Pope Francis slipped out of the Vatican on Thursday evening to make a surprise visit to a Rome optician's shop to get a new pair of eyeglasses, insisting that his old frames be re-used and that he would pay for them. Francis was driven to Ottica Spiezia on Rome's fancy Via del Babuino in the small Ford Focus car he normally uses, drawing a large crowd of curious tourists and Romans outside, footage on Italian television showed.
The shop owner, Alessandro Spiezia, who has made eyeglasses for the pope before but always delivered them to the Vatican though aides, said he did not know that the pope would come to the shop himself.
"He had told me to use the old frames again because he did not want to spend much money and insisted on paying for them," Spiezia said on Italian television.
The pope arrived with one of his secretaries and a driver and several plainclothes police. He remained inside the shop for about half an hour as Spiezia explained the use of the new eyeglasses to him.
Francis then greeted crowds outside before returning to the Vatican on the other side of the Tiber River. In an interview with Mexican television last year, the Argentine pope said that since his election in 2013 he missed being able to walk around Rome alone and that he particularly missed being able to go out for a pizza.