This is the blog for Dream of Italy™, The Insider's Guide to Undiscovered Italy, a paid subscription travel newsletter. Dream of Italy™ (www.dreamofitaly.com) has been recommended by USA TODAY, National Geographic Traveler, U.S. News & World Report and American Way. Editor Kathy McCabe has helped thousands of travelers get the most out of their visits to Italy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

How to Fly to Italy Cheap(er) This Year

(Editor's note -- Joe -- that's Joe Brancatelli of Joesentme.com -- is back and he has some great advice. Listen up kids! Here's his article:)

You say you want to be in Italy this year, but you're appalled by the airfares.

The bad news: Get used to it.

Italy isn't England, where flights from the United States leave every hour on the hour and ticket prices are startlingly low. It isn't Ireland, where Aer Lingus has slashed and simplified transatlantic fares. It isn't even France or Germany, where Lufthansa and Air France give the U.S. airlines a run for their transatlantic money and keep fares down. Italy, unfortunately, has the backward Alitalia and Alitalia is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance that includes three of the five (Northwest, Continental and Delta) U.S. airlines that serve the peninsula. This combination of cupidity and oligarchy is bad news for bargain-hunting travelers.

The good news: There are options.

Despite what you thought--or your travel agent or Web site may have suggested--you can book a flight to Italy at a reasonable price. You just need to think strategically, act tactically and be flexible. You also need to accept that the paucity of airline seats and the popularity of Italy means that it'll always cost you a little more to fly to La Dolce Vita.

With that in mind, here are some tips for flying better and cheaper to Italy.

Counter-intuitive as it sounds, it may be more cost effective this year to fly to Italy in the comparatively sumptuous surroundings of business class than in the cramped, unpleasant coach cabins.

A roundtrip coach ticket to Rome, Milan or Venice--the three nonstop destinations offered by the U.S. carriers and Alitalia--will run $1,200 or more on some days during the summer. But both Continental Airlines and Alitalia are offering deep, deep discounts on their business-class cabins. If you buy 50 days in advance and stay over on a Saturday night, you can find a roundtrip business-class ticket for as little as $1,600 from New York. Delta and Northwest Airlines are making similar offers.

How do you find these great deals? You need to look for them. Sadly, most airline Web sites, third-party booking engines and bricks-and-mortar travel agencies are reflexively trained to retrieve only coach fares. On Web sites, select the "more options" link off the home page and search for business class. If you work through a travel agents, make sure to ask them to check business-class prices for you.

The limited selection of nonstop flights into Italy isn't the only way to fly. If you're willing to accept a connection, you'll stand a good chance of getting your Italy airfares down.

Four carriers in specific--British Airways, Air France, Aer Lingus and Lufthansa--offer an extensive number of flights from the United States and a range of onward flights from their hub to Italy. This comparative bounty of seats means that you may often score a lower price to Italy if you make a connection in London, Paris, Dublin, Frankfurt or Munich. How much can you save? Two or three hundred dollars in the off-peak periods and $300 or more during peak Italy travel times.

There are extremely cost-effective business-class options with a connection, too. Aer Lingus sells roundtrips in business class to Dublin for as little as $1,900 roundtrip and it doesn't even require a an advance purchase. Onward coach flights from Dublin to Naples and other Italian destinations will cost as little as $100 roundtrip more. With a 50-day advance purchase, Air France is selling business-class roundtrips to Italy via Paris for as little as $2,200 roundtrip.

Making a connection in England, France or Germany en route to Italy has another advantage: You'll get a wider choice of destinations. Besides Rome, Milan and Venice, British Airways flies to more than a half-dozen other Italian airports, including Pisa, a great gateway to Tuscany. From Paris, Air France flies to Florence, Tuscany's largest airport, as well as cities such as Genoa, the gateway to the Cinqueterre and the Italian Riviera and Catania, a good place to start a Sicily trip.

And besides its own network of Italian flights from Frankfurt and Munich, Lufthansa is a part owner of Air One, one of Italy's major discount airlines. If you purchase a ticket to Italy on Lufthansa, you can also buy a Visit Italy pass from Air One. That program offers as many as four one-way flights within Italy for as little as $41 each.

London is now the transatlantic gateway to low fares thanks to the roster of scheduled flights from the United States and the fast growth of Ryanair, Europe's largest discount airlines. Any major U.S. airline can fly you to London. Virgin Atlantic has extensive schedule, too. British Airways flies to London from 19 U.S. airports. That many flights means lots of bargains, with flights to London as low as $99 each way in winter and less than $250 even during some peak travel times.

Once you get to London, you can hop a flight to Italy on Ryanair. From its hub at Stansted Airport in London, Ryanair flies to 13 destinations in Italy. In many cases, Ryanair flies to smaller airports such as Brescia, Bergamo, Pescara and Rome's Ciampino Airport. They might not be as convenient to the big cities, but they are often closer to the rustic Italian countryside that so many Americans wish to visit.

Ryanair's fares are eye popping. From Stansted to Pisa, for example, the maximum roundtrip fare is about $120, but it's often as low as $30 roundtrip. Or try this: Ryanair charges just $40 one-way to fly from London to Trieste. Alitalia's one-way fare from Rome to Trieste is more than $250.

So consider spending a night or two in London at the start of your Italian vacation. Using a bargain fare to London and Ryanair's cheap service to Italy, you'll probably save enough money to cover your hotel costs in the British capital.

(A note of caution: Ryanair's low fares do not come without concessions. Most notably: Ryanair's free checked luggage allowance is just 15 kilograms, or about 33 pounds per passenger. BA and the other transatlantic carriers permit you to check up to 140 pounds for free. So if you're planning on flying Ryanair, travel light. Or check some of your baggage at Stansted's "left luggage" office. Or be prepared to pay Ryanair's excess luggage charge of about $5 a pound.)

Europe's skies are filled with jets run by discount airlines that Americans have never heard of. In fact, WhichBudget.com, which tracks these things, says that 31 Italian airports now have discount service from at least one low-fare airline. If you're trying to get to Florence, for example, an excellent low-fare carrier called Meridiana can fly you from Madrid or Amsterdam. If you can get to Geneva cheap, a Swiss discounter called FlyBaboo will happily fly you to Florence. If you can get to Brussels cheap, an Italian low-fare carrier called Club Air can fly you from Brussels to Verona, a perfect place to start if you're looking to visit the Veneto.

So check with WhichBudget.com and see if you can match a low transatlantic fare with a low-priced onward ticket to Italy. You'll be surprised at how many options you have and how far intra-Europe airfares have fallen.

Americans hate charters, more for historical than practical reasons. But European holidaymakers--that Eurotalk for vacationers--rely on charters all the time. They're cheap and they fly direct to where you want to go. And, these days, the in-flight experience that charters offer often matches or exceeds what you'll get on a U.S. scheduled carrier.

