Argentina started counting the profits to be made from increased tourism before Pope Francis was even elected, but their expectations are now confirmed with a concrete interest in the country’s inaugural papal tour.
A new themed bus tour of Buenos Aires has run for the first time, giving visitors the chance to explore sites associated with Pope Francis.
The Papa Tour of Buenos Aires includes stops at the pontiff’s childhood home, the plaza where he played football, and the school he attended.
The three-hour bus tours are being offered by the country’s Tourism Ministry, and while it had anticipated taking fewer than 100 people each week, on just two tours, more than 5,000 have already signed up to take part. It has since adjusted its schedule to meet the demand.
The 43-seater bus made its first foray onto the streets of Buenos Aires yesterday. A total of 21 sites were visiting, many in the Flores neighbourhood, where the pontiff was born.
Writing for Telegraph Travel in March, following the pope’s election, Chris Moss, an expert on Argentina, said:
“Jorge Mario Bergoglio [now Pope Francis] was born in Flores – on calle Membrillar (it’s house no 531, by the way, for the true pilgrims) – in 1936, when the area was favoured by the middle classes for its fresh breezes wafting in from the pampas.
“Like many residents he grew up supporting the local football team, San Lorenzo de Almagro, whose nickname is The Saints. Their rivals, Independiente, are known as Los Diablos: The Devils. The stadium, El Nuevo Gasómetro, is just round the corner from the priest’s house.”
Another stop on the inaugural tour was the Metropolitan Cathedral, where he used to say mass as archbishop.
“There has been a church at this spot since Buenos Aires was founded in 1580,” said Chris Moss. “The current cathedral dates from the 18th century, though the façade is a harsh-looking 19th-century Neoclassical affair. The national “Liberator”, José de San Martîn, is buried there.”
The bus also called at St Joseph’s Basilica in Flores, where Jorge Bergoglio had a spiritual awakening that led him to the priesthood as a child.
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Photo credit: Pope Francis' favorite football team San Lorenzo beats River Plate at El Nuevo Gasómetro stadium. yonolatengo / Flickr