Country #30 – Vatican: Five Minutes of Fame or La Più Bella Basilica del Mondo

The ride to Vatican was my shortest international ride ever, but then again, the country is the smallest in the world, right? On top of it, it was the 45th jubilee Equiraduno and my 30th jubilee country, so everything is matching.

We woke up before sunrise to get to Tor di Quinto and have enough time to prepare our horses for the ride to St. Peter’s Square in Vatican.

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At 7:00 am, finally fully awake, cheerful, and ecstatic, we were ready to leave for the Journey of Mercy. The entire procession was colorful: draft Friesians harnessed to a cart, swan-necked Andalusian stallions, vociferous Appaloosa mules, few more Haflingers, and many more.

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I didn’t think so before I actually did it, but riding in the middle of the city is way more interesting than hacking in the forest. Those pleasant five minutes of fame, when strangers are happily waving to you, taking videos with their phones, or even angrily pressing the horn cursing the whole procession for delaying the traffic, are priceless.

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It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t speak Italian, as I’m sure every rider in the procession had a great story to tell, like Martina who writes in the Tacchi a Cavallo blog in Italian and English or a French gentleman who collects and studies ancient horse bits. I’m sure this list could go on and on, but the lack of a common language made the conversation scanty and quite funny.

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Try to explain to a foreigner, who knows like five words in Italian, that your horse is just four years old and is a crossbreed and that this is his first Equiraduno and he has been a good boy the whole seven-day trip. Or attempt to teach the same foreigner, completely lacking language learning skills, the phrase “la più bella del mondo” in relation to the St. Peter’s Basilica. Yet this rider managed to make it!

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Following the request of organizations, I was riding with the Russian flag, which for sure attracted significant attention:

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“Yulia, tomorrow all local newspapers will write about the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church paying a visit to the pope!”

“I hope they won’t forget to mention that she is also coming from a Muslim country!”

“Oh, bandiera russa! Khorsho! Matreshka! Putin!”

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We reached the magnificent Cupolino (the local name for the basilica) at about 9:00 am. The last few hundred meters were not easy for horses as they constantly stumbled over the paving stones. We spent some time on the square and were then asked to ride back to Tor di Quinto. Unfortunately, the initially planned Sunday Angelus audience with the pope was canceled for safety reasons, if I understood it correctly.

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However, this was certainly an adventure of a lifetime, and although I didn’t throw a coin in Fontaine de Trevi, I’m sure I’ll be back.

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