This summer, an Italian charter airline called Eurofly is crossing the pond. It will fly nonstop from New York Palermo, which means Americans finally have a nonstop option to Sicily. Eurofly is also flying nonstop from New York to Naples, which is a godsend for Americans who want to do the Amalfi Coast. Eurofly will also fly to Bologna nonstop from New York. You'll need to contact a travel agent to book Eurofly, but the prices are attractive: as little as $649 roundtrip. Service starts June 13 and runs until mid-fall.

Want to cash miles for a free ticket to Italy this summer? Easily done. Just pay the unrestricted level, which is generally twice the number of miles of the "restricted" awards. Think that's unfair? Too bad. What part of restricted did you think the airlines were kidding about? There simply won't be a free mileage awards available at the lower-priced restricted level this summer and very few restricted seats are available in the shoulder seasons in the spring and fall.

So why waste your time? If you've got the mileage required for an unrestricted award, spend it. Unrestricted awards are blissfully simple: If there's an empty seat on the day you want to fly on the flight you wish to book, it's yours.

One last point: Forget the upgrade gambit. Once upon a time, airlines used to allow you to buy a cheap coach seat to Italy and then use a relatively modest amount of miles to upgrade to business- or first-class. Not anymore. They either restrict the upgrade award to the highest-priced coach tickets or they charge you so much to use your upgrade--it's $250 plus 25,000 mile each way at American--that you're better off buying one of those discounted business-class seats that are available.

Copyright © 2005 Joe Brancatelli

Friday, April 22, 2005

Save € in Rome This Summer

Although the weak dollar doesn't seem to be holding many Italophiles back from visiting Italy this summer, a popular topic in the travel media is how to save money in Europe this summer. Christopher Elliott wrote this piece for U.S. News and World Report. Here's his advice on Rome, including some advice from yours truly:

When in Rome, sleep like a nun. A room with two beds at the Casa D'Accoglienza S. Spirito convent is about $52 a night. But no late nights--curfew is 11 p.m. A list of convents with rooms to let is at santasusanna.org/comingToRome/convents.html. And when you fly in, don't hail a taxi to the center of town--it's a staggering $80. The airport train, says Lisa Byrne, manager of the travel website italyperfect.com, is $13. Another rail deal is TrenOK, a train patterned after bargain airlines. Rome to Milan is 9 euros one way (www.trenok.com) . For frugal shoppers, Kathy McCabe, editor of dreamofitaly.com, a travel newsletter, recommends one of the new outlet malls. McArthurGlen Designer Outlet (www.mcarthurglen.it) , about 45 minutes from Rome, discounts Dolce & Gabbana and Bruno Magli. And don't forget, Vatican museums are free the last Sunday of the month.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

For Some Gamblers, A Papal Payoff

You know I can't resist the whole "betting" angle of the election of the new Pope. MSNBC.com reports that some folks won big:

"When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope, he wasn't the only winner. Thousands worldwide placed bets on him through the Web — and an inspired few hundred even correctly guessed he'd take the name Benedict.

Among a handful of Internet-based bookmakers who offered odds on the next pope, the biggest player was Paddy Power PLC, the No. 1 bookie in Ireland.

Minutes after Benedict XVI appeared in St. Peter's Square, Paddy Power was collecting — or paying out — on more than 10,000 bets totaling more than $260,000.

The biggest winners: Someone who put down $1,050 Saturday on a Ratzinger victory at odds of 6 to 1, which meant a payout of $7,350; and somebody else who waged $260 on the new pontiff's taking Benedict, which at 3-to-1 odds meant $1,050 back."

Pope's Inaugural Mass Sunday

Pope Benedict XVI will hold his official inaugural Mass on Sunday at 10 a.m. We'll have more details on expected crowds, public transportation, etc. in the coming days.

Great Pope Names

I know you've been wondering where my friend Joe has been, well, he's back with some interesting information on popes and their names. Joe has included more than a few obscure asides as well:

Since we now have a Pope Benedict, I thought I'd take a look at some other Pope names. After all, since I used to think all popes were named Pius, this is new to me.

Did you know that the second pope, chosen by Peter, was Pope Linus? No word on if he carried a security blanet.

Did you know that the third pope was named Pope Cletus? No word on if he was a slack-jawed yokel.

A very early pope was named Pope Zephyrinus. Which is interesting because that was the alternate name of the hit 1960s song by the Association called "Windy."

The name Pope Felix was chosen by at least six early popes, including one of the notorious anti-popes. But there's never been a Pope Oscar.

I don't know WHAT to do with a pope named Hormisdus.

Shortly after Hormisdus, there was a pope named Formosus. I got nothing on him except to note that late in his reign, Pope Formosus changed his name to Pope Taiwanus.

There was a pope named Damascus. I can't find one named Baghdad or Tel Aviv.

There were several popes named Urban. None named Rural, however.

Right after Pope Urban I, there was Pope Pontian. Unfortunately, the pope after him was NOT named Pope Gallerius. (This is a very obscure New York joke in Italy. Work it, it's worth it...)

There was a very early pope named Hyginus. His saint day is January 11. There is no pope named Bacterius.

There was an early pope named Fabianus. I found no record of an Elvisus or Dionus. Weirdly, however, there was one anti-pope named Leslie Gore.

There was a pope in the 4th Century named Sylvester. But no pope named Foghorn Leghorn.

There was a pope named Zosimus. Make up your own joke if you can.

There was a pope named Theodore. No popes named Alvin.

Yes, there was a Pope Vitalian. We await our first Pope Brylcremian.

Much to my surprise, there have be 13 popes named Leo, including Leo XIII, who ruled until 1903. Only his family called him Uncle Leo.

And, in conclusion, I give you this: the last Benedict, Benedict XV, was on the papal throne from 1914 to 1922. His family name was Giacomo della Chiesa. There is no truth to the rumor that Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, is also known as Giacomo della Giungla. (You gotta work this one a bit...)

The 411 on Pope Benedict XVI

Here are a few facts on the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and his election as Pope:
  • Oldest cardinal to be named pope since Clement XII, who was also 78 when he became pope in 1730
  • First German pope since Victor II (1055-1057)
  • Had been considering retirement a few years ago, but stayed on out of allegiance to Pope John Paul II
  • First public words as Pope: "Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me — a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers."
  • Speaks German, Italian and English
  • I've mentioned how much I like John Allen's cover (I believe he now has a book contract to write about Ratzinger); see this page for his continuing coverage


The smoke is white; the bells are ringing. We have a new Pope.

He has been asked if will accept the job and what he wishes to be called.

He will be escorted to "The Chapel of Tears" (see below) to dress in white vestments.

He will appear on the balcony within about 40 minutes.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Conclave Schedule

According to AP, (all times EST):

Monday, April 18
-4 a.m.: Cardinals celebrate a morning mass.
-10:30 a.m.: Cardinals process into the Sistine Chapel. They take their oath of secrecy and hear a meditation from a senior cardinal, then decide whether to take a first vote Monday or wait until Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, April 19
-1:30 a.m.: Cardinals celebrate mass in the hotel chapel.
-3 a.m.: Cardinals gather in Sistine Chapel for initial two rounds of balloting.
-6 a.m.: Approximate time of first smoke signal from Sistine Chapel. It will indicate whether a new pope has been chosen (white smoke) or no decision has been made (black smoke) in the first round of balloting. The smoke is from the burning of the secret ballots after each round of voting.
-10:00 a.m.: Cardinals return to the Sistine Chapel for two rounds of afternoon balloting.
-1 p.m.: Approximate time of smoke signal after second round of voting.

