Thursday, January 23, 2014

Another Rome High Point: Earning that gelato by climbing up St Peter's cupola, AKA, "Spot the Pantheon".

Continuing on my theme of High Points and Low Points in Rome...

The next vantage point for your consumption is the view from the top of St. Peter's which I did the day after my Janiculum Hill walk. I love climbing things and seeing things from "up high". I can't believe it took me until trip number four to do this climb and I have to say this is going to be a more regular feature of upcoming visits to Rome.

Before I go too far I should mention that this was a temperature-comfortable climb in late November and in fact I took my coat off about halfway up the walk to the top.  I think late fall or winter is a perfect time to attempt climbing inside the domes of old churches - the lack of ventilation isn't as bad when it's cool or even cold out.  I also did the Florence Duomo climb one winter day a few years ago. I can imagine these climbs would not be as comfortable in July.

The line to go up the cupola is pretty simple to find.  After you stand in the really long line to get into St. Peter's - which moves quickly, don't let it scare you off - you have two choices. Go inside the Basilica, or nip around the side where you enter the cupola climb.

Once you are in that line you will see that you have a choice of exercise options. You can either climb all 500+ steps for only 5 euros, or, you can spend an additional 2 euros to take the lift and then only climb the last 320 steps. I took the two gelato scoop option (three scoops would be all 500+ steps) for 7 euros and the lift whisked us to the terrace which is about level with the statues that overlook St. Peter's Square.

When you emerge from the lift you have that large terrace to roam about and take photos. I would suggest that even if you are someone who can't make the rest of the strenuous climb that you would benefit from at least going to this level and seeing the views. They are marvelous even from there.

Once you enter and start climbing, the first stop is a kind of viewing platform from which you can see a closeup of Michelangelo's hard work in all its glory. I included a photo of that as well as one of the mosaics lining the walkway around the inside of the dome. That first interior level is not much of a climb, either, so again, if you are hesitant about long climbs or have health issues I think many people can still do the "inside dome view" walk - just go slowly and it's not far. The stairs at that point are not narrow or spiraled.  When you have had enough just turn around and go back - a few minutes walk and you are done. 

The rest of the walk to the top, by contrast, is quite the workout! And it gets narrower and narrower and narrower and near the very top it's all angled inward so you are walking with your body bent over to the inside. Watch your head!  

I would say the last bits of this climb are at least as narrow as the bell tower climb in Bruges.   It's also different from the walk up the Duomo in Florence as the Duomo seemed to be a lot of straight stairs for a good chunk of the climb - and then the final climb to the outside of the Duomo cupola is up a short ladder, which you wait for about 100 people to climb down before you can climb up - I called the Florence Duomo cupola the "clown cupola" because I've never seen that many people come down a ladder from such a small viewing area - on and on and on. But, I digress.

And then finally you emerge and what a view. What. A. View. It just so happened I managed to time this for near sunset so the photos all have that golden hue. How many times can you find the Pantheon in the photos I posted below? Think about the layers of ages and history you are viewing in these photos. How utterly amazing to see those layers from there.

More Janiculum Hill:

The sunset photo, itself, was one of the last ones I took, back down on the terrace again, and in fact the last ones on that entire memory card for the whole trip.  I didn't carry around my Big Bertha camera on Saturday at all which was so freeing.

For what it's worth, it wasn't actually that dark, yet, I just cranked down the aperture very low. The sun was setting but we still had a half an hour of dusk so by the time I made it back down to Via della Concilazione I had a final special treat. Two huge swallow murmurations! Glorious, noisy swallow murmurations. They swooped and swayed and chirped and swooped in formation again - loop de loop de loop. It was just magical. I wrote my swallow story a few days ago so if you do a search on "Humans of Rome" on this blog it will turn up.  


MJ said...

Well worth the climbing effort. Such great views!

Elizabeth said...

Thank you! I love climbing to the top of things. And the reward of gelato afterwards...

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