Vatican: Pope Watch

An essential part of visiting Rome (and an opportunity to get your country count up) is taking a look at Vatican City, the world’s smallest country and home to the Pope, who was unfortunately out on the day we visited. We hopped on the metro and headed to Ottaviano station, from which the Vatican is an easy 10 minute walk. When we got there, there are so many fences and people that we weren’t actually sure when we were classed as being in the Vatican or which places you could just wander into.

In the end, we chose to follow the crowds, heading round inside the circular section until we reached a load of security scanners. It must be a pain for the Pope having to queue up to use these every time he comes home at night. The queue moved pretty fast and you can get into this first bit free of charge. You get a great view of St. Peter’s Square which was set up for an address by the Pope later on in the week.

St. Peter’s Square

Moving inside, you end up in St. Peter’s Basilica which is absolutely stunning inside. The Basilica is huge inside with every wall and ceiling adorned with amazing patterns and designed. It’s really one of those places where you don’t know where to look because your vision is just so full. Even if you’re not religious, the Vatican is worth a visit for just how well laid out and stunningly presented it is.

After wandering round the Basilica, we decided to continue our theme in Italy of climbing up tall things and took on the Basilica Dome. It’s about €7 to take the elevator or €5 to take the stairs, but if you take the elevator, you only skip about 200 or so stairs. Just taking the stairs, it’s around 550 to climb plus you get the prestige of having climbed the steps to the dome of the Basilica. We decided to take up the challenge.

It’s not particularly steep but at times it gets quite tight and claustrophobic. There were certain times when the bottleneck meant a lot of people were squashed in together and on a hot day like this, it meant a lot of sweaty, smelly folks, but it moved pretty quickly and it felt like an achievement to get to the top.

St Peter’s Square from above

When we did reach the top, space was still a bit of a premium as the lookout, whilst going all round the dome, is quite tight. After squeezing to the front, we were greeted with a stunning view of Rome and, particularly, St. Peter’s Square. Going on a clear day certainly paid off as you could even see the hills in the background. It’s worth wandering round the whole lookout too as you get some great views of the rest of Rome. St. Peter’s Square is the most impressive but there’s plenty of other stuff to get a view of too. It’s just a shame it’s so crowded that you have to keep moving and can’t really soak it all in.

Luckily, when you move down from the dome, there’s an open space (you can see it in the picture above) which is a lot less crowded. You don’t get a view of St. Peter’s Square but you do get a very impressive look at the dome and people were even lying out sunbathing when we there. We also filled our water bottles up with Vatican water in the hope that we might get some sort of superpower. It’s yet to take effect.

The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

It’s certainly a great experience visiting the Vatican. We didn’t visit the other parts of it like the Sistine Chapel or the museum so I’m not sure how they compare, but what we did see was stunning.

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