A different sort of New Year’s Eve

1 Jan
It was actually quite a thrill to see the Pope in person!

It was actually quite a thrill to see the Pope in person!

Our friends and relatives know we are not usually partiers on New Year’s Eve. Our Portland routine was take-and-bake pizza from Papa Murphy’s, a great bottle of wine, and a movie from Netflix. No way we want to be out driving on NYE! Oh, there have been a couple of private parties over the years, maybe trivial Pursuit with Barry and Veronica, and in 2011 we were flying home to Portland from our vacation in Italy on 31 December, but usually we are very low-key. So low-key that we have occasionally “missed” the turn of the year because we were already asleep. Quite pathetic. 

Allora things have changed a bit for us in our new life! We started the evening — really in mid-afternoon — heading to St. Peter’s Basilica for 5:00PM vespers with il Papa. This is a ticketed (free, but still ticketed) event and we were fortunate to receive them courtesy of the Embassy.  Arriving about 3:45PM, we were able to get seats not-too-far-off the main aisle.  A few thousand (seriously a lot of people) were seated inside St. Peter’s and, as you see on TV, giant screens in the square allowed the non-ticketed to watch outdoors, standing.

It was beautiful and very exciting for this Swedish-Lutheran girl from St. Paul Minnesota to attend a service

The magnificent Basilica San Pietro, with a few thousand people.... and us!

The magnificent Basilica San Pietro, with a few thousand people…. and us!

in St. Peter’s, presided over by the Pope himself! Very moving to see the excitement ripple through the crowd, the little nuns standing on chairs to try for a view, the security people unsuccessfully trying to dissuade such indecorous behavior. Here are a few photos I snapped to try to give you a feel for the evening.  I wish you could hear the magnificent male choir in four-part harmony, singing the Latin service. Post vespers (a 90+ minute service), we wandered home through the busy streets and via tram.  But there was more to come this year!

The crowd gathers in St. Peter's Square before New Year's Eve vespers.

The crowd gathers in St. Peter’s Square before New Year’s Eve vespers.








In anticipation of seeing il Papa, even the nuns stand on the chairs. The excitement was palpable.

In anticipation of seeing il Papa, even the nuns stand on the chairs. The excitement was palpable.


Most of our friends & family know we used to dine quite early in Portland. 7:00PM was getting “late” as a starting time for dinner out. If you have read this blog for a while, you know we have become more Italian in our dining hour: a self-defense move in summer to avoid the heat, and any time as most decent restaurants are only open after 7:30 or 8:00PM.  (Even at home on a week night we don’t eat until at least 8:00PM.) And if you show up at 8:00PM in a restaurant, you may well be dining almost alone with a few other Americans, Brits and Germans.  But I digress….

We had a 10:00PM reservation at a place that is perhaps a 12-15 minute walk from our place. Yes, a 10:00PM start. The location, close to home, is significant because all of the buses in Rome stopped running at 9:00PM on New Year’s Eve. 9:00PM!!  We can only conjecture, but we think the crowds are just too intense in the main piazzas and on the main streets to allow free passage of the buses. And then there are the fireworks….

So we went to a fine little neighborhood place, good fish, nice crowd, everyone quite dressed-up. Suits on the men (somewhat extraordinary in our Roman dining experiences), cocktail attire on some of the women. We were a bit under-dressed as it turns out, although in Portland we would have been over dressed. [Note to self: Next year make Ric wear a suit on NYE, and I’ll wear the sparkly jewelry.] At least I put on make-up for a change.

On our walk to dinner — indeed even before — we heard some fireworks being set off. Big, booming, morter-shell-sounding fireworks. All through dinner smoke drifted up the street in front of the restaurant as the occasional bottle-rocket or whatever was set off. A few minutes before midnight, so as to avoid the party-hats being passed out in the restaurant, we paid the bill and exited to an ever-increasing barrage of fireworks. And when the clock struck 12 , all hell broke loose throughout Rome from what we could see and hear.  From behind us, ahead of us,

Stole this one from the website of one of the newspapers.... This is how our neighborhood looked.

Stole this one from the website of one of the newspapers…. This is how our neighborhood looked.

and all sides, we heard and saw fireworks that absolutely had to be illegal, but were quite thrilling! As we climbed the hill to our apartment, displays appeared from neighborhoods across the Tiber, as well as off balconies and rooftops right on our street. Standing at Piazza della Muse, we can look out over the northern reaches of Rome and we could see fireworks (Ric says) all the way to Viterbo! This celebration made anything we have ever experienced on the 4th-of-July in the U.S. seem miniscule by comparison. The noise from every quarter was enormous! Right across the street, from the penthouse of a 6-story building, a rather professionally-executed display was going on when we arrived home about 12:15 and went on another 15 minutes after we arrived. At the Catholic church across the street, a group of grade-school children were accompanied by a few adults to wave sparklers and set off firecrackers. Although we were a bit concerned when one of the priests tucked a wad of sparklers behind a pipe running up the side of the church and set them off. (Ric hoped it wasn’t a gas pipe.)  But then quiet: By 12:45AM it was over, at least as far as we could hear from inside the apartment. And the cats came out from under the bed.  Buon Anno, tutti!

10 Responses to “A different sort of New Year’s Eve”

  1. Ken January 4, 2013 at 08:15 #


    What an incredible experience to be in that magnificent setting attending a service with the Pope! That would be a unique, “once in a lifetime” event. I’m not Catholic, but it would have been an awe inspiring event for me also.
    The Christmas and New Years celebrations in Italy sound wonderful!
    Buon Anno a tutti e due!


    • gooddayrome January 4, 2013 at 18:39 #

      Thanks Ken! Even as tourists last year in December, we knew it was a special time to be here. I think off season travel to Italy is vastly overlooked. Personally, I am hoping to make it twice-in-a-lifetime (at least!) and go to a service next year as well. Maybe even Christmas Eve.


  2. Sharon January 3, 2013 at 21:38 #

    What a wonderful celebration! I have been to services in St. Peters and the music and voices are breathtaking! Buon anno, Laurel & Ric!!


    • gooddayrome January 4, 2013 at 04:19 #

      Carissima Sharon, 2013 is off to a geat beginning! Hope yours is as well!


  3. Anita January 1, 2013 at 23:55 #

    Happy New Year! It sounds like wonderful, noisy fun over there 🙂


  4. Terah January 1, 2013 at 23:05 #

    A new bucket list item, I think! Brava! Buon anno, tutti!


  5. Diana January 1, 2013 at 19:36 #

    Happy New year Laurel. I’m so glad you are keeping your blog going. I know it is a lot of work but I enjoy it so much.


    • gooddayrome January 1, 2013 at 19:53 #

      I try, Diana! I like to think by doing so I can stay connected to friends like you! Happy New Year to you, too! (Loved your pics on Facebook, BTW. Erin looks lovely!)


    • Will January 1, 2013 at 19:53 #

      Wow – excellent! You really captured the excitement of the evening.


      • gooddayrome January 1, 2013 at 19:55 #

        Thanks Will. It was a big night (for us!). All the best in 2013 to you and Gracia!


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