Journos jostle for best views of St. Peter's

As TV crews descend upon the Eternal City to report on the ailing Pope John Paul II, spots from which their cameras can best view the Vatican are turning into prime real estate.

The best vantage points — those with a clear view of St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel, from which a puff of white smoke will one day announce John Paul II’s successor — have already been snapped up.

ABC is at the posh Cavalieri Hilton, perched on the Monte Mario hill overlooking Vatican City, and has exclusive use of its roof garden.

CBS is stationed two blocks from St. Peter’s in the Atlantic Star hotel, where it has secured exclusive shooting rights from the hotel’s Terrazza Paradiso terrace, under a multi-year deal that reportedly cost $150,000 per year.

CNN is said to have the roof of the Papal Urbaniana University.

Most of Borgo Pio, the neighborhood to the east of the Vatican walls, has been rented out to nets covering the papal succession, in some cases under contracts that require current occupants to move out immediately upon the pope’s passing.

“Some Borgo Pio residents who cut their deals a few years ago are regretting it now, because they are realizing they could have gotten much more,” says Rome-based helmer Theo Eshetu, who is making a docu titled “The Extraordinary Event,” about preparations for the papal succession.

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