EuroTrip 2013 | Italy Day 7: Vatican City, St. Peter’s

St. Peter's Basilica, one of the biggest churches I've seen

St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the biggest churches I’ve seen

Our visit to Vatican City was all that we imagined, and more – much more. Other than the standard walk-through of Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica, we experienced a not-so-standard session at the top of the basilica in the cupola (dome). Read on to find out what happened!

The walk through Vatican Museum was a tough one, since Saturday’s crowd was absolutely monstrous and we felt like cattle being herded through a much-too-small building. Still, the displays and artwork were impressive, amazing even. From rooms completely painted in bright colors to lots of gold and high vaulted ceilings to some of the more special rooms, the museum definitively established Vatican City as the center of the Catholic religion.

Four of these special rooms, Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael’s Rooms), were noteworthy in their beauty and artistry. The entire walls and ceilings were painted with various historical scenes in Raphael’s distinctive bright colors. The most impressive (and most famous) of these paintings was The School of Athens, which depicts Plato and Aristotle strolling down a fresco discussing some profound philosophical question.

Plato and Aristotle, wondering about the world

Plato and Aristotle, wondering about the world

Of course, the highlight of the museum was the Sistine Chapel, best known as the room where Michelangelo spent four years lying on his back painstakingly painting his masterpiece. The paintings were breathtaking – the ceiling was huge but all 5,000 square feet was covered in Michelangelo’s beautiful art. From the iconic “Hand of God” scene of creation to The Last Judgment, the paintings inspired a sense of awe and wonder. What an experience.

After the Vatican Museum, we entered St. Peter’s Basilica, the mothership of Catholicism, one of the largest churches in the world. We decided to do the climb to the top dome first, since it promised amazing views of the entire city at the highest point. The climb itself was exhausting, not just because of the length (over 500 steps), but mainly because it got excruciatingly hot and the steps were really narrow (at one point there was a hanging rope we held on to for support).

When we finally made it to the top, the most memorable part wasn’t the view. It wasn’t the sense of accomplishment. No, ladies and gentlemen, it was the fact that we got caught in a sudden thunder and lightning storm. At the top of the world, essentially. The first few drops were nondescript, but as the dark clouds rolled over and I heard someone next to me say “Ow,” I realized what was happening.

Giant raindrops (some hail even?) began falling from the heavens, and soon it was a full-on storm, with no umbrellas, jackets, and hardly any cover. As we huddled towards the inside of the balcony, we saw a crack of lightning, right in front of our eyes. We were getting soaked and everyone was stuck because the exit was on the other side.

We waited it out and laughed at the ridiculousness of our situation. It was seriously 85 degrees 15 minutes earlier, and now it was storming. After a while, we decided to make a dash to the exit on the other side, hoping that we wouldn’t be forever immortalized as the first people to get struck by lightning on top of St. Peter’s Basilica.

That quick dash felt like an eternity, and we even missed the exit by a couple of steps before finally making it to cover, soaked to the bone. We walked back down to base level and dried off (we looked pretty ridiculous, like we’d just gone for a swim), while everyone else downstairs was dry and exploring the basilica.

Looking back, getting stuck on the dome was one of the most memorable moments of our trip. It’s one thing to tell our future kids that we went to the top of the basilica, quite another to say we were stuck on the top in a passing lightning storm.

Oh, and for those curious, it was sunny again by the time we left St. Peter’s Basilica.

Before the rain, smiling and oblivious of our fate

Before the rain, smiling and oblivious of our fate

Stay tuned and read about my other adventures in London, Paris, Berlin, and Italy!

Steps taken: 21,313 | Miles walked: 7.06

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