TRAVELSCRIBBLES is a blog featuring travel reports, advice, and idea sharing for those interested in both domestic and international exploration.

Roger Sauer and his wife Donna have spent years traveling the world but have many places yet to see. You can follow their past and current travels here as well as post comments and questions about places they have visited.

Roger and Donna travelled to New Zealand and Australia in September, 2013. They will be in Paris in September 2015 with a train trip to Nice and Barcelona. They will then be aboard the Disney Magic (again) for a transatlantic cruise to Miami. Follow their travels on Twitter @rsauer3473.

Donna and Roger own Disney Vacation Club memberships at Old Key West and Beach Cub resorts in Walt Disney World. They also have other timeshare interests in Maui, Cancun, Orlando, and Palm Springs.
Feel free to contact them at 503-585-3473 if you would like rent one of these properties.

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

Monday, February 21, 2011


 By Roger Sauer, Salem, OR

With tourism levels on the rise, more people are traveling to Europe and, these trips often include Rome. While summers can be very hot and humid and winters cool or cold, Rome remains a favorite destination for its history and beauty with both cultural and religious significances. And few excursions to Rome can be more breathtaking than a day or two at Vatican City with its St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican Museum, and Sistine Chapel. But did you know that, depending on the time of year that you go, you can arrange tickets for one of the Pope's weekly audiences? If you plan ahead, this can easily be folded into your Roman itinerary.

These audiences are not private affairs for small groups but for the general public who have arranged tickets in advance. Summer visitors may be out of luck as the Pope is usually away from the Vatican during these warm months. A schedule of the audiences will be found on the Vatican website or the website for the American Catholic Church in Rome, the Church of Santa Susanna. For Americans tickets can be obtained before traveling at Santa Susanna. Its website is www.santasusanna.org. This church, beautiful in its own right, is a distance from the Vatican, across the Tiber and closer to the Villa Borghese park and Trevi Fountain. The address and contact information is:

The Church of Santa Susanna
Via Venti Settembre 15

00187, Roma, Italia

Tel: 06,4201.4554 Fax: 06.474.0236

(from the USA: 011-3906-4201-4554)

FAX: 06.4201.4328

When you request tickets online, you will be sent a confirming email. Tickets can then be picked up at the church (not the Vatican) no earlier than the afternoon prior to the audiences which are always held on Wednesdays. Tickets are FREE though a modest donation to the Church of Santa Susanna is requested. You will need to bring your confirming email with you. Though we are not Catholic, we were told that American Catholic travelers can make ticket arrangements through their local parish or archdiocese.

The audiences themselves are held in a cavernous though modern facility adjacent to St. Peter's Basilica (to the left and behind the colonnades if you are facing the basilica). This is the Aula dell'Udienza. While the events do not begin until 10:30 AM, it is the early bird who gets the better seats. We were advised when we picked up tickets to arrive before 8:00 AM at the security gate near the Aula. This meant taking the subway full of commuters early to the St. Peter's station and walking about half a mile down a street, across St. Peter's Square to the colonnade. There were several hundred people waiting for access through the metal detectors and the crowd grew minute by minute. Our audience was the first in the fall after Pope Benedict's summer recess at Castel Gandolfo so the crowds may have been larger for this reason.

Of course, standing in a somewhat disorganized crowd can get tiring especially when we were not sure of the entrance procedure. As we faced the gates it was clear that the entrance was to our left and the building multitude gradually was migrating forward and left. There were many tour and church groups with similar coats or bandanas and their leaders carried banners or flags. Visitors should not expect politeness from these groups. Once the gates were opened at about 9:00 AM we filed rough the security devices and walked briskly to the Aula. Inside the Aula is arranged with row upon row of fixed wooden seats. The facility designed by Pier Luigi Nervi seats 6,300. There was an overflow crowd when we attended.

The space is divided with a central aisle and a perpendicular barrier between the twenty or so front rows for special guests and the rest of us. The special guests included in our audience students from a Polish seminary, a number of Catholic schools from around the world and, in the very front, some couples in wedding regalia eager to have the pontiff bless their unions. On the stage seats for the Pope and other dignitaries were in front of a massive twenty meter wide bronze and brass sculpture, The Resurrection.

The audience is a scripted event but not without moments of spontaneity. The Pope read a long statement in Italian, then clerical representatives of different linguistic/national groups (French, English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Polish, Italian) made statements to the Pope and audience largely acknowledging various groups in attendance. This was when the crowd became more like a pep rally as some contingents cheered when recognized. The Polish seminary group sang and held up a very long banner and cheered. A delegation from Mexico sang the Mexican national anthem. During our visit Pope Benedict was very animated and seemed to gain energy from that of the gathered attendees. At the end of the event those in attendance were able to join in the Lord's Prayer in Latin before the Pope gave his blessing.

Guests were invited to remain for special blessings by the pontiff at the end of the service.

The event was over by 11:30 AM and there was ample time to have lunch and take a tour of the Vatican Museums including the Sistine Chapel during the afternoon.

Visitors who have a cruise stop in Civitavecchia as the Magic does on its Mediterranean cruises can arrange a day trip to Rome and the Vatican. However the timing of the audiences and the need for an early start might make such plans difficult.