St. Peter’s Basilica; Yeah it’s a church… I especially liked the comparison of the largest churches in Europe laid out with markers on the floor showing how much larger St. Peter’s is by comparison. It’s the proverbial pissing match of Christendom. Seriously though, there is no other way to really grasp size and scope of St. Peter’s Basilica. Six acres of dead popes, giant statues, shiny carvings, and glittery relics. We were stunned beyond words. I had to remind Jeff to take pictures. At one point, we were trying to get a picture of the papal altar with the bronze canopy and we had to keep backing up to get the whole thing in.
Yes, there were more dead popes around. I’m really curious how many bodies are in this place, including, of course, the supposed remains of Saint Peter himself. You can see the glowing hole that leads down to his burial area, but it isn’t open to the public.
No less impressive than the whole rest of the building is La Pieta to the right of the entrace. One of Michaelangelo’s masterpieces (I think even the stains on his dinner napkins were heralded as masterpieces, but this one is legit) it rests behind bulletproof glass after a fool smashed at it with a hammer in the 70s. How anyone can pull something so beautiful from a block of marble completely escapes me. Amazing.
I don’t care which religion you are or what you believe, you really must see St Peters if you are in Rome.
Then we got the brilliant idea to climb to the top of the dome of St Peters. You take a lift to the bottom of the dome where you get an amazing view of the inside of the church below. Then you climb the staircase of doom to get to the very top. It starts out narrow and steep, then gets narrower and steeper. Then you think “Holy crap, this is the narrowest and steepest thing I’ve ever climbed,” and it gets narrower and steeper. At one point it is so narrow you have to lean on the curvature of the dome to keep walking – the whole hallways leans in. Then it goes up a winding staircase where only your toes can fit on each step, and you have to hold a vertical rope to keep yourself balanced.
The view at the top is astounding. You want to enjoy it as long as possible for the sheer grandeur, and to postpone having to do the stair thing in reverse. Fortunately there are separate stairs doing down (just as tiny) that prevents traffic jams. As we went down a small boy was shrieking in terror as his parents tried to tell him he had to go down the stairs again to get out. He is probably still up there judging from his take on things.
This also turned our already wobbily legs into tapioca. Painful, shrapnel filled tapioca. I bought a knee brace to help my aching right knee, and Dannie made odd grunting sounds every time we came to a step.
We went to a wine bar to medicate ourselves, and by a seriously bizarre coincidence the owner has a good friend in Phoenix who ran an Italian restaurant. The place is Marcellino Ristorante at 1301 East Northern Ave, which we’re going to have to try when we get back into town.