Staircase to Heaven in Vatican City

I was really excited to visit the Vatican City but was in two minds whether to climb the tiny narrow staircase to the top of the dome of St Peters Basilica. People said it wasn’t suitable for people who are at all claustrophobic – but we did it and it was the highlight for me!  The views were incredible.

There was a beautiful moment when we got to the inside of the dome – the choir started singing and it was really moving to hear the music in the acoustics of the dome.

Visiting the Vatican was like a flashback from reading the Da Vinci Code! We saw the Swiss guard in their colourful costumes uniform.

Apparently you can even see the Pope at one of his Papal Audiences, but they weren’t on when we visited. It would have been great to see him, but I have seen him before  when he visited the UK.

St Peters Square was a calm place to sit and people-watch during the sunset.

We also visited the Vatican Museums which were probably the most beautiful museums I have been to – even the halls were decorated with intricate detail. I especially liked the maps section. 

The Sistine Chapel is inside the Vatican Museums. The Sistine Chapel was small, with a spectacular ceiling and walls, adorned with intricate paintings, including the famous Michelangelo painting, “The Creation of Adam”. The Sistine Chapel was packed full of people, all looking up. The Chapel is meant to be silent but many people just blatantly ignore this request so every 5 minutes the guards get on the microphone booming out “Silencio! Silence! Shhhhhhhh”. Despite these requests, some tourists just continue talking loudly! I knew this beforehand due to reading reviews, so my expectations were managed and I was able to enjoy the experience despite the annoying tourists! If I had not known this before I think I would have been very disappointed.

Travel Tips:

  • Re: Climbing the Dome of St Peters Basilica, there are 551 steps. You can either take a lift (elevator) to half-way and climb the remaining steps, or you can climb all 500 steps. The ticket to take the stairs all the way is 8 Euros. The lift-then-stairs ticket is 10 Euros. We opted for this (2 Euros well spent, especially in 33*C heat!). But this still leaves you to climb about 300 steps in an increasingly small staircase. As the dome gets smaller towards the top, so does the staircase, with a lower ceiling and the left hand wall getting closer. I was considering this carefully since I do get claustrophobic and it was a very hot day – about 33*C, and I’m quite unfit (but determined!). We decided to go for it and I just put my head down and kept putting one foot in front of the other and I was so glad I did! I would recommend it.
  • You can’t get a ticket to just the Sistine Chapel – you have to pay for the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel is inside. There are signs showing you the quickest way to get to the Sistine Chapel, but if you have time it is worth having a little look around the rest of the museums.

next blog:  Food in Rome, Italy

previous blog:  Ancient Rome, Italy


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