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Published: January 4th 2016
It's our last morning in Rome. What an incredible time we've had! Late on new year's eve we went down to the colosseum for the fireworks.
I'll set the scene for you. It was quite mild when we stepped outside about 10:30pm. Actually much warmer than during the day. The streets were packed with people making there way there. Shops and restaurants were open and street vendors were everywhere trying to sell flashing headbands.
Although the street vendors can be very annoying, I have come to admire their determination. They are around rain, hail or shine and on worked the crowds until well after midnight on New Year's Eve. Everyone was brimming with anticipation as we finally arrived at the colosseum.
We saw some very enterprising lads selling bottles of sparkling wine for 10 euros a bottle. Despite the wine being undrinkable, business was very brisk So there we were with our friends Alan and Liz and at least 100,000 other people basking in the light of the colosseum waiting for the fireworks to start.
What none of us realised was that the official fireworks display had been cancelled due to a terrorist threat. Unfortunately
the enormous crowd either never got the message or couldn't care less. Ok so no organised fireworks but there were a lot of impromptu shows because Romans bring their own fireworks to such occasions! The Romans are completely insane about fireworks. Throwing them into crowds and watching them scatter seemed to be a lot of fun! Amazing how fast drunken people can run.
For some reason I acquired a group of young Indian admirers. I was the only blond around and apparently I looked like a queen with my flashing tiara on. I think their eyesight may have been affected by drink but it made me laugh.
So after dodging random cracker explosions, rockets being fired from garden beds and random drunken revellers, we decided to make our way homeward through what I can only describe as a seething mass of people. The strategy was for Peter to use his rugby skills and shoulder charge his way through while the rest of us followed in a conga line.
The theory was better than the execution What we didn't realise was that we were trying to exit through an entrance. Despite the yelling and protestations in Italian we
made some headway until a very angry Italian cop decided Peter better turn around pronto. At this stage, I was having visions of a punch up and a trip to the Rome lock up the next day! Luckily neither transpired and after getting an ice cream on the way we made it safely back to our hotel feeling exhausted and happy.
I had huge plans to attend the New Year's Day parade and papal blessing on New Year's Day. Alas, we never made it. Too tired. However more papal action was to come later in the evening. This time we witnessed the opening of the holy door which celebrates concept of forgiveness And only happens in a holy year which occurs every 25-50 years. The tradition dates back to the 1400's and basically you are absolved of your sins when you walk through the door. No confession required!
The day went in a blur of spaghetti carbonara, pastries and caffe latte until at 4:00pm we lined up at Santa Maria Maggoria basilica for the opening of the holy door by the Pope at 5:00pm. We didn't have the special tickets, so couldn't go inside and we joined the
large crowd outside in the square. It's was cold but I was very happy to make my way to the front of the barrier.
Liz and Alan and Peter retreated to the comfort and warmth of the hotel after one and a half hours. They watched the whole service on TV. Nothing was going to make me leave before the end of the service and the Pope's blessing which came around 7:00pm. There were cops and military everywhere as you can imagine
Being in the crowd was quite interesting. There were several bouts of yelling and hand gesticulation. One guy had a huge argument with his mother and the old ladies at the front of the barrier told him off big time. The warring parties retreated back to drink more vino I imagine!
The service was broadcast outside in the square and I hummed and sang along despite it being in Italian. The singing and music from inside the Basilica was beautiful. I could hear one of the tenors really singing his heart out. Priests brought hosts out into the crowd which was a really nice touch.
The Pope finally came out on to the church
steps accompanied by throngs of security. I couldn't see him very well but I was still glad I waited. He is a very charismatic person and much adored. It was lovely to be around such positive energy.
After yet more pasta and pizza, we bid our fellow travellers Liz and Alan Bon voyage for their trip back to Australia as we got ready for the next part of our trip. This time to Florence.
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