>  Trip 2023   >  St. Peter’s

After some debate, we decided to focus our visit to Vatican City on St. Peter’s Basilica, and skip the Vatican Museum. It’s not possible to go see the Sistine Chapel without trekking through several kilometres of art museum that would not hold much interest for small boys, and Sam and I had been on a previous trip. Meanwhile, they do love to climb to a high point, so a visit St. Peter’s and a visit to the top of its dome seemed a safer bet.

We woke up at the crack of dawn in an attempt to avoid the crowds. This was wise. When we arrived at 8:30, the square was basically deserted and we waltzed right in. By the time we came out at 10:30, the queue to enter was snaking around the square — even in the offseason, this is a busy spot.

St. Peter's Square
St. Peter’s Square

The boys certainly appreciated the scale of the basilica, and (mostly) conformed to the no running/climbing/touching rules laid down in advance. We admired the Pieta and spent some time ooh-ing and aah-ing at the ceiling. Nevertheless, it could only hold the attention of the junior members of the party for so long.

The ceiling of the nave at St. Peter's
Looking at the ceiling of the nave from in front of the altar
Looking up at the cupola from the floor of the basilica.

The climb up to the top of the dome was much more exciting. It’s a lot of steps and a tight squeeze in parts, but very much worth the effort.

Mosaic in the cupola of St. Peter's
Inside the cupola, we were rewarded with an up-close view of the mosaics that line the dome.
View from the dome
View from the dome of St. Peter’s
A long way up, and down

Between the main basilica and climbing the to the top of the dome, we spent about two hours at St. Peter’s. The boys were amazed at the sheer size of the church, enjoyed the climb to the top of the dome and the view from there, and were absolutely thrilled to see the Swiss guard on patrol. The Holy See does put on a good show.

Swiss guard at the entrance to St. Peter’s.

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