The rest of the days of the conclave are expected to follow Tuesday's schedule. The Vatican spokesman said smoke signals from burned ballot papers could likely be seen each day - unless a winner is elected on Monday in a first ballot.

Special Vatican Stamps Sold Out

The Vatican Post Office has sold out of 700,000 Sede Vacante stamps after just five days on sale. The special stamps are issued only during the period between the death of a Pope and the election of his successor.

Thank God: Gambling Not Against Church Teachings

I can rest a little easier tonight, betting on the next Pope may not buy me a one-way ticket to hell. According to an article in USA TODAY, "It's not against church law to gamble — even Pope John Paul reaffirmed catechism teachings that said, 'Games of chance or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice.' However, betting on papal elections was declared illegal in papal states by Pope Gregory XIV (1590-1591)."

Also in this article, the latest odds on 'the man who will be Pope' from the world's bookmakers:

William Hill, London
Joseph Ratzinger (Germany) 4 to 1
Jean Marie Lustiger (France) 9 to 2
Carlo Maria Martini (Italy) 6 to 1
(tied with) Francis Arinze (Nigeria) 6 to 1

Paddy Power, Dublin, Ireland
Joseph Ratzinger (Germany) 3 to 1
Jean Marie Lustiger (France) 9 to 2
Carlo Maria Martini (Italy) 5 to 1

Pinnacle Sports, London/Dutch Antilles
Joseph Ratzinger (Germany) 3 to 1
Francis Arinze (Nigeria) 6 to 1
Claudio Hummes (Brazil) 13 to 2

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sistine Chapel Ready for Conclave

The New York Daily News reports the Sistine Chapel is all set to go for tomorrow's start of the conclave. In fact, there's even a back up stove in case the primary one doesn't work.

"...the chapel is now outfitted with 12 tables covered with a simple brown cloth, and wood chairs padded with brown cushions. A small table, with a copy of the Gospels on it, is at the center of the room between the two rows of cardinals."

"The conclave is taking place in the front of the chapel, on a temporary, carpeted floor about 3 feet above the original, built to protect the tiles - and to give officials a place to put electronics designed to jam cell phones or any other attempts to eavesdrop on the proceeding."

Friday, April 15, 2005

More on Pope Betting

It's late or early, however you measure 2 a.m., and did I mention that I've been working my tail off? But before retiring for the night, I surfed over to tradesports.com - damn the man who got me addicted to this (I'm still worried about going to hell -- but do note that I haven't put any $$ on this- if you are thoroughly confused, read below...)

The latest is there's now a third category related to the future Pope -- region of origin. Currently, Europe is the favorite at 1 in 1.5 odds. Latin America is second with 1 in 3 odds.

Cardinal Ratzinger is still the favorite in terms of individuals and as I am writing this, the boards have closed for an hour for end of the day processing (according to my live chat friend at tradesports), so I can't report the exact odds, but stay tuned...

Gearing Up For The Conclave; The Sistine Chapel

On a personal note -- and not to put it mildly -- the last two weeks have kicked my butt! I have thoroughly enjoyed reporting on the Pope's death and funeral and all of the travel-related issues surrounding the events in Rome, BUT I have also had to do the final edits on the April issue of Dream of Italy, so if blogging is a little light this week, that's why. The issue is off to the printer tomorrow (subscribers expect your copies slightly later than usual). But I'm hoping for a little downtime this weekend to recover from exhaustion and gear up for the Conclave next week.

The lead story in the April issue is a profile of Enrico Bruschini -- the art historian, author and true Renaissance man -- who can show you Rome (and specifically the Vatican and Vatican Museums) as no one else can.

Here's an excerpt of my article:

Enrico knows the Vatican so well that he was asked by the powers that be to author the latest official guidebook of the Vatican. Vatican Masterpieces, published in 2004, is sold in six languages at the entrance to the Vatican Museums and at kiosks throughout the institution. It’s the first Vatican guidebook to note the author’s name on the front.

It’s hard not to feel like you’re with a rock star when you accompany Enrico through the Vatican Museums. During even a short visit, it isn’t unusual for a handful of guides and sightseers to recognize Enrico, and to stop to say hello or compliment him on one of his books.

Heard while in line to get into the museums: “Aren’t you Enrico, from the American Embassy?”

Heard in the Map Room: “I loved your book.”

Heard in the Sistine Chapel, addressed to his lucky guests: “You are with the most wonderful scholar in the world. He’s the most important man in Rome besides the Pope.”

The last quote can be attributed to Brenda Nardone, a Mexican American tour guide now living in Italy. She admires Enrico so much that she had her group buy his book, and then tracked him down at the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica so he could autograph their copies.

The highlight of the museums is undoubtedly the Sistine Chapel, restored to its full glory after 12 people took six years to clean the centuries of dirt off the walls and ceiling. One of the themes Enrico emphasizes throughout his tours of Rome is the pure genius of many of the people of yesteryear. He points out that those who cleaned the Sistine Chapel built the scaffolding in the same way Michelangelo had. “He invented the solution five centuries ago,” Enrico says.

Enrico had the rare honor of being invited to view the cleaning from atop the scaffolding. What followed was one of the highlights of his life. Since he was just a foot away from
The Temptation and The Expulsion, he could see the lips on Eve’s face and how Michelangelo used a tiny brush to bring out the small vertical lines on her lips. “We could see how Michelangelo was painting for himself; no one else was going to see this detail,” Enrico says.

Even more startling to this art historian was what he saw in Eve’s eyes. Once the painting was cleaned, he could see fingerprints — certainly Michelangelo’s fingerprints — in her eyes. Enrico touches his heart while recounting the story. “It was amazing to see his fingerprints,” Enrico recalls, wondering if it was a message to future generations who might see the dried paint up close.

That’s another theme in Enrico’s tours, one that art buffs and novices alike can appreciate: What is the meaning of these works and does the meaning change and develop over time?

As much as Enrico enjoys instructing his clients, he seems to learn just as much from the questions and observations of his guests. One case in point is The Creation of Adam, on the ceiling of the chapel, which Bruschini believes definitely holds “a message for future generations.”

In 1990, an American neurologist observed that the mantle surrounding Adam is the exact shape of the human brain in cross-section. Bruschini theorizes this could be a message from Michelangelo, indicating that he saw the autopsy of a human brain. (During the artist’s time, this was illegal in Rome, but he may have seen it in Florence.)

A few years ago, an American female gynecologist told Enrico that the mantle resembled a uterus, and the green cord flowing from it resembled an umbilical cord. “I’ve seen a lot of uteruses. That’s my job,” she told him. He has included this theory in his books.

“These are new discoveries of the original messages. There are hundreds more to be discovered,” he says with excitement.

