I was shaking like a leaf for an hour.
Claudio was very kind to give me this gift.
After we tiptoed out of there, we zipped down other halls that led to other treasures that the regular people had to stand in line for or pay for. All this sneaking around made us hungry so we left and got pizza, beer and gelato.
They say you shouldn't fall for the first guy that buys you gelato in Rome, but we did. We did.
Claudio and his girls eating gelato.