Media city transforms Vatican
By CNN's Susanna Flood
ROME, Italy (CNN) -- The peaceful grounds of the Collegio Urbano, Rome's Propaganda Fide, on the edge of the Vatican overlooking St. Peter's Square have been transformed this week.
The landscaped gardens, with their shrubs, fountains and basketball courts have been taken over by journalists and their assorted crew, all talking frantically on their cell phones. Rome has a new media city.
The media have descended in force on this college with its prime views of the Vatican. In what is normally a center of learning for Catholic priests from around the world, a row of tents now lines the edge of the grounds providing studio facilities for a multitude of news organizations.
CNN has exclusively taken over the rooftop where four tents are the base of our global broadcasting: one for CNN International, another for CNN US, as well as CNN Espanol and CNN NewsSource. Guests come to and fro to join the different crews and contribute their insights to the proceedings in the Vatican.
Below this usually peaceful sanctuary, lies a cafeteria now lined with editing suites organized by Eurovision for their various members using their row of studio tents in the college grounds.
CNN and the BBC have hired their own rooms in the basement of the college as the nerve centers of their operations. The priests and staff of this traditional center of learning look on bemused at the comings and goings of the world's Press.
Elsewhere in Rome, hotel balconies and roof tops house other broadcasters. While at the foot of the Via della Concilliazione, which leads from the Vatican to the Tiber, satellite dishes are also amassed.
On Thursday night, when the pope fell ill, news crews set up in this location to gain the best view of St. Peter's as everyone waited for the latest updates from the normally reticent Vatican Press Office.
Crew trucks arrived loaded with kit while a field of satellite dishes appeared, delivering news to the waiting world. Garden gazebos were hastily erected to give shelter from the harsh sun while platforms were hastily put together using kit boxes and tables as each news organization marked out its territory with tape strung between poles.
Closer to Saint Peter's, further press scaffolding had gone up to afford good views of events taking place in the Vatican. Special media access was also granted to for the funeral on the Colonnade rooftop right above St. Peter's Square, from where CNN's Jim Bitterman reported during the funeral Mass. It required great skill though to get crew and equipment through the huge crowds and up the long winding stone stairway to reach this prime location.
Such are the global ramifications of this story, that journalists from all around the globe have stood shoulder-to-shoulder for a week, filing the latest updates from Rome.
As people of all nationalities gather to pay their last respects to Pope John Paul II and to take their part in this moment in history, they have been rubbing shoulders with news cameramen and reporters sending reports around the world.
After the funeral rituals, things are getting quieter. But the media city remains for now. Cameras remain focused on the famous Vatican chimney from which the emergence of white smoke will announce that the Cardinals have selected the next pope and leader of the Catholic faithful around the world.
And then all will return to normal in this quiet corner of Rome where the priests will once again be able to enjoy the tranquility of their college grounds.