It was 12 noon on the dot at the Vatican City when we got there after two hours of trekking roads and rides under the scorching 39°C temperature. I took a seat for a while to cool down and collect myself. After which we pressed on to stand in the long lines of visitors to witness the interior of the St. Peter’s Basilica. Getting in was like getting through the airport check-in process- very strict security.
As the sunlight beamed upon my skin, I put a big smile on my face. Finally we were getting in! As I excitedly marched forward, one of the guards screeched and motioned. “No, no. no!” pointing at my one shoulder red dress with long sleeve styling (a mini length in a body con fit). So I stepped aside and joined the others who were stopped from entering the Vatican Church due to what they considered “immodest outfits”- shorts and sundresses. My dress was considered inappropriate because its length was so above the knees, and because my right arm/shoulder was uncovered. While the others were lucky enough to have brought their Roman shawls and scarves which they bought from the souvenir shops, the ones who didn’t have anything to cover the forbidden human flesh were sent out. Men who had their shorts on were not exempt from the rules.
Watching the ‘out of the ordinary’ scenes the crowd made, I shook my head in disbelief. Standing in a long winding queue, in vain, are you kidding me? Well, I wasn’t the only one grumbling. I overheard the other disappointed ones as they walked away disapproving and complaining about the no-no’s- “The h**k are these control freaks. It’s summer! How could they….”
Think, think, think… I didn’t want to take another effort to go back to the hotel just to change clothes. Snap! I put on my short-length jacket and resorted to pulling down my dress to cover the shown or exposed skin. I wanted to ask the guard if what I did to my outfit was already acceptable, however he was up to his ears and eyes checking the newcomers. Thus I snuck in under his radar and advanced to the next check-in security. This time the guards let me through. Stubbornness and persistence paid off in my battle with the guards ;-).
Indeed when in Rome, do as what the Romans tell you, especially when following dress codes in the Vatican City. It’s somehow a good lesson for the tourists to respect other people’s customs and culture.
So, if you are planning to pay a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, be sure you know the dress edict, but if you want to play naive, do sneak through in some humor when the guard is not watching :-).