Besides being an incredible showcase of art, the Sistine Chapel also serves numerous functions, the most important of which is happening this month — the conclave of cardinals who are meeting in the chapel to pick the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The uncle of Enrico’s wife, the priest Fra Alfonso Rossi, was a close assistant of several popes. During the conclaves, he was charged with helping the cardinals, burning the ballots and helping the new priest into his vestments. The priest accompanied several new popes into a room of the Sistine Chapel in order to help them dress in their new white cossack and shoes. Often the new pope, mindful of the burden now upon him, would break down in tears. Fra Alfonso was there to offer him support.

“Ah, it’s not easy to leave the Sistine Chapel,” says Enrico wistfully when it is time to move on, this coming from a man who has visited here hundreds of times.

Want to read more about Enrico? Become a paid subscriber and read the 2,000+ word article when it comes out next week!

Pope Coverage Prompts Surge in Italy Bookings

Laura Bly has a short but sweet piece in today's USA TODAY about how bookings to Rome are booming in light of the Pope's death and all of the media coverage of the Eternal City.

She quotes yours truly in her piece: "It was a 24/7 commercial for Rome. While Catholics will make a pilgrimage to see the pope's burial place, people who may not have thought of visiting before might simply be moved by the beauty of what they saw on television," I said.

Bly also spoke to Amy Ziff of Travelocity who shared this amazing statistic: Rome bookings for next week shot up 86% from the same period a year ago!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Papal Betting Pool

Thought I would check in on tradesports.com and see how trading was going on contracts for the future Pope. After little movement in the past few days, I'm surprised to find that the Italian Tettamanzi's "stock" (or the asking price for a contract on him) has fallen $10.80, while Cardinal Ratzinger's "stock" has jumped $7.50 and the odds on him becoming Pope are now 1 in 5.26. Interesting.

When Potential Popes Became Rock Stars

My good friend Vic has discovered The Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club. There's a blog and apparel sales.

Funeral Numbers

  • 3,000,000 - Number of visitors to see Pope's body and/or attend funeral.
  • 6,000 - Number of journalists to cover events.
  • 157 - Number of cardinals concelebrating funeral mass.
  • 169 - Number of foreign delegations present at the funeral mass.
  • 21,000 - Number of people who entered St. Peter's Basilica each hour.
  • 13 - Average waiting time, in hours, to see Pope's body.
  • 500,000 - Number in St. Peter's Square during the funeral mass.
  • 10,000 - Number of volunteers to help pilgrims.
  • 3,000,000 - Number of free bottles of water distributed.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Will the Pope Make Me a Betting Woman?

Numbers aren’t my thing. I’m a writer. But I just discovered some numbers I could really get into….Pope numbers. The odds on which guy is going to don the white garments as white smoke rise from the Sistine Chapel.

People all over the world are placing their bets and could make bit of cash on this most holy selection. Check out tradesports.com (navigate to ‘Current Events: The Papacy’) and you’ll see for yourself. A friend introduced me to this site in the wee hours of the morning; isn’t that the best time for shady dealings? My first questions were 1) is this illegal? and 2) will I go to hell for betting on the next Pope? Not sure of the answers, but I bet you’ll be just as intrigued as I am.

Tradesports.com is a betting and trading exchange registered in Ireland lets you buy and sell contracts on the outcomes of a variety of world events, from the winner of the Masters to the outcome of the Michael Jackson trial. Tradesports is running two sets of exchanges related to the next Pope -- one on who it will be and one on which country the next Pope will come from.

I'm not the best person to explain this, but this trading system works something like a cross between an auction and the stock market. You can buy and sell you contracts on the next Pope up until the moment of the Vatican announcement. If you choose the right man or country, you win $100. Currently, the asking price on a contract for Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan to become Pope is $23. The asking price on a contract for an Italian to become the next Pope is $43. Of course there has to be a contract available on the outcome you want to put your money on.

Those who believe in "the markets" say this is best information out there on the outcome of who will become Pope (or anything else for that matter).

Here are the tradesports.com favorites for Pope:
1. Tettamanzi of Italy (odds - 1 in 4.35)
2. Arinze of Nigeria
3. Maradiaga of Honduras
4. Hummes of Brazil (odds - 1 in 9)

(Random note: Another friend swears the next Pope will be the Argentinian Bergoglio and even opened a trading account just to put her money where her mouth is. She may be on to something though. South America has an exploding Catholic population and if the Italians can't have their own Pope, they certainly have strong ties with Argentina.)

And the tradesports.com favorite for the country of origin for the next Pope:
1. Italy (odds -- a staggering 1 in 2.33)
2. Honduras
3. Nigeria
4. France (odds - 1 in 15)

As you may know, the Holy Spirit is supposed to guide the Cardinals in their decision to pick a new Pope. No idea if the markets can capture the direction of such an entity. Oh, and on that going to hell thing -- well, it seems the Irish bookmakers aren't risking it either. They paused all trading during Pope John Paul's funeral.

Pope's Grave Will Open to Public Wednesday

This from the Vatican press office:

"I can add that the Vatican Grottoes will be open to the faithful starting on Wednesday, April 13, at 7 a.m."

Friday, April 08, 2005

St. Peter's Closed

Vatican officials say St. Peter's Basilica will be closed to the public at least through Monday.

Requiescat in pace Papa

Funeral Facts

  • Weather in Rome: sunny, windy, 55 degrees.
  • List of world leaders attending the funeral.
  • How this incredible three-hour version of the Mass of Christian Burial will procced.
  • 200 servers will distribute Holy Communion.
  • The burial will not be public.

Rome's Museums Closed Friday

From whatsoninrome.com:

The Ministry of Cultural Heritage has announced that all museums and archaeological sites in Rome will be closed on the day of the funeral. In the rest of Italy they will remain open, observing a minute of silence at 10 a.m.

Funeral Set to Begin; JPII's Full Title

In case you were wondering...The man being laid to rest had a long official title - Pope John Paul II — Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Chief of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of Vatican City State and Servant of Servants.

MSNBC.com and The Patience of Pilgrims

I've been trolling all of the online news sites this week and think MSNBC.com has had some of the best online coverage of the events in Vatican City. Their Vatican Watch blog has been a must-read for me. Their graphics are informative and clear. If any event calls for reporters to talk about how it feels to be covering something some monumental, it is this one and I enjoyed the Q&A with Brian Williams.

I'm back on MSNBC.com this morning and had no idea that my dear friend NBC News Producer Alice Rhee (we worked together straight out of college at ABC News) was in Vatican City until I read her lovely piece, "The Patience of Pilgrims." Viewers probably don't think much about the writing skills of people who work behind the scenes in television but in addition to Alice's tenacity and compassion, she's a skilled wordsmith. She keeps churning out some great stuff. I had been meaning to e-mail her about her piece on God and NASCAR.


