If you go to Rome to pay homage to the pope, use public transport. Expect to find organised but very long queues. Hot during the day, cool at night. For info tune into 103.3. This is the message the civil protection unit has been sending to Italians on their cell phones today in an attempt to prepare them for conditions in the capital following the death of Pope John Paul II on Saturday.
The roads around the Vatican are heavily congested with private and especially public transport as mostly young people arrive from all over the country and beyond to pay their respects to the late pope, who is lying in state in St Peters basilica.
Faithful wanting to view his body can join one of at least four queues, starting on Ponte Vittorio Emanuele, Piazza Pia, Borgo Angelico and Lungotevere in Sassia, which snake through the roads running alongside Via della Conciliazione before emerging and converging in front of the basilica.
The notably upbeat crowds are presided over by a large deployment of police, carabinieri and municipal police and civil protection volunteers (clad in luminous orange or yellow jackets), who are distributing bottles of mineral water and doing their best to answer questions and provide assistance as required. The faithful pass the time reading or in conversation, the most common questions being Where are you from? and How long have you been queuing for?
The basilica will remain open all day and night (except for a short interval around 03.00-05.00) until Thursday evening. The funeral will be held on the steps of St Peters on Friday morning.
The city transport provider Atac has laid on special free shuttle buses from central Termini station and other strategic points around the city to the Vatican, in addition to boosting regular services; however, as during the 2000 Jubilee, when Rome saw a large influx of pilgrims, these are largely running empty. Volunteers wearing white bibs inscribed with the words Atac are stationed at transport hubs around the city with tickets and information. The terminus of the 40 express running between Termini and St Peters has been moved from its usual place in Piazza Pia just off Lungotevere Vaticano to Lungotevere in Sassia. Tonight metro A and B lines will remain open until 01.00. Services will resume tomorrow morning at 05.30.
As of 10.00 on Thursday until 24.00 on Friday, air traffic into Fiumicino airport will be reduced by 30 per cent, while all commercial flights into and out of Ciampino will be suspended. People due to travel by air during this time are advised to contact their airline directly for information.
Furthermore, on Friday all private vehicles are banned from circulating in the so-called fascia verde (city centre and suburbs for those living in Rome see Tutto Citt page 114 for exact area) between 05.00 and 18.00.