The St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is the largest church in the world and its dome was designed by Michaelangelo himself. A visit to the church would not be complete without climbing its “Cupola”. There is not a place in Rome that rivals the views from that of the dome however getting there is surely a mission! Let me tell you what you’re getting yourself into. Ready?
After the security check, follow the sign that says CUPOLA until you reach the ticketing office. Visiting the basilica is free but climbing the cupola has a fee! You have 2 choices: Climb 551 steps all the all the way up or take the lift and bypass 300+ steps from the ground up! I chose the latter!
Before you get to the dome entrance you’ll get a glimpse of the mosaics and the grandeur of the basilica up close.
Once you start the journey there really is no turning back. You have to endure very little ventilation, tight spaces and zig zag stairs as you ascend! The journey goes from a spiral walkway to a spiral stairway. The higher you go, the more curved inward the hallway is!
The passages get narrower and narrower as you approach the top of the dome. At one point only one person can fit in. And at the very end, you’ll find a staircase with only a rope that you can hang to.
The slim ledges circle around the dome and provide very little options to stop. These are the only views as you go up. You could only stop for a very quick rest or else people behind you will find it hard to pass!
After a lengthy walk in the claustrophobic staircases, hallways and corridors, feast your eyes on the enthralling views of Rome in every direction! You get to see St. Peter’s Basilica in a whole new way! Voila to the unbeatable views of the St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican gardens and the enormous neighbourhoods of Rome!
All you need to know before you go:
- Visit the dome first thing in the morning. The views are best savoured when the crowds aren’t so dense and the queue is not so long!
- The dome is open everyday except during papal mass that occurs on Wednesday mornings and reopens in the afternoon. From April 1st to September 30 the dome is open from 7:30am-6:00pm. From October 1st to March 31, they’re open from 7:30am to 5:00pm.
- Entrance is 10Euros to use the elevator. The lift skips the first 320 steps, which gets you to roof level with a view of the Piazza and the rooftop statues of the 12 Apostles.
- You can also just pay 8 Euros to use the stairs all the way! That means climbing 551 steps from the bottom to the top! (please just pay the extra 2 Euros to catch the lift, believe me it’s worth it!)
- Entrance is inside the church, so dress appropriately. No shorts or revealing tops! St. Peter’s basilica has a strict dress code, I am not kidding! (I had to buy a scarf to cover up my legs)
- Wear good shoes please! (I was wearing thongs, I did alright but I do advise wearing proper footwear)
- If you suffer from claustrophobia this might be a little challenging.
- Your journey up the dome could really be hot and humid during the summer season.
- The climb up could really be strenuous and exhausting, I reckon reasonable fitness is required.
- No wheelchair access to the dome.
- Going down is a piece of cake. Thankfully the staircase to exit is different from the ones to enter.
- At the top, you might feel like you’re a caged chicken with no space for any movement! (I didn’t mind it, the views were hypnotic!)
- Individuals with serious heart or circulatory conditions or with major physical disabilities are not advised to walk up to the cupola. The strain may have very dangerous consequences to your health!
- CASH ONLY. Any kind of credit or debit cards, prepaid and discount cards are not accepted. And please prepare exact change.
- Tickets issued by other museums and travel agencies are not valid! Press card, Student card, Omnia card and Roma pass are not accepted!
- “Be respectful of this place to be worthy of walking through the splendour of its artistic genius and heroism of sainthood.” -St. Peter’s Basilica
- Keep the place clean and proper! Any act of vandalism of the structures will be punished by expulsion and a fine
If you are physically capable, please go! Don’t miss this extraordinary experience if you can make it! The overhead views were spectacular and rewarded all my efforts of climbing up all those steps! I had the best time and I’m very certain I would not mind climbing up the cupola again on my next visit! Will you consider doing this when in Rome? Let me know in the comments!
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Love from the Vatican City,
The Travel Belle ❤︎