St Peter’s Basilica and Tiber Island

On the second day of our stay in Rome, we decided to focus on St Peter’s Basilica…


To get to St Peter’s Square – unless you get there from Castel Sant’Angelo – you’ll have to cross the lateral colonnade. The columns not only offer some good photographic angles but also show the genius of artist Bernini, who created a piazza in two sections, a trapezoid part closer to the facade of the churh and an elliptical circus with the obelisk at its centre. Bernini’s idea was that, from the second part of the square, one would have the impression to be closer to the church than what he actually was.

The entrance to the Basilica is subject to some queuing time and a security and dressing code check. A metal detector will look out for sharp/dangerous objects while some black dressed guys check if you’re dressed decently enough (no sleeveless tops, no mini-skirts or shorts above the knees) to enter a church. Fair enough. I was wearing my beloved jeans and t-shirt so I passed the check straight away. Few steps away there it was. The yearned entrance.

Once inside we turned right and we saw something that I had wanted to see since high school: La Pietà by Michelangelo. This statue represents the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus but the lines and shapes used by Michelangelo are simply unique.


Continuing on the right side of the nave, we admired all the sculptures and paintings, the decorations and inlays. It would be impossible for me to describe all those treasures, all that art. St Peter’s Basilica is certainly a place of religious worship, but is even more a temple where the best and the greates of Italian art & culture are exhibited. In there, I felt proud of being Italian. I felt proud of being – somehow – a descendant of Michelangelo, Bernini, Bramante.

We spent hours inside the church, my mum even attended mass while I was looking around. Am not that religious after all. After the mass was over, we went down to the Vatican grotto, where about 100 tombs of Popes are hosted. I didn’t really like that part, seeing tombs is not that charming.

Once outside, the huge dome was imposing its presence upon us. We looked up and decided to climb it. When you decide to climb up to the very top of the dome you are given another choice, you can either climb 551 steps or go to the intermediate level with a lift and then climb only 320 steps. We took the second option thinking that 320 steps were more than enough to deserve the view from the top. Let me tell you something, if you suffer from claustrophobia, heart problems, muscular problems or anything that has to do with fatigue and too much effort, don’t do it! I thought I would faint in there. The steps are so steep and narrow that you feel helpless, and once you are canalized, there is no way out. It’s a horrible experience. Horrible but definitely worth it.

Once on top my mum and I took a deep breath, relaxed for few minutes and then took in the view… Rome, the Eternal City, the city of the great Roman Empire, the city with so much history and art, the city where Italy in the modern sense started, was at our feet! If you’re thinking it was overwhelming, I can confirm that it was. What a beauty, what a powerful image…

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After spending quite a while trying to recognize monuments and landmarks we started the descent. Well, it was even worse than the climb. I felt like I was going to throw up at any time. My mum was telling me to think of an open space like a beach or a park and that helped. Once we got back to the intermediate level, my knees and legs were shaking badly, but after an espresso and some sugar I was ok and ready to continue our explorations.. By the way, loved the intermediate level!

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At 4pm we hadn’t eaten yet, but we soon made up for it with a huge sandwich and a DIY ice cream!

After the big climb we didn’t feel like doing much so we just walked around for a while people-watching and visiting the Tiber Island, a small island inside the river Tiber, first seat of a temple then become a place of healing and medicine.

From there we walked back to the Altare della Patria passing through some other Roman ruins and the Bocca della Verità, which unfortunately was closed – but that didn’t stop me to take some pics..

Key facts:

Ice creams: 1 (a DIY ice cream, not just a simple ice cream, LOL)

Photo taken so far: 530

Money spent for cultural sights: 7€ (for the lift+stairs, if you choose just the stairs -551- it will cost you only 5€)

Money spent for food: around 10-12€ each

Km walked: a lot 🙂


10 responses to “St Peter’s Basilica and Tiber Island

  1. Wow, Elisa, your photos and the story of your visit are great. I would get claustrophobic on those stairs too. But it was certainly worth it in the end. I’m glad you’re proud of being Italian. 🙂

  2. Oh Elisa what a fabulous post. Well done for climbing those hideous stairs and thanks for sharing. It doesn’t look lke there is even a handle rail to help climb up! I couldn’t have done it – going up would make me wheeze and going down would kill my knees. But what a magnificent view from up there 🙂

  3. Elisa these photos are amazing! I was just in Rome this summer and we didn’t have time to go inside St. Peters Basilica. These photos and your commentary help me see what I’ve missed. Whenever I get the opportunity to go back, this will be one of the first things I do! The view of the city from your climb is simply breathtaking. Thank you for sharing!

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