We arrived at around 8:30am to get a good spot, defining "good" as close enough to the front for a good picture and close enough to the back to sneak out if we needed to. There were already quite a few people there and more steadily streamed in. There was a general buzz of excitement and, now and then, a children's choir could be heard over a loudspeaker. You could tell it was live because of the conductor's whispering and occasional page turn. Among the tunes sung was "Falling Slowly" from the movie Once - which was a little weird.
It was a very sunny morning and people came prepared for the campout. Sandwiches emerged from foil and bottles of water from purses. Some people brought books, others ipods, but the smartest accessories were shading devices. Like umbrellas...
Two hours and an entire issue of The New Yorker later, things really started to happen. Two brides and two grooms took their seats on stage, then a group of bishops, nuns and - as someone so sensitively shouted out behind us - "an Indian chief!" A rotund man in a tailed tuxedo, the Swiss guards and the much more intimidating Italian police all took their places as well. The excitement was really building and even as people jostled into position and pushed their way to secure a good view, moods remained light.
Pope Benedict arrived to shouts of "Papa!" in a very slow moving popemobile. It took him across the front of the stage, then down the far left aisle of the crowd, through the middle, up the side, down the center and then up the side again. He passed just a foot away from me three times in all and I can report that he is better looking in person. Nothing but astute commentary here on MerlinandRebecca.com.
The popemobile putted up a ramp onto the stage and he took his seat (in the shade) to begin the audience. Priests from different countries read from the scripture in various languages and the pope gave a lengthy address in Italian. We didn't wind up staying the entire time, taking an opportunity to duck out during an impromptu song from a visiting school group in the crowd. Apparently, the audience lasts around three hours, which would have made a sum of five hours spent in the sun. Our former-USSR-winter-pallor just wouldn't have survived.