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Pope Francis sparks Vatican shopping boom

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Pope Francis sparks Vatican shopping boom
Photo: The Local
07:00 CEST+02:00
The shopkeeper of a souvenir shop by the Vatican is too busy talk. The Local has approached him on one of the busiest days of the week, Wednesday, when thousands flock to Saint Peter's Square for an audience with the Pope.

“Come back tomorrow,” he said, before dealing with an inquiry from a customer about a pendant with a photo of the newly installed Pope Francis.

The number of people visiting the Vatican on Wednesdays and Sundays has swelled since Pope Francis arrived in March.

A worker in a nearby hotel said at least 50,000 people descend on the area on each of the days, in anticipation of a glimpse of, or blessing from, Pope Francis. He added that the new Pope is far more popular than the previous one, Benedict XVI, who attracted a smaller crowd. The hotel is full every night of the week.

Laura Fada, who runs a restaurant nearby, made the sign of the cross as she said “we are very grateful for Pope Francis. He “has charisma,” and “he feels like one of us,” she added.

Her restaurant has seen a surge in customers since March. However, while business is much better, people are still watching their pennies.

“They go for the 10 euro offer,” she says as she points to a menu detailing the starter, main and drink deal. “So they don’t spend too much. But we work much harder, especially on Wednesday and Sunday.”

The uptick, however, has not reached retailers further down the Via della Concillazione, the road that leads up to the Vatican.

Magda, who works in a gift shop, said business is much the same as before, although she has noticed a small rise in the sale of rosary beads.

“There might be more people coming into the shop, but they’re not spending much,” she added.

Her sentiment was echoed by Marco, a sales assistant in a clothes shop further along the road.

“Everyone loves Pope Francis and come here to see him, not to shop,” he said.

Cecilia Tordini, who works in a shoe shop, said the rise in the number of people visiting the area since March was akin to a ‘waterfall’.

“Everyone loves this Pope,” she says.

“He’s not just attracting people from abroad; I’ve noticed more people from other parts of Italy coming here. But the businesses that really benefit are the hotels and restaurants. People are here to see the Pope, and after that only care about eating and sleeping.”

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