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I love cities - glam - airlines  -  and photography.  All of the images on this site were taken by me on my travels around the planet.

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Heavenly Climb – Mounting the Vatican’s Cupola (FCO)

Heavenly Climb – Mounting the Vatican’s Cupola (FCO)

For stunning views and an experience of a lifetime – take on the challenge: climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica on your next visit to the Vatican.  See the cathedral and territory from a completely different perspective – a spectacular vista that most travelers overlook.

Here’s a review of my recent adventure:

Ascension

The Cupola - St. Peter's Basilica Rome   Photo: Calvin Wood

The Cupola - St. Peter's Basilica Rome   Photo: Calvin Wood

I had two options to get to the top.  Either take the elevator half way (8 Euros)– or scale the stairs for the entire ascent (6 Euros).  Either one requires LOTS of climbing so you need to be fit and able!  This is not for the weak of heart!

The elevator options brings you to the base of the cupola – but you still need to mount 320 steps if you want to get to the top of the dome.  Avoiding the elevator adds 231 steps for a total of 552 - - definitely a challenge even for hard-core climbers!

I chose the 100% climb option...as a means to combat my over consumption of pasta and Italian wines in the capital city.

One suggestion – do this AFTER you look at the Cathedral because it’s neat to see all the elements up close after you have viewed them from afar.

The Cupola

Detail of Cupola - Mosaics - St Peter's Basilica Rome   Photo: Calvin Wood

Detail of Cupola - Mosaics - St Peter's Basilica Rome   Photo: Calvin Wood

Climbing to the cupola was fairly easy – even when Rome was experiencing a heat wave.   There wasn’t much to see along the way – but when I arrived at the base of the cupola I was blown away.

The dome was magnificent!  It was thrilling to see the colorful mosaics up close! (I actually thought they were paintings when I saw them from the ground.)

The details were astonishing – especially when you consider that most people marvel at them from 448 feet away.

Up Close Views of the Mosaics - St. Peter's Basilica Rome  Photo: Calvin Wood

Up Close Views of the Mosaics - St. Peter's Basilica Rome  Photo: Calvin Wood

I was so close to the mosaics that I could see each and every stone in some of them!

You can see each stone - Mosaics - St. Peter's Basilica   Photo: Calvin Wood

You can see each stone - Mosaics - St. Peter's Basilica   Photo: Calvin Wood

Top of the Dome

Secret Views - The Backyard of the Vatican   Photo: Calvin Wood

Secret Views - The Backyard of the Vatican   Photo: Calvin Wood

The next stage is not easy –  there’s 320 steps from the base of the cupola. The ascent is steep and extremely mega-cramp (there should be a girth restriction on this ‘ride’)!  

And I mean MEGA tight - At some points I thought I was going to be entombed as the walls were so close and tight.

I had a bit of a panic attack as I thought I might need to squeeze by people coming down through the same space.  I soon learned that the people descending have a totally different pathway – so don’t worry about that.

The priceless views were worth the sweat!

View from the Top of St. Peter's Basilica Rome   Photo: Calvin Wood

View from the Top of St. Peter's Basilica Rome   Photo: Calvin Wood

The first thing I marveled at was the helicopter vista of St. Peter’s Square.  Something that you only really see on television!

Next were the views into the hidden parts of the Vatican – sites that most visitors rarely see.   I spied into all of the off-limit parts of the territory - and it was fascinating.  I was struck with all of the open green space in the middle of Rome.

In the Shadow of St. Peter's!   Photo: Calvin Wood

In the Shadow of St. Peter's!   Photo: Calvin Wood

Roof

Statues on the Roof of St. Peters   Photo: Calvin Wood

Statues on the Roof of St. Peters   Photo: Calvin Wood

After prying myself from dome – my next stop below was the actual (regular) roof of St. Peter’s.  Easy to get to as everything was downhill!

From the roof – I could see the backs of the famous statues lining to top of the basilica. A truly unique and interesting vantage point!

My Verdict

Statues on the Roof of St. Peter's Basilica Rome   Photo: Calvin Wood

Statues on the Roof of St. Peter's Basilica Rome   Photo: Calvin Wood

There’s so much to see and do at the Vatican.  Top sites include visiting the actual cathedral and of course the massive museum.  However, ascending the dome should definitely be on your list of things to do.  You will be rewarded with some of the best views and sights in Rome! 

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