St. Peter's Basilica - Climbing the Dome - Cupola, Rome
If you are in the mood for some exercise coupled with magnificent views of Rome, then consider climbing the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica! Hubby and I seem to be climbing lots of things since we’ve been in Europe – cathedral bell towers, domes, castle towers - really anything that has steps finds us going up them (I’m not always the willing participant in these at the beginning, but at the end I’m always happy I did the climb!).
You have two options with the dome climb – you can take the steps all the way up from the ground level (537 steps) or you can take the elevator part of the way up and then climb the remaining 300+ steps. Using the elevator costs €7 (2012 prices) while taking the steps all the way saves you €2 for the bargain price of €5 (and your thighs get a better workout for less!).
Once you are through security for the church and walking towards the building, it is decision time: to enter the church or climb the dome?? If you plan to climb the dome – do it first! If you exit the church and decide to climb the dome, you may have to go through security again. So as you approach the church, and before the stairs, you will see signs directing you towards the dome climb – turn there for the climb or continue up the stairs for the church.
You will find a cashier at the end of the pathway and the guard will direct you to either the elevators or the steps. Really, taking the steps all the way up was not a problem since the first 200 steps are very easy – they are not steep and are rather wide. At the mid-way point, where the elevator people meet up with you is where the steps get more compact, a bit claustrophobic, narrow and steep – the reason is because the first part was simply going up the side of the church; at this point you actually begin to climb the dome itself.
From this point, you enter the base of the dome and are actually inside St. Peter’s looking down on the people below. Notice the mosaics on the walls and the size of the pictures that are a bit distorted so that those on the ground can view them properly. After walking part way around the base of the dome, you head through a doorway on your way up to the top. In places it gets very narrow and you actually walk a bit tilted because the ceiling is tilting inwards due to the curvature of the dome.
Note: If you are slow or taking your time, step aside when you have opportunities (at windows, etc.) to allow those behind you to pass. Because there is only room for one person at a time, if you are stuck behind really slow people, it is not as enjoyable; so please be considerate.
Once you reach the top, you come out on the lantern at the top. From there you can walk completely around the top view all of Rome, looking down on St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican Museum. After having your fill of the views, find the staircase down and begin your descent (which goes much faster than going up!). You reach that same halfway stop and can go out almost to the edge of St. Peter’s façade, looking at the backs of the statues. From here there are bathrooms and a nice photo opportunity of the dome. I saw some people having lunch while taking a break here.
Continue down the steps and back into St. Peter’s, next to the Baptistry. If you are planning to tour the church now, I highly suggest you proceed to the back and enjoy the church from that area as a starting point.
We were so fortunate to have a beautiful day when we climbed the dome – it was absolutely wonderful! And the exercise made that pizza at lunch taste so much better!
Once you are at the very top, make full use of your camera as those photographs will be the ones you will treasure most of your visit to the cupola. The view is magnificent. The muscles will ache next morning but that's tomorrow. For the moment, enjoy the panoramic scene laid out before you.
First Written: Oct. 02, 2012
At the extreme right of the basilica there is the entrance to the steps and the elevator which take you to the top of the cupola. The admission fee is Euro 5,00 for the 551 steps or Euro 7,00 for the elevator and the remaining 320 steps. If you are feeling energetic, by all means take the stairs, else, the elevator will do part of the job. Either way, after you buy your ticket, you wait in line and when the guard waves you forward, you go ahead.
After you have availed the elevator, the view from the top is stupendous. Rome stretches out before you. The most prominent features will, of course, be the Pantheon and the Coliseum. Try and figure those out. You can also see the statues of the saints lining the facade of St. Peter's Basilica. You can then browse around in the gift shop or sip a cup of coffee in the coffee shop there.
If you wish to go beyond that, be aware that the steps get narrower and narrower towards the top, the walls start bearing down on you and you will have to lean a bit to your left as you climb up. On your return, you will be leaning in the opposite direction. As you climb up, you'll pass several small windows. You may rest against them and then click a few photographs from them of the view outside.
First Written: Oct. 02, 2012
The first picture shows the interior of the Dome.
The second picture is taken in the terrace of the Basilica: these are the saints that look at the Piazza, on top of the façade.
The third picture is the Dome seen from the terrace.
The Vatican City is a must if you are in Rome.
