(Saturday July 9, 2016) We set off this morning to the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. We had purchased tickets for the Vatican  Museum the night before.  After researching the private, semi-private and self-guided tours, we had opted for the self-guided tour of the Museum. The Basilica was free, but we decided to get the audio guide. For just a little bit more, we could also go all the way to the top of the cupola. Well, while in Rome…right?! We did the cupola first – a short elevator ride to the inside rim of the cupola and 360° views of the Basilica.  

381 (give or take a few) stairs at the height of the day’s heat up to the very top…Half way up there was a sign letting us know how many stairs left in the climb. Not sure if it was encouraging or discouraging, but it was nice to know we’d at least gotten to the halfway point. The last bit was a very tiny spiral staircase with a rope as a handrail.  Just a little nerve wracking! But, I can honestly say the panoramic view from the top was worth every step and more.  Have to say it was surprising, and disappointing to see graffiti on the walls and columns at the top. I just don’t get why people feel the need to leave a permanent reminder of their visit like that.  Take a picture…don’t destroy a historically significant building.  

Coming down from the cupola you enter the Basilica on the right side of the Apse. The Basilica is enormous. I was hoping to see the sign showing where other major cathedrals of the world (St. Paul’s London, Notre Dame, etc) would fit inside, but with the vast number of people touring, I never did find it.  I’m sure if I Google it I can find out…there is so much to see, and everywhere you turn is another painting or statue that draws you in.  The ceiling was beautiful, and what I wouldn’t give to hear the organ being played! Next trip I think I will try to attend services in some of the churches we have visited.  It was a bit difficult to take the time I really wanted to (or the time necessary) to see and experience everything. There were large tour groups (15 – 40 people per group), and with the guides all talking at once plus other visitors chatting made for a less than holy, shall we say, experience. Disappointing in some respects, but to have visited at all was a truly special treat.