In the early morning hours of our first full day in Rome, Alex and I headed to the Vatican. Originally we had planned to attend a workshop, but it had been cancelled. Since we had already bought our train tickets, we decided to go anyways and made the most of our stay in Rome. One thing that was high on our priority list was to see the sunrise from the top of St. Peter’s.
We stood in front of the cathedral as the sun bathed the stones in a pale pink, and we were virtually the only people in the square. We quickly bought our tickets and took the elevator up halfway and then climbed over 300 steps to reach the top. The first amazing view is from the base of the dome. To prevent accidents, there is a high grating which unfortunately also prevents one from taking a photo down into the cathedral.
Onwards and upwards, we climbed along the side of the dome which meant that at times we were actually walking leaning over in one direction to follow the curve of the dome. The struggle was worth ever step when we stepped out to this view. Buongiorno Roma!
The view from the top was fantastic but soon we weren’t the only ones enjoying it. It pays off to get there when the ticket office opens at 7:30 am!
On our way down, we stopped for a few minutes before stepping into the elevator again. The view from here was also interesting, especially to see the back of the statues which adorn the front of the cathedral. Up close they are coarsely chiseled and from below they look very detailed.
Once back at the bottom, we stroll through the cathedral taking in the grandeur and looking for hidden things in the paintings and sculptures. I search for the elephant I spotted the last time I visited, and discover dogs, donkeys and even a unicorn. Before leaving, we spend time admiring Michelangelo’s beautiful Pietà. It’s actually only the piece of work he ever signed.
Once out again in the bright sunlight, we noticed the square had filled with visitors, and we hustled off to a secret spot in the Vatican which can only be visited if you say the magic words: Wir würden gerne den deutschen Friedhof besichtigen. (We would like to visit the German cemetery.) This must be said in German to the Swiss Guard standing at the entrance. The Teutonic Cemetery is reserved for people of the catholic faith from German-speaking countries. It’s a small, quiet area which looks very much like a lush garden, and there is a bit of a thrill knowing you are actually in the Vatican and not just visiting the museums or St. Peter’s cathedral.