Rome – St. Peter’s Dome & St. Peter’s Square

Hi friends, welcome back to my Italy series! After we toured the Vatican Museum, Jon and I exited in front of St. Peters and used this opportunity to climb the dome. We bought the elevator pass to the top of the church and then climbed 323 stairs to the dome. This climb seemed pretty easy, but it was a little more claustrophobic than the Duomo in Florence. If you don’t want to climb the dome, you can still take the elevator up to the roof for some spectacular views.


I liked doing this climb at the end of our time in Rome so we could see everywhere we’d been the past five days.


The Sistine Chapel is the rectangular building with the triangular roof. For such an important chapel, the exterior is extremely modest. The chimney on the roof is where the smoke comes out when a new pope is elected.

We didn’t join a tour of the Vatican’s gardens, but I enjoyed the views from above. The grounds look as well manicured as Versailles.

I have yet to find a dome or bell tower not worth the climb. On the way down we skipped the elevator and it was a swirly ramp most of the way down. I got a little dizzy, but persevered.

St. Peter’s Square was designed by Bernini and includes 284 columns that are 56 feet high and adorned with 140 sculptures of saints. The granite obelisk is 90 feet tall and weighs over 300 tons. It originally stood in the center of Nero’s Circus and was imported from Egypt.

On Wednesdays there’s an outdoor mass, so I’d avoid this area if you don’t plan on attending the mass.

 The line is incredibly long to get inside St. Peters, so I’d recommend either arriving before it opens to beat the line, or visit after the Vatican Museum or Scavi Tour. We seemed to always be in the square in the afternoon and the line was always incredibly long.

There is a lot to see in Vatican City and it’s all so beautiful and impressive. We were here on two separate days, but you could easily spend one day here seeing the Vatican Museum in the morning and St. Peters Basilica in the afternoon. After five days sight-seeing all over Rome, Jon and I were exhausted and looking forward to spending time relaxing in the Amalfi Coast. Stay tuned for more 🙂

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27 thoughts on “Rome – St. Peter’s Dome & St. Peter’s Square

  1. The view from the top is always worth the climb. We have been up in so many domes, but never St. Peters. Thanks for taking us along. I am not tired at all. Those gardens are crazy beautiful. Such a lavish expense for the headquarters of a religion. Happy Wednesday Lyssy. Allan

    1. It’s nice to see the views without a claustrophobic climb 🙂 I think the gardens are only available with a tour, but they sure looked beautiful! That tiny little city sure has a lot of money.

  2. Oh my gosh, you weren’t kidding about the narrow stairs. Geez. What a view, though. Rome looks like a beautiful city! I was also expecting something much more ornate for the Sistine Chapel. It’s funny, you always see photos of the inside but never the exterior.

    1. I guess people were a lot smaller back in the day when they made those stairs. It was worth it for the view. Rome is so beautiful and there’s so much to see! I agree, I don’t think I’d ever seen the exterior of the Sistine Chapel.

  3. Wow, what a view! I don’t recall climbing the dome, but those stairs are certainly spiraling and narrow…but wouldn’t stop me from getting those views! Glad you had a great time at the Vatican!

    1. I am a bit claustrophobic, but the views made it all worth it. I’m glad we made it up there, it was the perfect end to our time in Rome.

  4. The picture of the stairs reminds me of the climb to kiss the Blarney Stone. I needed 2 arms to hang onto the walls but scraped my elbow on the way up. I decided that a bloody arm was better than letting go of the wall.

    1. Oh yes I remember you kissed the Blarney Stone. Ouch! I’d definitely choose a bloody arm over the alternative too.

  5. Living in the middle of NYC must make the experience of Rome even more interesting. It’s an equally large city with a wholly different feel. The relative perspective of Bernini’s colonnades to the nearby tourists is best realized from up above. Those columns are really tall, or those people are actually ants 🙂 Finally, here’s an odd question, Lyssy. You have a preference for white gym shoes, as did my wife and I when we visited Ireland. Did you ever feel out of place? We noticed – at least back in 2012 – none of the Irish wore the bright whites like Americans do. Maybe it’s changed but it’s clearly a statement of culture.

    1. For some reason I didn’t think Rome would be as busy as it was. I think it also felt so busy because the sidewalks are so small, so you don’t have space to get around people. The columns are very large! I think white shoes are back in now, everyone in NYC wears Veja shoes now. With that said, I am all about comfort over fashion, so as long as my shoes are comfy I am ok if I look like a tourist ahah.

    1. They are such a great way to see everywhere we’d been. I’m glad we were there before it was 100 or those climbs would’ve been miserable.

  6. Hi,
    Sensational pictures of a special place. Climbing those stairs is worth it. We may take the elevator in October when we visit though. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Wow! Lyssy, your photos are outstanding I wouldn’t have done well with climbing the stairs to the top of the dome, but I’m impressed that you persevered! The views are amazing. I’m surprised how unassuming the Sistine Chapel is from the outside. Thank you for sharing another wonderful post.

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