Rome Evening Entertainment

Rome Evening Entertainment

Remember the scene in “Roman Holiday” when Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck danced on a barge anchored in the Tiber? Well, that barge still exists. It is, in fact, the cheapest, most popular spot for evening dancing in Rome. The barge is tied to a dock on the Vatican side of the river, directly in front of the Castel Sant’ Angelo.

There’s no admission, and drinks are not so expensive. All through the evening, a record-player sends slow fox-trots over the waters, and you can either dance or simply sit on soft easy chairs and enjoy the river view-no one will urge you to buy more than one drink per person. I don’t know the name of the dance-barge; I don’t even know whether it has one.

Actually, the most popular form of evening entertainment in Rome is to sit at a sidewalk cafe on the Via Veneta, and watch the passing parade-a wonderfully varied procession of chic women, tailored men, types and characters of every sort. The cafes charge not much for a coffee, and a coffee will last you an hour.

An interesting sidelight: each year on the Via Veneta, one or two particular cafes become mystically selected as the places to sit. Their sidewalk tables are then fully packed, while the cafe next door-same prices, same decor-is empty and forlorn. In any event, be sure to spend a few evening hours simply sitting there over a budget coffee; you’ll be glad you did.

One last suggestion for evening activities: go to a museum. There is at least one major museum open every weekday night in Rome, between the hours of 9 and 11:30 p.m. That permits you to keep up with your sightseeing schedule in Rome, and to do it at the best time of day. While these late-hour evenings vary-and must always be currently checked-the lovely Borghese Museum seems to stay open late on Thursday nights, and the Capitoline Museums, atop the Campidoglio Hill (one of which is devoted to art, the other to sculpture, with one ticket admitting you to both), most definitely stay open late on Saturday evenings. And check to learn the late evening schedule of the fascinating Etruscan Museum, in the Valle Giulia, on the far side of the Borghese Gardens. It also has evening hours on one night a week, but the days vary.

Pope: Many are missing the Christmas’s simple message

Pope: Many are missing the Christmas's simple message

Pope Benedict XVI decried the increasing commercialization of Christmas as he celebrated Christmas Eve Mass on Saturday night, urging the faithful to look beyond the holiday’s “superficial glitter” to discover its true meaning.

Benedict presided over the service in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica, kicking off an intense two weeks of Christmas-related public appearances that will test the 84-year-old pontiff’s stamina amid signs that fatigue is starting to slow him down.

The Christmas Eve Mass was moved up to 10 p.m. from midnight several years ago to spare the pope a late night that is followed by an important Christmas Day speech. In a new concession this year, Benedict processed down the basilica’s central aisle on a moving platform to spare him the long walk.

Benedict appeared tired by the end of the Mass and a dry cough interrupted his homily. In his homily, Benedict lamented that Christmas has become an increasingly commercial celebration that obscures the simplicity of the message of Christ’s birth.

“Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light,” he said.

It was the second time in as many days that Benedict has pointed to the need to rediscover faith to confront the problems facing the world today. In his end-of-year meeting with Vatican officials on Thursday, Benedict said Europe’s financial crisis was largely “based on the ethical crisis looming over the Old Continent.”

Benedict officially kicked off Christmas a few hours before the evening Mass, lighting a candle in his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square in a sign of peace, as crowds gathered to witness the unveiling of the Vatican’s larger-than-life sized nativity scene.

Security was tight for the evening Mass, as it has been in recent years. There were no repeats of the 2008 and 2009 Christmas Eve security breaches, in which a woman with a history of psychiatric problems and wearing a telltale red sweat shirt jumped the wooden security barrier along the basilica’s central aisle and lunged for the pope.

In 2008, the pope’s security detail blocked her from getting to Benedict. But in 2009, she managed to grab Benedict’s vestments and pulled him to the ground. The pope was unhurt and continued along with the service, but a French cardinal who was nearby fell and broke his hip.

On Sunday, Benedict will deliver his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” speech, Latin for “to the city and the world,” from the central loggia of St. Peter’s overlooking the piazza. Usually, the speech is a survey of sorts of the hardships and wars confronting humanity. He’s also due to deliver Christmas greetings in dozens of languages.

Next weekend, he’ll preside over a New Year’s Eve vespers service, followed by a New Year’s Day Mass. A few days later he’ll celebrate Epiphany Mass followed by his traditional baptizing of babies in the Vatican’s frescoed Sistine Chapel.