The Pope rolled up in his blue Ford Focus to the optometry shop, Ottica Spiezia, located along the posh Via del Babuino, the evening of Sept. 3 accompanied by a modest entourage of security guards, a witness told the Associated Press.
Even though Francis’ appointment lasted less than an hour, enthusiastic onlookers streetside scrambled to snap photos and inundate Twitter with the news that they were witnessing the Pope running an errand outside the Vatican walls.
After about 40 minutes, the Pope opened the door and briefly greeted the crowd before heading back to the Vatican.
Shop owner Alessandro Spiezia said he was surprised by the papal pop-by, since he had offered to come to the Vatican to refill the prescription himself.
"I was supposed to go to the Vatican yesterday to bring them, but the Pope told his secretary, 'No, I don't want Spiezia to come here, I'll go to Via del Babuino,'" Spiezia told the AP.
Spiezia supplied Francis’ frames last year, who liked them so much he decided to be a repeat customer.
Spotting the Holy Father outside the Vatican but in Rome is rare, largely for security reasons, a fact that Pope Francis himself has lamented. As a cardinal in Buenos Aires, he took public transportation almost every day.
Soehe, a young German tourist visiting Rome with his father, told the AP he was excited to spot the Pope at the eye glasses shop, especially after he waited for four hours earlier in the day to climb to the top of St. Peter's Basilica, to no avail.
"There were too many people, and also the president of Israel was visiting and there were so many police officers, so it was too much for us and we went back to the hotel," Soehe said.
"I told my father, 'Hey, that was better than going to St. Peter's dome: Seeing the Pope in a shop trying on new glasses.'"