Have you seen this site? Maybe they're just trying to sell some t-shirts, but wewantablackpope.com has a good argument:

"Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian Pope for over 400 years. However in spite of this progressive move in 1979 the Catholic hierarchy of today remains highly Eurocentric, being dominated primarily by conservative Europeans. It is therefore not surprising that Italian, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi is one of the strongest contenders to be voted Pope. We hope to further greater representaion of the Catholic belief by promoting the installation of a non-white, non-Eurocentric Papal represetative."

"Of the five countries with the biggest Catholic populations, only one (Italy) is European. Forty-six percent of the world's Catholics are in Latin America; there are more Catholics in the Philippines than in Italy. In 1955 there were 16 million Catholics in all of Africa; today there are 120 million."

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Economic Benefits for Rome

Over the next few weeks, Roman businesses may earn an additional $122.5 million due to spending by the influx of visitors to Rome. According to an AP report, visitors are expected to spend $193.4 million just on transportation trains, plane tickets and gasoline. Codacons, the company that come up with these estimates, said 10 to 20 percent of the revenue was probably going to illegal businesses. Anyone who has been to Italy knows how Italians like to conduct transactions "in cash" and "under the table." Hundreds of entrepreneurs are selling Papal trinkets and food on the streets near St. Peter's. Yet even in the most sacred of times, many are just out to make a buck or a euro, as it were. A spokesman for Italy's financial police says about 10% of the establishments its division have visited are guilty of price gouging.

Here are some tips to avoid getting jipped:
  • Fill your water bottles at public drinking fountains.
  • Buy food in other areas of Rome (at grocery stores or markets) and carry it with you.
  • Ask for a receipt for everything (by law, a shopkeeper MUST comply).

Pope's Will Released

So far, the complete text is only available in Italian and Polish. AP has translated some of it into English.


  • The will mentions only two living people: his personal secretary and the chief rabbi of Rome who welcomed him to Rome's synagogue in 1986.
  • On the decision of where to be buried –- he leaves that up to the College of Cardinals and Bishops of Poland– only stipulating that he should be buried in the earth and not in a tomb.
  • It suggests the Pope considered resigning in 2000 due to his health problems.

By The Numbers

  • 3,500 - Number of journalists expected to cover Pope's funeral.
  • 18,000 - Number of people per hour filing past Pope's body.
  • 1,000, 000 - As of Wednesday, total number of people to see Pope's body.
  • 91 - Number of Cardinals who met Tuesday (out of total of 183).
  • 4,000,000 - Expected total number of pilgrims in Rome this week.
  • 2,000,000 - Number of pilgrims expected to travel to Rome from Poland alone.
  • 3,000,000 - Population of the city of Rome.
  • 24 - Number of hours that visitors are now waiting in line.
  • 1 - Number of miles viewing line extended Wednesday.
  • 600 - Number of doctors and nurses on call to treat sick visitors.
  • 15 - Number of temporary clinics set up to treat sick visitors.
  • 43 - Average number of daily trains to/from Rome Trenitalia is adding.
  • 4,000 - Approximate number of buses (carrying the faithful) expected to arrive in Rome.
  • 200 - Number of heads of state, religious leaders expected at Pope's funeral.
  • 10,000 - Total number of military, security expected to be mobilized in Rome Friday.

The Latest

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Because Papal Pilgrims Get Hungry Too

Want to sample how food-obsessed Italians do casual dining? Find yourself an outlet of Anema e Cozze when you're next in Milan, Rome or Naples. In Rome, the chain is an easy walk from the Vatican, just over the Ponte Castel Sant'Angelo on Via della Scrofa. The name, a sly riff on the classic Neapolitan tune Anema E Core, is part of the fun of the place, which is all shiny mosaic tile, bright ocean colors and painted furniture. The chain positions its food as "sea and pizza," which means it focuses on the twin foundations of Neopolitan cuisine: seafood and the city's iconic, plate-sized pies that have been imitated and bastardized around the world. There's also a daily "trattoria menu" that offers an appetizer, entree, vegetable and beverage for just 10.50 euros. The service is fast, friendly and efficient. The food isn't quite up to the standards of the places you love the best in Italy, of course, but Anema e Cozze's pizzas, pastas, seafood and desserts are leagues beyond anything you'll eat in an Applebee's, Chili's, Outback Steak House or any other American casual-dining chain. By the way, Anema E Core translates as "with all my heart and soul." Anema e Cozze roughly translates to "soul and mussels." --Joe Brancatelli

24-Hour Wait to See Pope's Body

From the Associated Press:

"Overwhelmed Italian officials said they will cut off the line of pilgrims hoping to see Pope John Paul II's body at St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday evening as a massive line snaked down a wide boulevard, through ancient alleyways and onto a bridge.

People face a 24-hour wait as things stand, said Luca Spoletini, a spokesman for the Civil Defense department. Officials will block off the line starting at around 10 p.m. Wednesday, and maybe even earlier, he said.

'It's possible there are 1 million people out there," he said. "They are all concentrated outside St. Peter's ... We are all working to ensure maximum tranquility.'"

Get in Line NOW!

This from Steph at Whatsoninrome.com:

  • All private traffic banned in Rome starting at midnight on Thursday through Friday afternoon.
  • Big screens showing the funeral ceremony for those who can't make it to the Vatican at Piazza del Popolo, Circo Massimo, S. Giovanni, S. Paolo, Stadio Olimpico, Stadio Flaminio and Tor Vergata.
  • Starting this evening, you can no longer get in line to view the Pope. Not enough time left considering the lines. St. Peter's Basilica closes at 10 p.m on Thursday.

Special Message to Italians; Pope Price Gouging?

This is from my friend Maddie, a travel professional in Tuscany:

"Everyone who has an Italian cell phone got a message today from our Protezione Civile : If you are going to Rome today - please travel by public transportation."

"Striscia la Notizia is a satirical news program on every evening right after the news and one thing they have been doing is seeking out injustice, you know small everyday things. It's a program you can call to point out something bad, or not fair happening to you or your town or whatever.

Well last night their reporter went into a bar near the Vatican - where up til the Pope's death the price for a coffee ( for example) was .80 euros. Since the Pope's death they are charging 1,00 euro. So the reporter went in and asked the owner about - they practically shouted at him to get out of the bar - first said they had not increased - then they said they had merely done this because they couldn't give change for .80 cents. It ended that the owner's wife at the cashier - pratically pushed the reporter out of the bar ( after slapping him in the face) while he said to a few clients 'buon appetito.'"

Conclave to Meet April 18

Morning updates:

  • The College of Cardinals will meet April 18 to choose a new Pope.
  • In a change from tradition, cardinals will have access to all of Vatican City during the Conclave, not just the Sistine Chapel.
  • Waits to see the Pope's body -- up to 12 hours at some points.
  • Extra police from other parts of Italy being brought to Rome.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Status of Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel

  • The Vatican Museums will be open tomorrow and Thursday and closed Friday.
  • In preparation for the Conclave, the Sistine Chapel will be closed starting Thursday.

Pope Comic Book Controversy

I happened to watch CNN's Inside Politics Inside the Blogs segment today. They mentioned that a fellow blogger said that Pope John Paul II was the first Pope to have his own comic book. Not so says my friend Joe, who was also watching. I know you're thinking, this guy knows everything! And watches everything (RAI, CNN, etc.)

