Plenty of guides to the Vatican will tell you that the pope appears at his balcony every Sunday at noon when he’s in town. What they don’t tell you is that this is the perfect time to visit St Peter’s without having to wait in line.
I wasn’t planning to see the pope, but I got in line for the basilica behind several hundred people not long before noon on a Sunday. It was obvious from the crowd in the centre of the square that something was going on that day. At about 11.45 am, they must have unfurled the papal banner at the window, because the crowd all shifted their attention to somewhere over my head and started taking photos.
I vaguely recalled reading something about the pope making appearances at a window sometimes, so I thought it was worth getting out of line in case he was there. I wasn’t looking forward to rejoining the end of the queue again, but at 12 o’clock, when the pope appeared, everybody got out of line to see him. I took a few photos, pushed my way out of the crowd and walked straight into St Peter’s.