How to Smuggle Your Knife into the Vatican Museums

From August 2, 2007

We managed to get ourselves lost while walking down to the central train station, but the good thing about getting lost in Rome is that it's just so darn fun. There's something interesting to see literally everywhere - down the street, across the street, in the trees....

At the station we bought some metro tickets and asked the very patient woman at the desk where we might find a bus map. "Out in the centre," was her reply. We walked around outside for fifteen minutes looking for the ATAC (Rome's public transport company) sign but what seemed so endearing yesterday, the dearth of public signage, was now a curse. We went back inside where I finally broke down and asked a guy at a newspaper stand. Parla Inglese? "A bit," he mumbled. Where would I find the ATAC office, I'm looking for a bus map. "Outside and to the left," he said confidently. Off we went, spirits rising, outside the building into the bright Roman sunshine, and turned left to exactly nothing. Maybe he meant the other left. Is there a law against signs in Rome? The other left was as forthcoming as the previous one and we were back inside through another exit. Laura asked someone behind a desk and she was told that any newspaper or magazine seller would have a map. Hmmmm. Over to the nearest magazine guy and lo and behold it was the same guy I spoke to a few moments ago. Turns out the maps are on the left side of his stand, on the outside where people might see them.
Successful and soon to be informed, we opened our little booklet of information and found that it was not organized anywhere near the same as Winnipeg organizes our bus information. A quick study of the metro map indicated that the stop we wanted would be outside the station, in the centre of the square….right beside the ATAC info office.
As we walked toward the bus, a slim man with stylish shoes and a large toothpick in his mouth jumped up and asked if we needed help. Suspicious, I passed right by him saying that we just wanted to catch a bus. To the Vatican, Laura finished. "Right there! Go! GO!" he shouted, spitting out his toothpick. We leaped aboard and stamped our tickets in a little machine (Matthew is free!). No one checked that we stamped them, but the fine for not doing so is between one hundred and five hundred euros. We will continue to stamp them as required.

We were moving towards our destination without the need to engage our legs, and that was a great joy after much walking the previous days. We passed by countless sights (and lots of palm trees)

got off a couple minutes from St. Peter's Square, and had our lunch in a shady spot. Anywhere there is shade and marble feels significantly cooler than out in the sun.
So, off to the Vatican Museums. As we entered the doors, we saw the bag screener things like they have at airports. Suddenly Laura realized that she had a very sharp knife with her, one that'll cut the tomatoes so thing your in-laws will never come back (thanks, Krista!*), so she did the logical thing and tried to stuff it in my bag! If anything, I thought, put it in one of the kid's bags, for crying out loud. We decided to come clean and told the security guy hanging out in front of the machine that we had a knife that we used for our lunch, you know, to cut cheese and such. "What kind of knife is it?" he asked. You know, a cheese cutting type knife. "Let me have a look," he said. Laura pulled it out, and he gave an audible inhaling whistle. "Better check that," he said curtly, and pointed to the bag check desk, but bag check guys told us to go through the security check first. Well, this might be fun. We stuffed our bags on the rollers and sent them through along with a little prayer. The guy with the little X-ray TV thing asked Laura to explain what the long sharp looking item was in her bag. We were busted. She opened her bag and started pulling stuff out. The knife was not in that bag. Great, what now? I stepped forward and helpfully tried to suggest that maybe it was the stiff backing of the backpack, but security guy number two waved me off with an abrupt hand gesture, sort of a 'back off' move. A couple of other guys came over and looked at the X-ray image and after careful deliberation surmised that it was probably the hair brush. Yeah, that's it, the hair brush. We grabbed our other bag, you know, the one with the KNIFE in it, and went over to bag check as fast as we could without arousing any further suspicion. I wanted this knife out of our hands, now. We waited at the bag check as some poor guy handed over all kinds of ID to the two guys behind the desk who didn't give us the time of day. After a few minutes, one guy said in a sort of annoyed tone, "You can't check that here, this machine is broken," and told us to go to the one upstairs. I was tempted to say, But we have a knife!! but held my tongue. Upstairs, we paid our way in, forty two euros total, no freebies here, and over to the baggage check. We walked up, relieved to be rid of the albatross, and the guy waved us on! "It's okay," he said with a warm smile, you can take that in. Jonas and Matthew raced ahead without a moment's hesitation.
Stunned, we walked into the Vatican Museums with our very sharp knife. 

*The knife was a gift from our friend Krista from her very recent trip to Germany. 


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