The scoop from Joe:

"They were wrong today when they said JPII was the first Pope to have a comic book. I remember getting a comic book on JohnXXIII in Catholic grammar school. I remember it distinctly because it was the first time I realized Popes were people and had real names. It might have been a special issue of Treasure Chest (you remember those?), but it was definitely the Life of Pope John XXIII."

Nightline Last Night: Making the Pope's Frocks

As I said below, I really liked Nightline last night, so much so that I just bought the transcript. The whole program was incredible (more on Bill Blakemore in Poland in a minute) and I especially liked this part about the Pope's tailor, Gammarelli, just off Rome's Piazza Minerva.

John Donvan: And this week, a lot of those priests are coming to this little street in Rome, which is a little bit like the Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive for clergy, outfitting themselves for a religious ceremony. They come to stores like this one, and they’re all up and down this street, to outfit themselves with the best Italian vestments. And that includes all the priests, the bishops, the archbishops, and it has included the Pope.

Mr. Gammarelli: These are hand-made, these buttons. Bishops wear these purple socks and the cardinal, scarlet.

Donvan: What about the Pope?

Mr. Gammarelli: Pope, white.

Donvan: Always white.

Donvan: Gammarelli’s, outfitting popes since 1798. And there’s a tradition with Gammarelli’s and the Vatican. Nearly every time a new pope is chosen and makes that first appearance on the balcony, usually within an hour of being selected, Gammarelli’s has made that first set of vestments the new pontiff wears. Actually, they make three sets, small, medium, and large, because no one knows ‘til the last minute what size he’ll be. Phillipo Gammarelli told us that as of today, they are a little out of practice on that rush job, because after all, it’s been 26 years since the last one. But he says they’ll get it right.

Donvan: So, you are beginning to have ...

Gammarelli: Yes, we must, we must get the order from the Vatican. We hope to have it. And after that, we shall make, to make, we shall start to make the cassocks.

For more information, here's a BBC piece on Gammarelli.

Dream of Italy Rome Review: Locanda Cairoli

This is from Dream of Italy's July/August 2004 issue:

Cozy Cairoli Offers Roman Hideaway

Rome’s Locanda Cairoli can be a bit hard to find, but that’s part of its charm. Only a small brass sign in front of a huge wooden door, notes the location of this small 4-star hotel at the back of an old palazzo on Piazza Cairoli just blocks from the the Vittoria Emmanuele Monument.

With a warm décor and equally warm service, this 13-room gem feels like a country inn in the middle of the city. Cairoli’s beautiful wood furniture is complemented by a blue and white color scheme. The owner is clearly an art collector as paintings and sculptures are on generous display in the common rooms and guest rooms alike. The palazzo’s high ceilings add to the airy, relaxing atmosphere.

Each guest room has a television with VCR, CD player, hair dryer and coffeemaker, as well as an eclectic mix of guides to Rome. In the hotel’s sitting room, a gigantic wood farm table provides the perfect setting for the daily buffet breakfast. Cairoli’s staff members are friendly and helpful, yet discreet. And best of all, a stay here comes with an affordable price tag. The rate for a double room is 240 € per night including breakfast. For more information, call (39) 06 6880 9278.

More Tidbits

From CNN this morning/afternoon:
  • According to a statement from his office, sounds like President Carter was left out of the official delegation, that's why he is not attending. Hmm...
  • In a break from tradition, bells will toll along with the white smoke when a new Pope is elected. (It is a good idea because apparently that white smoke often looks gray and can be confusing.)
  • The Vatican says the body of Pope John Paul II was NOT embalmed but rather "prepared in an undisclosed way." More on what may have been done.

Dream of Italy Rome Review: FortySeven Hotel

From the pages of Dream of Italy's March 2005 issue:

Another Addition to Rome’s Hip Hotel Line-Up

Location is key to choosing a hotel in Rome. Those who like peace and quiet might choose to stay in one of the Vatican’s quiet neighborhoods or in the residential section of Pairoli, near Villa Borghese. Those who want to be close to the action might choose a hotel near the Spanish Steps or Piazza Navona. Those who want to be in the center of ancient Rome now have a new place to stay – the 4-star FortySeven Hotel is just across from between Circo Massimo and Teatro Marcello and a few minutes walk to the Forum and the Colosseum.

FortySeven Hotel also offers “the hip factor,” in terms of location and design. Just across a bridge from the trendy Trastevere, the hotel features 61 guest rooms and suites, each dedicated to a 20th century Italian artist such as Modigliani or Guccione. Rooms also feature Art Deco furniture, marble bathrooms and wireless Internet access. Although there’s no restaurant in the hotel, the rooftop bar offers stunning views of the Eternal City. The staff is friendly and eager-to-please. Rates range from 160 to 400 euros per night, including breakfast. Via Petroselli, 47; (39) 06 6787816

Rome's Airspace Closed Friday

The airspace over Rome will be closed Friday during the Pope's funeral. This means no flights in or out...

What's Up with RAI Uno's Coverage?

My friend Joe again (this guy has his finger on the pulse of Italy!):

"I'm watching RAI Uno's international news feed and the primary news program Monday night DID NOT lead with the Pope. It was regional election day in three provinces and Berlusconi's party lost in 11 of the 13, holding only Veneto and Lombardia, both of which are actually Northern Leage strongholds."

"I'm 15 minutes in and the pope has not been mentioned. Astonishing since RAI Uno is, of course, the TV station of Berlusconi's Forza Italia..."


This Dream of Italy adventure in blogging is paying off. We're mentioned the article, "What to Expect if You Go to the Funeral" in Tuesday's edition of USA TODAY!

The article also contains another place to look for last-minute travel to Rome -- religious tours:

"Another option is a tour. U.S.-based Regina Tours, which specializes in Catholic pilgrimages, is 'getting bombarded with calls. Fifty percent want to leave this week, and 50% want to go over later and take a shot at being there for the white smoke' signifying the election of the next pope, says Regina's John Peters. On Monday, Regina still had limited space on Rome tours leaving New York on Wednesday or Thursday, starting at $1,299 per person including airfare and five nights' hotel. "

We're mentioned on Gridskipper too. (If you're a travel nut and haven't seen this cool site, check it out!)

Cardinals to Bunk at Casa Santa Marta

Some of the only people not scrambling for housing this week in Rome are the Cardinals who are currently running the Vatican and will soon convene to choose a new Pope. They have John Paul II to thank for some convenient accommodations. He allocated some $20 million build to Casa Santa Marta, a Vatican hotel containing more than 110 suites and single rooms, where the Cardinals will stay in the coming weeks. Read more in this New York Times article

Once in Rome, Getting to Vatican City

From ATAC (Rome's public transportation company):

From Fiumicino-Leonardo da Vinci Airport: The trains of the regional railway Fr1 lead to the Trastevere station where one can take the trains of the Fr3 up to the San Pietro railway station; the Leonardo Express still provides the direct connection to Termini Rail Station, where one can commute to the subway A-line up to the station of “Ottaviano-San Pietro”.

