Walking in the Pope’s footsteps: photos from the Vatican gardens

Ever wondered where the Pope takes his daily meditative stroll? Well, yesterday Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP) officially inaugurated the Vatican gardens bus tour. The yellow methane and electric-driven minibuses will be running hour-long guided tours for the public around the Vatican gardens. You also get to see St Peter’s from behind.

The introduction to the tour saw a line-up of cardinals and priests give their views on why the gardens are important. One cited the symbolism of the garden in the Bible – the garden of Eden of course, as well as the garden where Judas kissed Jesus, betraying him. There were also a joke in Latin (something about Martial writing “if you want to drink vinegar, drink the wine made at the Vatican”), which the cardinals had a good chuckle about – before translating for the assembled crowd of journalists and bloggers, who duly tittered once they’d got it.

I’m just wondering – when Martial was around (the second half of the first century AD), what was going on at Vatican hill? Well I guess St Peter was crucified there… in around 64AD, and Nero’s stadium was there. I didn’t know the land was used for a vineyard too.

It’s not the first time the public has been allowed into the gardens – access was previously possible for groups of pilgrims. Now the bus tours give access to whoever is interested and costs 12 euros for the trip (plus 3 euros for a reservation… if you turn up at their office at 9, piazza Pio XII you might not need to reserve).

My only reservation is that when you’re on a bus, no matter how open-air that bus is, you don’t really get to experience many of the most wonderful things about a garden. You can see, but you don’t get that chance to get close to the green lawns, to touch leaves, to choose your own pathways and to stop under the bough of a pine for shade, if you fancy it. Smelling scents, hearing water trickling and maybe stealing a chance to be alone for a minute. That is what a garden is all about.

For more information see www.operaromanapellegrinaggi.org, email usp@orpnet.org or call +39 06 88 81 618

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