The Pope walks for an hour or so on the terrace, admiring the gardens, which are those of the Villa Barberini. He arrives by car along a special road built to link the palace with the villa, and I was told that he usually leaves his car on the terrace and walks about, sometimes never lifting his eyes from a book. We entered a little giardino secreto enclosed by hedges, where a statue of the Blessed Virgin stands beside a fishpond.
'You notice that Virgin is holding a little bunch of flowers,' said the driver. 'The Holy Father picks them for her.'
She was holding four or five small yellow flowers of a kind that I had noticed growing on the banks round about, and they were fresh and had been recently picked. What a beautiful moment this must have been: the old pontiff all alone in the garden in his white caped soutane and his red velvet shoes, looking about among the hedge banks on a quiet sunny morning for wild flowers to give the Madonna.
We passed a number of henhouses, each one thoughtfully decorated with a mosaic above the door depicting some incident in hen life. ... I should like to have stopped to examine the hen mosaics, but the driver dashed on towards the dairy. There in a cowshed lined with blue tiles, we saw forty fine Friesland cows being fed in the most modern surroundings. The names, milk yields and maternal particulars were recorded above the mild faces. I was at last able to make the pun that had to be made and must be made by everyone who visits the Pope's farm.
'Where is the papal bull?'
I was led to an adjoining paddock, where an immense, low-slung black and white animal named Christy, the gift of an American to the Holy Father, paused with his mouth full, and gazed at us angrily. He had the bloodshot eyes of an assassin and the lashes of a film star.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Lagniappe: At the Papal Farm, Meeting the Papal Bull
A bit of H.V. Morton's charming A Traveller In Rome, first published in 1957. Morton's driver "knows someone" who will let them onto the papal farm. Here's a bit.