From Ciampino Airport: The connection to the subway A-line at Anagnina is granted by the overland buses of Cotral. The nighttime works on the A-line of the roman subway have been suspended: the trains run regularly until 11:30 p.m., like those of the B-line.

Four extra shuttle buses have been added, leading to the Vatican starting from Termini Rail Station: Runs through Piazzale Ostiense, Piazzale Flaminio and Piazza dei Giureconsulti. They run without interruption 24 hours a day, like the buses of the lines 40 Express, 62 and 64. Other twelve lines, as well as eleven night buses, have increased their frequencies. These are the ordinary public transport lines leading to the Vatican area: tramway 19 as well as the buses 30 Express, 34, 46, 46B, 62, 64, 81, 8, 98, 115, 116, 224, 571, 590 (this line is served with special buses for disabled people and follows the route of the A-line of the Metropolitana), 628, 881, 913, 926, 982, 990 and 999.

Night buses: Besides the four special shuttle lines and the 40 Express, the 62 and the 64, the 40N and the 55N cover the routes of the two subway lines and the following busses lead to the Vatican area: 29N, 30N, 45N, 78N and 99N.

Excellent Nightline Monday Night

Did you see Nightline tonight? The team outdid themselves. Particular kudos to Bill Blakemore (in Poland) and John Donvan (in Rome). I'm waiting for a transcript to pass along some of the informative material they had in their show.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Flights from the U.S.

If you're looking for flights from the U.S. to Rome this week (leaving Wednesday, returning Sunday), a search on Travelocity, reveals that there's a non-stop available on Alitalia from New York for $2,016 roundtrip. Other flights are available on American, Czech Airlines, Delta and Lufthansa, starting from $1,931. This also might the time to use some of those frequent flyer miles . You will probably need to spend at least 100,000 miles to get a last-minute ticket.

Found Some Rooms

Checked Expedia.com and found the following (after clicking on MANY hotels) available Tuesday through Thursday nights in Rome (bet Friday is the toughest night to get):

Splendide Royal at $672.29 per night, plus tax
Bettoja Massimo D Azeglio at $332.26 per night, plus tax
Forum Hotel at $362.00 per night, plus tax
Borromeo Hotel at $206.86 per night, plus tax

Another idea is to just stay in a nearby city, like Florence, and take the train to Rome. NOTE: Buy your train tickets NOW, even if you haven't left for Italy yet! Can you imagine the lines at the train station? Mama mia! Trenitalia has updated their list of added trains to/from Rome.

Also check Reid Bramblett's site (Reid is an editor for Budget Travel, an Italophile and author of numerous guidebooks) for some creative ideas on lodging, such as camping, European motel chains, convents, etc.

Further Reading

As much as I love the Internet, there is nothing like holding a real newspaper in my hands. You would think I would be tired of all of this Pope coverage, far from it. Last night, just before going to sleep, I opened The New York Times and read Robert McFadden's incredible (and multi-multi-page) obituary of the Pope, "All-Embracing Man of Action for a New Era of Papacy." It is an incredibly comprehensive analysis and report on what made the Pope tick, the highs and lows of his papacy and small details of his personal life. More than anything, McFadden's writing is breathtaking. I would stop and reread paragraphs, just because they were so beautifully written. As a writer, I wanted to get out a highlighter and mark these lyrical passages. Even though newspaper yellows, I will be saving this article for a lifetime.

Frequent Dream of Italy contributor, Bethanne Kelly Patrick, who is also AOL's Book Maven has created a list of books on Pope John Paul II and the papal transition.

I will be adding some of my own suggestions shortly, but my absolute favorite book on the Vatican (albeit about the physical structure and artistic treasures) is In The Footsteps of the Popes by Enrico Bruschini (I'll be writing about him and his expertise in some upcoming entries.

Rome Increases Metro and Bus Transportation

The city of Rome's Web site is a good resource for the coming days. It is Italian and I'm working on translating parts of it for you. You can also call the city council hotline at 060606 (operators speak English). Here are some of the highlights:
  • Schools in Rome will be closed Friday.

This is from the What's On in Rome Web site:

"To meet the needs an increasing number of passengers traveling to the Vatican to pay their last respects to the Pope, Rome's public transportation authority (ATAC) has announced additional service for buses and metro. The metro Line A will no longer be closing early and renovation work has been temporarily suspended. The subway will run until its normal closing time of 11:30pm, and possibly beyond if necessary. "

"Additional bus service will also be available, with a special express buses from Termini, Piramide, Cornelia and Piazzale Falminio to St. Peter's from 10am-10pm. The following lines will run more frequently during the hours of 10am-10pm: 23, 32, 46, 81, 280, 492, 870, 881 and 982."

Viewing the Pope

Until the Pope's funeral on Friday, St. Peter's Basilica will remain open for 21 hours each day so that visitors may pay their respects to the Pontiff. It will be closed between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. each morning.

Current reports have lines reaching a least a half-mile.

Accommodations Update

My friend Joe again: There is now NOTHING in Rome centro storico in terms of accommodations. All the B&Bs, villas, apartments are full. Hotels long gone, of course. Might be wise to look in Fiumicino. But as far as I can tell, Rome is full full full.

'Unprecedented Strain' on Italian Capital

As expected, AP reports that Rome is preparing for one of the greatest influxes of Catholic pilgrims in history. Rome's Mayor Walter Veltroni said, ""For us it is an extraordinary test, of the most tremendous importance. It's going to be like organizing the Jubilee in just 48 hours."

Among the preparations:
  • Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu mobilized 6,430 security forces.
  • "Tent cities" in sports venues like Rome's Olympic Stadium are being built to house visitors.
  • Huge television screens to show the funeral went up at 10 sites, including the Circus Maximus.
  • Hundreds of voluntary staff and sanitation crews have been drafted to build makeshift toilets and drinking fountains.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Finding Accommodations in Rome

Again, I remind you to CONFIRM any reservations you may have in Rome in the coming weeks.

Today, my friend Joe was doing some checking on hotel rooms available in Rome and he didn't find much. "I think you can report that Rome is now TOTALLY sold out. I've been pecking around today and find no availability anywhere," he says. I'm checking in with my contacts at various Roman hotels and will report back.

You might check with the B&B Association of Rome.

How about considering renting an apartment instead? Most are rented on a weekly basis, so even if you need one for just a few days, you are going to have to pay for a week. You can try to rent directly from an apartment owner. I can also recommend some current and former Dream of Italy advertisers (I know almost all personally) who have properties in Rome: Great Travels, Italian Breaks, Italian Vacation Villas, Italy My Dream, Kublai, Papavero Rentals, The Parker Company, Roman Homes.

If you're looking for other services in Rome, transfers, tours, etc. You may want to check in with Vatican Tours. Also, if you need a driver in Rome, our friend Giovanni is a dream!

Some Answers to Your Questions

The Eternal Word Television Network Web site has some comprehensive answers to some of the questions we are all asking today.

