Italian people actually think I’m Italian. My Benetton polo shirt and Italian shoes are working a treat! No tour operators bugged me on the way to the vatican from the metro and I was free to listen to the tour knowledge as I passed by without interruption. So I found out the Spanish steps were actually built by the French and there’s a good pizza slice to be had right outside the vatican (an American tour guide’s gem; sometimes stereotypes really do hit the nail on the head, you’ve got to admit!).
Well, I enjoyed my Sudo Italian status for only a while, as a little American old lady made a bee line for me, without introductions or ‘niceties’ she simply barked:
“You know where the Sistine chapel is?”
I replied to the old lady.
“Sure it’s right behind you” Hiding my disappointment I was so obviously British, or worse, American looking to her!!
She wasn’t convinced. So I got out my map and showed her where we were, a maximum 15 steps fromt Saint Peter’s Square and the Sistine Chapel, and I told her (trying my hardest to not be patronising): “Well we’re here and see that’s the vatican and it’s just through here and the chapel’s inside, I think.” The ‘I think’ was my non-condescending addition but unfortunately it seeded doubt in this little old lady’s mind and she was having none of it. She decided to ask someone who knew exactly where it was and I didn’t discourage her!!! So I was feeling very pleased with myself until this little old lady questioned my Italian image AND my Italian knowledge. I do hope she reached the chapel however, or maybe she found that pizza slice place her countryman rated!!
Anyway I continued to enjoy the vatican, avoiding all touristy habits and giving a off a few stares or two – just to look authentically Italian !! Sadly, I couldn’t avoid the cliche of getting the map out and getting lost. If you ever need to find a car park near the vatican, call me, I spent 20 mins lost in one so know a bit about it. And the green patch of ‘supposed’ park land near the Square, is Bermuda’s triangle, be ware!