Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 17, 2013 Scavi Tour under St. Peter’s Basilica and Climbing the Cupola

We were up at the crack of dawn and ready to roll by 8 am for our appointment at the Vatican to tour the necropolis under St. Peter’s Basilica.   We arrived right on time at 9 am; the check in was a bit different than the last time but everything went well.   We were with an English speaking group lead by an Italian woman guide who had a good command of the English Language.   The tour takes about an hour and initially goes through several ancient burial cemeteries that were uncovered in the late 1940’s and 50’s during an excavation ordered by the Pope to determine the exact location of St. Peter’s Tomb.
By the time we were finished we were shown St. Peter’s Tomb, boxes with his bones and ended in the crypt area under the church where Pope’s are buried.  In the past the tour would end at the very popular tomb of John Paul II; but since his beautification in 2011, his tomb was moved upstairs in the Basilica next to Michelangelo’s Pieta.  He will be named a saint in the spring of 2014.
We saw that the line was short so we immediately started our climb of the Cupola (Dome) over St. Peter’s Basilica.   We paid the fee for the elevator ride to the roof top; once there we walked around the inside of the dome over the altar where we could see the people far below in the church while we were getting a much closer view of the inside of the dome and the beautiful mosaics. 
Bonnie elected to stay on the roof but Jane, Mary and I started the climb to the top that winds inside of the double walls.  Tall people have problems as the space is narrow and bends as you’ll see in the photos.  It is 323 step climb on various types of stairs including one little one that is like a corkscrew with only a long rope to hold on to as you climbed round and round.  The views are said to be the best in Rome.  Well worth the effort.
All too soon we were back down and exited right into St. Peter’s Basilica where we went to visit John Paul II’s tomb again before saying goodbye to Bonnie and Jane.   They have not seen the inside of the church and will probably spend hours there today.  Mary and I walked back to the Metro and hopped the train for a ride to San Giovanni in Laterano to visit the Pope’s Cathedral.  We also saw some good examples of the old Roman walls and visited a small museum about the liberation of Rome during WW II.     
We enjoyed a late lunch of pizza at the Caffe San Clemente during our walk down towards the Coliseum where we looked at everything; took lots of photos and then decided not to go inside.  We walked the Appian Road stretch in front of the Coliseum before jumping back on the Metro for our trip back to Termini Station and home. 
We’d planned to go out again to visit some churches in the area but ended our day with washing our hair and finally opening that bottle of wine from Sorrento to share with friends at the Hostel.  One couple was distraught when they returned; the husband’s wallet had been stolen during their ride on the Metro.  They were calling the USA to report the loss of credit cards, etc.  You can never be too careful when traveling.  The rule of the road is never to carry everything in one place and best to put the really important things in a bag around your neck! 
The girls have sent a text and are still out exploring as I write this email.  We’re expecting a large demonstration tomorrow and the shutdown of transportation. It should be an interesting day!
Hope you enjoy the slide show: 

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