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The Eclectic Pen - Incognito

By: Tom C. (Tommy)   + 8 more  
Date Submitted: 1/25/2007
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs » Travelers & Explorers
Words: 397


It was a warm summer evening back in July of ’96, and we found ourselves in the village of Castel Gandolfo overlooking the beautiful Lake Albano. Some readers may recognize this as the pope’s summer retreat in the mountains not far from Rome. Rosa was window shopping while my daughter, Sabrina and I were taking full advantage of that time photographers call “The Golden Hour” when the sun slants in low from the west enhancing every scene with an incredible glow and clarity.

The papal villa is right there in town, but surrounded by high walls and of course, well guarded. I looked up the cobbled street toward the villa, then back across the charming little piazza in the golden light of the sunset. People were everywhere. There were couples enjoying wine at the sidewalk tables outside the trattoria. Children laughing while their gelati melted in the warm summer air. There was a produce vendor behind us with his wares displayed in baskets outside the windows of his shop. And in the distance, lights were coming on in the villages across the lake. It was magical.

I remarked to Sabrina how it seemed sad that the pope should come to such a beautiful place on retreat form the Vatican, only to be shut in behind the high walls of the villa. I joked that perhaps he would dress in civilian clothing and slip out the back door to go into town for a beer or a glass of wine. “Who would notice?” I said. “With some old pants, a checked shirt, and a hat, he’d be just another old man on the street.” I pointed to an older man sitting alone with an espresso outside the bar, and said: “That might be John Paul right there. Let’s go ask for his autograph.” Rosa and Sabrina both pronounced me nuts, and we went about our business.

Fast forward to January 2007: According to last night’s TV news, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul’s personal secretary for 38 years has recently published a book of his memoirs. It seems, according to the cardinal, that JP2 would, on occasion, sneak past the Swiss Guard with the help of his aides to go hiking and skiing in the mountains around Castel Gandolfo.

Looks like I might have been right.

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Tom C. (Tommy)

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IONE L. (zaneygraylady) - 1/25/2007 3:13 PM ET
Great story. Reminds me of Roman Holiday.
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