The priest and the tourist
Trip Start Nov 16, 1987
7Trip End Ongoing
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On my second day in Rome I had the great misfortune loosing most of my possessions. I say "loosing", even though they were all stolen, because the theft could easily have been averted had I been more vigilant. After putting my valuables in a backpack I left the backpack by my knees at a cafe. When getting up to leave it was gone. Misfortune complete! Fortunately, that was the end of my bad luck.
Sad and frustrated I went to sit down in Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's Square) while I thought about what to do next. With no money I had little or nothing to do in Rome until I went home apart from eat, sleep and walk around (not to bad actually).
However, while sitting in the middle of the square, I became aware of the priest sitting right next to me not looking particularly Italian, so I initiated a conversation with him
For the next few days I met the priest daily and he showed me around in the Cappella Sistina, Basilica de San Pietro and the Vatican Museum. Eagerly, I took notes and tried to remember as much as possible of what he told me. Then, after a few days, I had the courage to put up a sign that said "Vatican - Free tours!".
In the beginning of the day, my free tours were a limited success. A few people had come along, but most people assumed it was some kind of hustle and stayed away. But it was no hustle! I genuinely gave free tours and then asked for tips from those who liked it afterwards. As I knew the tour was good, I felt confident that if enough people came along I would make enough money to enjoy my last few days in Rome.
And I was right! After trying a few different angles to get people to come along, I started improving my numbers, and by the end of the day I had between 10 and 30 people on my tours - each tipping an average of about 5€. When evening came I had enough money to enjoy myself and some extra on the side.
Needless to say I continued this ritual until I went home. Making money in the daytime and wasting money at nighttime. It is true what they say - for someone who has never seen Rome it is hard to appreciate how beautiful life can be!