Climbing the Dome of the Basilica is one of the highlights of a trip in Rome.
We owe the design and the calculations to Michelangelo, who worked on the largest dome in the world until the last years of his life, but not living long enough to see it finished. It is probably one of his finest achievements, and counts numerous descendants around the world like in Washington D.C. or St. Paul in London.
The visit starts early in the morning ( best at 0900 am ) to avoid crowds and queues, and an elevator takes you to the roof level, saving you about 200 steps. You walk around the base of the dome high inside the basilica, to get a true sense of its scale. The tiny tourists below you look like ants, while the decorations above you tat looked like paintings reveal to be mosaics.
From here, you have two options. Go for further exploration on the roof, pop in the souvenir shop and the cafeteria, and have a look at the unequaled view of the Square below.
The other option is to climb up varying staircases for a total of 330 steps. For the most part you follow spiral staircases, and in many parts the walls lean in forming their dome shape. In the last spiral a rope help you emerge breathlessly to the top and the stunning 360° views of Rome that meet you from every side.
The Vatican Grottoes are a vast crypt beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. It is a very large complex, but only a small part of it is open to general public.
Many, but not all Popes, are buried in this graveyard. Tombs of the deceased rest today near the first Pope, the Apostle Peter. His tomb can be seen only by booking directly through the Vatican Scavi Office.
Pilgrims come here from all over the world mainly to pay their respect to the tomb of Pope John Paul II. His simple white grave, guarded by surveillance and decorated with fresh flowers, stands out from the lavish baroque tombs of his predecessors.
Bernini, in charge of reconstructing the facade and decorating the interior, was commissioned to design the Square, the last part added to the Basilica.
Today, the square is still a work of art itself. Bernini’s resolution was an ellipse, wide enough to contain pilgrims that would come here from all over the world to receive the Pope’s blessing, and picturesque enough to cover the irregular buildings surrounding the area.
The spectacular colonnade is an imaginary embrace that welcomes you to the Catholic faith. The Egyptian millenarian obelisk is probably the oldest piece in the Vatican, and the two renaissance fountains reinforce the elegant geometry.
St Peter’s is, undoubtedly , the mother of all Christian churches.
The place where Saint Peter was martyred, crucified and buried during Nero’s persecution rapidly became a Christian place of worship. Constantine started the first basilica in 324, but in the Renaissance it was showing signs of wear and deterioration.
When reconstructed, it was meant right from the beginning to be an architectural and a decorative achievement. Today, the largest church on the world showcases some of Italy’s greatest artists such Michelangelo’s Pietà or Bernini’s Baldacchino and Tomb of Alexander VII.
The marble sculpture, the mosaic pictures, the exorbitant gilding and the gorgeous floor tiles are everywhere you turn. In addition to its art treasures, St. Peter is unique for its relics: the Apostle’s tomb below the altar, Longinus’ spear and the head of St. Andrew are just a few examples. The Basilica will quench the thirst of everybody, from a devote pilgrim to an art history expert.