For when you've had enough squinting.

Every so often, while straining your eyes cataractic trying to read some hoary codex in the reading room of the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana (the Vatican Library), you get really fatigued, and feel like nodding off. You feel there's something . . . missing. Something you want . . . . Close up that medieval codex, exit the room, and head upstairs.

There at roof level, is a small kiosk: the Vatican Library BAR. Yes, folks, that's right, the pope's own bar. Now, while you can get a shot of something hard (or a prosecco) in many Italian bars, their chief product is coffee (cappuccino in the morning, espresso at all times and in a hundred variants) and a species of (often) creme-filled croissant called a cornetto. You can fight for elbow room at the bar itself, or grab a seat vacated by one of the other academic Bartlebys. It is even possible to stand out on the roof of the library itself. Stare with amazement and wonder at the picture of the barista posed chummily with the pope pasted inside the glass countertop display case.

Finished? Back down to the Ben Hur galley of twin rows of tables with scholars slaving away at the oars of their projects.

I have only now, in the summer of 2008, discovered from a knowledgeable informant that the Vatican Library bar is a thriving gay bar. I would never have guessed it, but there it is.