Scotland

Rome: Vatican City

Small country, big views!

With over two and a half thousand years of history and culture around every corner, Rome is a city like no other I’ve ever seen. It’s the only city with another country inside its boundaries and it is bursting with amazing sites. 

Back in February Craig and I went to Rome for a few days. After a smooth flight and checking into our wee hotel, we headed out to find some food. You may think that The Vatican is not something that you could accidentally stumble across…. seeing it on television and in movies certainly gave me the impression that you would be able to spot this grand and slightly imposing building from miles off – apparently not! We stumbled into St Peter’s Square from the north side, and only realised what we were approaching as we crossed the border! 

 

The front of the basilica is stunning when lit up at night, and we spent some time just enjoying the surroundings and the fact that we only had to wear one jumper out, despite it being February.

The Vatican Museum 

After breakfast in bed (have I mention that I’m awesome at booking hotels?) we set out to join the gathering crowds in St Peter’s Square. Spotting the queues, we were glad to have bought a Vatican + Roma Pass. For 95 euros we had full access to The Vatican, two more of Rome’s main attractions and queue skipping privileges – would definitely recommend! 

 

Starting with the Vatican museum, I had expected a bit of a “history of the catholic church.”  Only a few steps into the museum I was quickly reminded of how long and expansive Roman culture is. Despite taking history, having studied  ”Anthony and Cleopatra” while at school and living only a few miles for Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland, it is hard to imagine how vast the Roman Empire was and how long it lasted. I guess the massive obelisk at the front and centre of St Peter’s Square should have been a bit of a clue as to the shared culture between the Romans and Egyptians. With a mix of sculptures from many cultures and stories like that time Emperor Hadrian declared his Egyptian friend a god when he died, it was really interesting to see how the cultures learned from each other and grew side by side. 

St Peter’s Basilica

Possibly the highlight of our trip to The Vatican, or maybe even the whole of our visit to Rome was when we decided to brave the climb to the top of St Peter’s Cupola. Designed by Michelangelo, the dome is truly a work of art. From the ground you don’t realise that the interior decoration and artwork is made up of giant mosaics, and if you can get over the dizzying heights it really is magnificent. With over 500 stairs to the top, or 300 if you take the elevator, the 2.50 Euro difference in price seemed like a no brainer – we are Scottish after all, got to live up to expectations. 

 

450 steps later and filled with regret, if the exclamation of “schisse” was anything to go by we think the German lady behind us was feeling the same. After about 9 different styles of stairs growing increasingly more narrow and claustrophobic, the last few had us clinging to a rope for support on a narrow spiral staircase. it did take a few minutes to realise that that views were totally worth it! 

When you eventually manage to catch your breath, the view is really spectacular! It’s possible to walk all of the way around the dome and get a great view of the whole city. I imagine it is possibly one of few places in the world where you can see a whole country – bit of a Lion King moment! The only regret we had was not timing out hike up a little bit better. If we had gone up 40 minutes later, we would probably have seen the sunset. 


I’m sure Craig would agree that you couldn’t go to the Vatican without doing the extra trip to the top of the dome. We nearly didn’t bother, but I’m so glad that we took a little extra time! If I were to do it again, i would time my trip with the sunset and definitely take the lift! 

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