A visitor emailed me and asked for advice on visiting the Vatican and attending the weekly Papal Audience. I decided to write this post to share my experience and help those who plan to visit Rome.
When I was planning our trip to Rome, Italy last year, I knew that attending the weekly Wednesday Papal Audience is something I want to do. I read in a travel forum that I can get some tickets for this event from the American church in Rome. So I googled the website of the Santa Susanna church and emailed them to ask for tickets to the Papal Audience. I didn't hear from them until a few days before we left for Italy. They emailed back and informed me that they reserved the tickets for me and it will be ready for pick-up the evening (after 6 pm) before the audience. This is convenient although you need to take a taxi to reach the church depending on where you are that day. There is no fee for the ticket but they accept $ donations.
I also found out through reading Rick Steves' travel book about Rome, that you can get tickets directly from the Swiss guards that are posted on the entrance to the bronze door. Since I have no idea where this place is, I scrapped this idea. So there we were on Tuesday at the Vatican, we just finished the 3 hour visit to the Vatican museums. (If you plan to go, I suggest going in the afternoon where there are no lines to get in the museum.) We were wandering around, we turned a corner and I looked up and saw on the top of the stairs two Swiss guards and a big bronze door. Voila, there it is! There was a problem though, a barricade was placed at the bottom of the stairs and a Polizei was standing guard. So I told dh I'm going to try to talk my way in. I don't know why I said that when I don't know all but 10 words in Italian. Anyway, with my handful of Italian, I asked the policeman if I can go up the stairs to ask for some tickets for the Wednesday Papal Audience. I think I said something like "Perdone, I want tickets to the Papal Audience" while pointing towards the door. He probably know what it is because he said "Si". So there I went. I asked one of the Swiss guards in English if I can get four tickets. He went inside and came back with the golden Papal Audience tickets. So my advice is, if you will be at the Vatican days before the Wednesday audience, you can get these tickets. The bronze door is on the right side of the square if you are facing St. Peter's Basilica.
If you want to get a front row seat, you need to get there very early. When we arrived, it was around 9 AM and the first 10 rows were already occupied. We still had a good view of the Pope. As you can see from the photos, no one could really get up close because of the steps leading to the stage. Bring an umbrella because it can get very hot in the summer. Bring some water to prevent dehydration. The audience starts at 10 AM and there are big screens at strategic places so you can still see what's going on even if you are seated far away. Remember to dress appropriately if you are visiting the Vatican. I saw some people turned away because they wore shorts, mini-skirts, low-cut blouses or sleeveless shirts. The audience lasted for about 3 hours, it is LONG. The Pope did not say the Mass, he gave his blessings to those who attended and acknowledged the big groups that came from all over the world. If you are a Catholic and plan to visit Rome, I recommend going to the Wednesday Papal Audience.
If you have other questions about the Papal Audience, Vatican museum tour or Rome/Florence/Venice questions, feel free to email me. You will find my email address under MY LINKS at the right sidebar of this blog. :o)