A 6am start for a 4km hike to to Vatican Museums for a tour that basically is get into the Vatican Museums 90 minutes before it officially opens and head straight to the Sistine Chapel before it gets too crowded. The room itself is worthy of the attention it gets, it really is impressive. “No Foto” is strictly enforced, though the GoPro is great at taking photos discretely. The only reason you can’t take photos in there is because the company that paid to have the art restored wanted exclusive rights to the images, it’s not some religious reason.
Guides aren’t allowed to “guide” in the Sistine Chapel, and ours disappeared completely. We asked a guide with the same company what we should do with our headsets and he said “I’m not allowed to talk to you” and walked away from us like we smelled bad (which maybe was true). Eventually we managed to dump our headsets with another guide, and so after taking a couple of hundred photos we went back into the museum.
With no guide we used Rick Steves audioguide on our phones, which was more than adequate. Jess listened through the earbuds we’d kept from the actual tour guide, and told us which way to go and the significance of selected pieces, while Mina and I snapped away.
Back though the Sistine Chapel and a special door for tour groups only (it’s easy enough to go through even if you’re not on a tour) which gives you a shortcut to the basilica. From here we went directly to the dome climb. You can choose to climb 550+ steps, or pay more for an elevator and climb only the last 350 steps. We did the big climb.
The first part takes you to the roof of Saint Peter’s. From here you are inside the basilica and can look down at the people in the church who look like ants below. It’s a great view. Then you go inside the walls of the dome to climb to the top. At a point about three quarters of the way up it becomes more difficult if you are tall as the walls slope at an angle. Finally you get t o the top and are rewarded with one of the greatest views over Rome.
The walk down was obviously much easier, and we then went into the church proper. Words don’t do Saint Peter’s justice. The size of everything is really hard to comprehend.
Michaelangelo’s Pietre is impossible to appreciate due to the crowd – it’s press is more like that at the front of a rock concert. We forced our way to the front briefly or Mina and Jess would have had no chance at all to see it.
We went through to a small area where people could actually pray, and people could take photos of the devout from behind a barrier. So Mina prayed, and I took photos.
We wandered around a bit more, the left the Vatican and headed back across the river, collecting some very fine gelato on the way. At this point I would like to point out that gelato is better in every way to any other ice-cream I’ve ever eaten.
We arrived back at the Pantheon, and this time the queue was fast moving and short, so we we went in and had a look around.
From there we went down to Largo di Torre Argentina, or The Cat Pit. These are ruins that are now used as a stray cat sanctuary, and is the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
By now we’d been on the go a long time so we slowly headed home, arriving back after 10 hours and 20km.
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