THE OC star Mischa Barton was stunned when she visited Rome shortly after POPE JOHN PAUL II's death - because it was a lot less busy than she'd anticipated.

The British-born beauty flew over to Italy recently to shoot scenes for her upcoming movie THE DECAMERON, and she found that Rome - outside of The Vatican - was surprisingly relaxed.

She says, "I was lucky enough to just be there right when the Pope had his funeral, which was such a piece of history. It was amazing.

"I kind of flew the next day and I was amazed... Everyone was kind of so distracted. They kept saying that over four million people were in Rome, but we had no idea. Shockingly enough you could just go out to dinner.

"I remember the night of the Pope's funeral, we thought we weren't gonna be able to find food anywhere and we kind of went out to see the vibe, and there was nobody on the streets - with all those people in Rome.

"There was a lot respect going on, in terms of shops closing, and things were very different. People around the hotel were a little bit more sombre."

20/04/2005 21:40