On Tuesday, I enjoyed a final saunter downtown, for this trip anyway. Up until this point, I had just about conquered Rome, but for one major touristy landmark: La Basilica di San Pietro. I could not and I would not leave without crossing this sucker off my list.
St. Peter's is one of the largest churches on the planet and the architectural brainchild of art masters like Michelangelo, Bernini and others. The kind of design and precision that went into its construction is truly something to behold. Completed in the early 1600's, San Pietro in fact a church and not a cathedral since it is not the seat of a bishop. Regardless, it is still an understandably very holy place within the Catholic community and is believed to house the tomb of St. Peter himself.
A panorama of Piazza San Pietro that I took from my phone. Forte (cool), huh!
The line to enter the basilica is famously long, often wrapping the entire perimeter of the square. I staked out my spot and settled in for the long haul, which happened to be only about 30 minutes. I could just make out the security checkpoint. I was almost there! That’s when grandma and girlfriend decided to jump the line, conveniently and blatantly in front of me. I waited, wanting to give her the benefit of the doubt (maybe she was the confused type?). Mostly I waited for someone else to set her straight, not wanting to be the one to rock the boat…especially in Italian. Anyways, it never happened, and so I had no choice but to stand back and watch the rude old woman wiggle her way exponentially closer to the entrance. Five minutes later, we met again in the bathroom. Due to another long queue, the custodian ushered us out to form a line in the corridor. All willfully followed suit, all except Miss Shameless that is. By standing her ground inside the restroom, she immediately upgraded from the very last place to very first in line. This one just about pushed me over the edge. I could hardly imagine a six-year-old child behaving like this, much less a woman well into her seventy’s who was supposed to be sweet, timid, and wise at this point…wasn’t she?! This is just one example of what seems a much larger cultural mentality here, which both Benito and Giovanna have confirmed for me. Italians love to cutting lines. Actually, they enjoy breaking rules in general, mostly to see if they can get away with it. One has to be aggressive to get ahead in Italy, in far more than simply long lines.
Just the same, I caught her glance and gave grandma the stinkiest stink eye I could muster.
Anyways, I digress. Once I had finally crossed the threshold, it took me upwards of twenty minutes to completely circle the atrium. I’ve grown fairly accustomed to oo-ing and awe-ing to myself and stopping every ten feet to snap shots. To say this church is BIG would be a gross understatement. My head was flung so far back in admiration of the ceiling, I had to hold onto a railing to steady myself.
I wanted to get an up close and personal view of the cupola, so I scaled to the top.
Even in opting for the elevator ticket, I was still left with well over 300 steps to tackle. I huffed up the narrow winding staircase, very aware of the arrestingly slanted walls. Go figure, I was inside of a dome.
At one point during the climb, I was granted an equally breathtaking and frightening birds-eye view of the Basilica from the base of the dome. See for yourself. It’s a wonder the camera didn’t slip out of my clammy, shaking hands.
In the end, the metropolitan panorama was well worth the struggle. It was also a perfect way to wrap up my time in Rome as I was able to spot many of the places I had visited during the past three months--some of my favorites like the Pantheon, The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument in Piazza Venezia, and the Colosseum. The cupola also offered spectacular views into the mysterious Vatican City, which felt a little bit like spying on a perfectly groomed little ghost town.
Looking out over Piazza San Pietro
Once I finally made the descent, I popped into a nearby bar for acqua frizzante (sparkling water) and one of the Italian panini I’ve grown so fond of--this one with prosciutto crudo (raw) and mozzarella on a homemade roll. The second portion of my city jaunt began with a stroll through a flea market (uh oh) just past Castel Sant’Angelo on my way to Piazza Navona.
Piazza Navona is one of the largest and arguably most beautiful squares in the entire city. The Vitolos had taken me through La Piazza on only my second day in Rome and it felt appropriate to close my trip the same way. I exited the square to pay my respects to La Fontana di Trevi, but didn't leave empty-handed. Piazza Navona is also a famous haven for a slew of talented Roman artists showcasing their works, and a cheerful depiction of the Spanish Steps in watercolor was calling my name.
I passed Trevi and headed for the real Spanish steps where I caught the metro and headed for home. It was anticlimactic and unemotional and strangely peaceful. I wouldn’t have it any other way.