(ANSA) - Vatican City, June 16 - Media speculation over
whether Pope Benedict XVI snuck out of the Vatican for a late
evening snack at a local restaurant this week continued on
The rumour was started by a gossip columnist on Tuesday,
who claimed the pontiff had been spotted dining on fish the
previous night at a restaurant some 200 metres outside the
The alleged visit took place as Italy played its first
World Cup soccer match against Paraguay, leading the columnist
to suggest the pope had timed his unofficial outing to take
advantage of Rome's empty streets and escape undetected.
The restaurant, Al Passetto di Borgo, was one of Benedict's
favourite dining spots before his ascent to the papacy, claimed
the columnist in the centre-right daily Il Foglio.
Well-placed sources inside the Vatican denied the
suggestion, telling ANSA it was "entirely untrue".
But another daily on Wednesday reported that a waiter at
the restaurant had strongly hinted that Benedict had indeed
dined there Monday night, when the establishment is normally
The restaurant's owner then weighed in, insisting the
claims were not true, while Vatican sources suggested the
allegations were just gossip, perhaps fuelled by visits in the
Benedict XVI, in his former incarnation as Cardinal Josef
Ratzinger, lived in a flat near the Vatican and was apparently a
regular client at several local restaurants.
He often visited Al Passetto di Borgo with other members of
the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the office he
headed before becoming pope.
However, rather than eating sole, as suggested by the
columnist, he apparently had a weakness for German dishes and
the restaurant's spaghetti alla carbonara, the owner said.
Vatican sources stressed there were no rules preventing the
pope embarking on outings of the kind but said he simply had not
done so since taking office.
They said Benedict was much more reserved than his
predecessor John Paul II, whose love of nature regularly led him
to "escape" the Vatican for walks in the countryside around