Tourists entering St Peter's Basilica have long been required to dress modestly, but from early this week the Swiss Guards – the Pope's private army – appeared to have extended the rules to the entire Vatican City State. They drew aside men in shorts (no surprise there) and women with uncovered shoulders and short skirts to tell them that they were not dressed properly.
Some of the female visitors bought shawls and scarves from nearby hawkers, while a few men had to wander off to the nearest shops to buy long trousers. Others were refused entry altogether, and accused the authorities of double standards.
"Given all the scandals the Church has been involved in, what possible right can it have to be preaching about the morality of sleeveless dresses?" said one woman in her seventies, identified only as Maria.
The tough dress code also applied to Romans using the Vatican's pharmacy, supermarket and post office.