Who's in charge now that the Pope is dead? "It is the College of Cardinals, therefore, which remains in charge during the Interregnum. The Camerlengo and the other officials of the Apostolic Camera oversee the dicasteries and report daily to the College, which makes any decisions."

Who belongs to the college of Cardinals? There 183 Cardinals, 117 of whom are eligible to vote for a new Pope. Only Cardinals under the age of 80 are allowed to vote; they're called Cardinal Electors.

John Paul II was the 264th Pope. You know you're curious about who the rest of them were...

Vatican City to Issue "Vacant See" Stamp

Visitors to Vatican City often get a thrill out of buying Vatican City stamps and sending postcards from this tiny country within the city of Rome. Of course, the postcards usually arrive faster via the Vatican than via Italian mail. The Vatican post office announced it will issue a special stamp honoring Pope John Paul II. The "vacant See" stamp can only be used until a new pope is elected. It will be an image of two crossed keys but no papal headgear. The traditional image on Vatican stamps issued while a pope is alive has the keys and the headgear. The last time the Vatican post office issued vacant seat stamps was 1978, when John Paul I died. If I don't make it to Rome during this time, I'm going to ask some colleagues in Rome to buy some for me.

Rome Airport Help

Flying into Rome? Our friend Harriet Baskas writes helpful airport guides for Expedia.com. She let us publish her Rome airport guide in our first issue of Dream of Italy back in 2002. Thanks Harriet! You can still access that guide at Expedia.

MSNBC.com reports: "In John Paul’s native Poland, the national carrier LOT said its Rome-bound flights were nearly full for Sunday and Monday, and that every second or third call was from someone looking to book a flight to Rome. "

Trying to get to Rome from within Europe? Whichbudget.com can tell your which European budget airlines fly into Fiumincino Airport and which fly into Ciampino Airport.

Trenitalia Adds Trains to Rome

If you're in Italy and trying to get to Rome, see this page on Trenitalia's Web site. It details the extra trains added to get pilgrims to Rome. I will translate it when I have time.

Sunday Morning Update

Pope John Paul II's body is lying in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace today so that dignitaries may pay their respects. It will be moved to the Sala Bologna at St. Peter's Basilica tomorrow where it will lie in state (viewing open to the public) until the funeral (no official word yet -- but should be Wednesday, Thursday or Friday). It is expected that the Pope will be buried below St. Peter's. The city of Rome is in official mourning for three days, the Vatican for nine days. President Bush ordered American flags at all federal buildings and facilities to be flown at half-staff until sunset on the day of the pope's interment. Bush is expected to attend the Pope's funeral.

The City of Rome Prepares for Influx of Pilgrims

Roman officials are expecting at least two million visitors for the Pope's funeral alone. According to MSNBC.com, the city "is preparing extra trains, fresh water supplies and thousands of beds" for the expected pilgrims. MSNBC.com also reports: "To help house the visitors, at least three sports venues, including Rome's Olympic Stadium, will be opened."

Exclusive Video: Inside the Vatican

The National Geographic Channel will be showing their compelling documentary, Inside the Vatican, tomorrow night at 10 p.m. ET. Even if you don't get the channel, be sure to view the video clips on the National Geographic Web site. The National Geographic team received unprecedented access to parts of the Vatican usually closed to the public.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Rules for Electing a New Pontiff

The Universi Dominici Gregis is the document written by the Pope in 1996 that sets out the rules for electing his successor. "While keeping in mind present-day requirements, I have been careful, in formulating the new discipline, not to depart in substance from the wise and venerable tradition already established," the Pope noted. This New York Times article is one of the best I have read detailing the selection of a papal successor. The College of Cardinals is expected to meet Monday at 10 a.m. to select a date for the Pope's funeral.

Race for the Rooftops

Here's a fascinating story about how American television networks have had rooftop space in front of the Vatican secured for years, but still find themselves scrambling to make sure everything is in place for the coming weeks. Here's another interesting insight into the years TV has spent preparing for the Pope's death. I actually worked for ABC News when the network was the only to have a full-time religion reporter (Peggy Wehmeyer). I believe Peter Jennings actually pushed to have such a reporter in place. Peggy Wehmeyer's pieces provided an incredible window on American religious culture. The networks. and in fact the media in general, are often criticized for ignoring America "between the coasts," but in part, with the coverage of religion, I believe ABC made sure most of the nation wasn't ignored. Sadly, none of the networks -- including ABC -- currently have a religion reporter. (I'm not sure how many have a Rome bureau chief either, but that's another story.) Personally, I'm not necassarily incredibly interested in religious issues, but they are an important part of the fabric of our country and the world, especially during times like these.

Check Your Rome Hotel Reservations!

As I reported way back in the November 2003 issue of Dream of Italy, anyone planning to visit Rome during the weeks following the Pope's death need to reconfirm their hotel reservations, probably more than once. Why? International media organizations have had contracts in place for years to take over blocks of rooms for Pope coverage. Your hotel might just be one of them. Of course other dignitaries and world leaders will also be taking over hotel space. For the most part, cardinals will be staying in a hotel-like building (where the telephone lines will be cut during the conclave) within the grounds of the Vatican.


For those planning travel to Rome and/or following the events at the Vatican. These are the dates events are expected to take place. Tonight, the Pope is expected to lie in repose in the Sistine Chapel under The Last Judgement. The Pope will lie in state in St. Peter's Basilica. beginning Monday. According to tradition, he will be buried on the 4th, 5th or 6th day following his death, which puts the burial on or between Wednesday, April 6 and Friday, April 8. The conclave begins at least 15 days and no more than 20 days after the death of the Pope. So it is expected to begin on or after April 17.

Good to See John Allen

Over the last few days, I have been waiting to see John Allen on CNN. I thought he had a consulting contract with the network and I'm glad to see him on-air now with CNN anchor Aaron Brown. If you don't know John Allen, you're going to get to know him over the next few days and weeks. Allen is the Vatican reporter for the National Catholic Reporter. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for the February 2004 issue of Dream of Italy, when he told me about his dream job of covering Pope John Paul II.

Should We Watch the Door?

Traditionally, one sign of a Pope's death is the closing of the Bronze Door at the side of St. Peter's Basilica. In these waning moments of Pope John Paul's life, Vatican watchers have kept a close eye on the door, but will it really be closed as soon as the Pope dies? Maybe not. When two Popes died within quick succession of each other in 1978, the door was not closed and therefore not used a symbol of the passing of the Popes. The door is closed each evening so if the Pope dies during the night, the Bronze Door may not be used as a sign signaling his death.

All Eyes on Rome

Over the next few weeks, check back to this blog for timely information on travel to Rome in the wake of the Pope's death. We'll have information on everything from the traditions and ceremonies surrounding the Pope's death to opening hours of the Vatican to securing hotel rooms during this busy time. FYI, if you are wondering why all of live television shots from Rome have Rome time at seven hours ahead of the U.S. east coast, that's because Italy entered daylight savings time last Sunday. When we change over to daylight savings time tomorrow, the time difference will be back to its normal six hours.