My friend from college, EN (short for Edwin Noah, but said as you would Ian), works for GE, setting up some big plants or something or other. Anywho, he was recently transfered to a city near Rome and sent out the email below.
A little backgroud, Ewa is his polish wife and they have been living in Italy for about 2 years now.
I've been assigned to Civitavecchia, on the coast, near Rome, for the next two weeks.
So I drove through Rome today, around it really on the GRA (The Rome Ring). Traffic was normal, but the attitude in Italy is hardly such. On Saturday night when the Pope died, we had just finished dinner and were walking through the old town to a bar and people were milling around outside of the church. I was with the English teachers and when I asked the barmaid if the Pope had just passed, she said "Si, dieci minuti fa." ~Ten minutes ago~. They were holding a mass/vigil for the Pope when he passed. EVERY tv channel showed nothing but footage from St. Peter's, Pope montages and related news.
On Sunday, the only thing on was Mass from St. Peter's Square. They suspended the soccer matches for the weekend. Rome added something like 40 trains a day funneling into the city. I could not get a reservation where I wanted and am therefore staying on the coast away from the city for work this week. MTV has been showing nothing but inspirational-type videos for the last two days, streaming text messages across the bottom.
I had immediately texted Ewa when I heard the Pope was dead. She heard the announcement in between songs, inserted insignificantly it seems, between country hits on the Armed Forces Network radio station in Frankfurt. Poland, according to Ewa's sister Hania, has shutdown. The mourning period has commenced and will remain until the funeral. Hania and her boyfriend, Sebastian, are considering coming here for the weekend.
Ewa is flying back from Frankfurt on Wednesday, into Rome. My sister Becky is traveling to Rome on Thursday to stay with us in Civitavecchia and she and Ewa are going to go to the funeral on Friday. I, of course, am working, but they will be in my thoughts. Even my atheist self was in tears watching the coverage on Saturday night. Truly the biggest scene to hit Rome in 27 years is happening in the next few days. It's a very interesting time to be here.