When we went to the Saint Peter's Basilica there was a queue but not too long. After a while we went to the terrace. During the way up, the view of the Dome decoration can be appreciated.
“Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
— Christ’s words to St. Peter are carved round the dome’s interior circumference
This isn’t the original dome that was planned. When Michelangelo assumed charge of the work he redesigned it to be wider and taller. By his death in 1564, the 137-foot diameter cuppola had risen to 230 feet — a little more than half of its 443-foot height. It was finally completed 29 years later. It’s the largest brick dome in the world.
Take in the view of the Eternal City from the top of the dome of St. Peter’s. You can ride an elevator to the roof the basilica (where the accompanying photos were taken). After reaching the roof you will still have to climb 332 steps to reach the lantern. The marble steps are small with a low rise, and the closer to the top the passage becomes more narrow, and it is necessary to tilt with the curvature of the dome until a spiral staircase finally gives out to the Roman sky.
You can visit St. Peter's dome by going up the stairs or taking an elevator, for very beautiful views of Rome and the Vatican City. Note that there's 320 steps after taking the elevator. The last stair flight was frightening to me because it was a spiral stair and the steps were a little uncomfortable for me when I saw that I didn't have space for my whole feet, and I felt that if I moved a little to the right I would fall down because there wasn't anything firm to hold but a thick rope. When I came out, Mr. Sweden said that my whole face was tomato red lol, talk about an adrenaline rush.
Anyway, the day we went to the top was sunny and the sky was clear so the views were marvelous.
As of Dec 2008, the round trip ticket with the elevator costs 7€.
Many people who visit the Vatican see St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel but often they miss out on climbing the Cupola of the Vatican and missing out on all the fabulous views that it offers from within the Cupola and from the outside as well. You have the option of taking the stairs which is about 5 euro, to take the elevator costs a few euro more but will save you about 300 or so steps. Keep in mind though you will still have to climb the stairs within the dome. Generally the wait time to climb the stairs during the low season is about 30 to 45minutes, but it is well worth the wait.
A visit to the dome is mandatory: it's one of the best views of the city!
You have the option of doing with or without elevator. We did it with elevator, but we weren't expecting to find 200 or 300 steps in front of us when we got out of it! I suggest you do it without elevator, since it just saves you less than half the way and it's more expensive.
Anyway, the view is well worth the climbing and sweating. It's astonishing!
If you are at all clostrophobic I suggest you think carfully about attempting to reach the top of the dome, it may be a fantastic view but the staircase is very tight. I had to retrace my steps back down because of panic. I dont mean to put anyone off but I wish I had had the same warning.
A must do, is to climb up the dome of San Pietro. The View of Rome and the Piazza San Pietro is amazings + there's a souvenir store on the way up with better prices and findings. I recommend use the elevador It will cost 1 or 2 Euros more, but it's worth it.
The way to the top will take all your breath out, but the view is worth it. Not good if you can't stand be in small spaces or with a very bad condition, there's a lot of stairs after the elevator to get to the top, with small steps and in a very small space, with a long line of people following you.
Go to the top of the dome....
Be sure and look at the two photos on the right that show the dome, and then click on the other small photo below it to see a close up of tourists at the top. Once you see this, you won't want to miss this experience when you are in Rome.
St. Peter is very impressive, first the large square from which you walk up to the church and then the inside - wow!
To me as a lover of Michelangelos works the pieta was the most touching and impressive part. Unfortunately it can only be seen behind a thick layer of bullet proof glas nowadays. Unbelievable that this crazy guy tried to destroy it a few years ago.
I also went up to the cupola and the breathtaking view is really worth the effort. You can take the elevator up about halfway, the rest inside the cupola has to be done by foot, it's pretty steep and sometimes very small nothing for people with agoraphobia.
From the roof there is a very narrow winding stair case which goes up inside the dome to the very top, where you can walk out onto a balustrade with magnificent views over the city.
Its a long way up, and if you dont like heights then you may prefer not to ascend. Also because the stairs continually wind it can also make you feel rather dizzy.
Michelangelo's dome, rises 199m above the high altar. Entry to the dome is to the right as you climb the stairs to the atrium of the basilica.
You can either pay to go up in the lift, or for a lesser fee and you are fit you can climb the stairs. Its quite a trek though!
Here's my husband standing on the roof of the basilica.