The Cupola of St Peter’s Basilica

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The conditions were ideal. A clear sky, moderate crowds and the cooler October temperature. I had waited a long time for this opportunity. Every Guide highlights the unforgettable view of the Roman skyline when you exit the top Lantern 530 steps later. Not everyone climbs all the steps to the top. I,and many others chose to take the lift to the lower level. It costs just a couple of Euros extra to climb the remaining 330 steps between the inner and outer shell of the Dome. The lower level is a welcome base. Here you will find coffee, a religious goods shop, Vatican stamps and a postbox. I noticed the organised just bought stamps to guarantee the important State postmark but had written their cards beforehand to save time and cost! Others had a spare water bottle to top up. Later I wished I had done so too. I started by visiting the internal lower balcony – just passing room for one around the base of the Dome. Looking down the huge altar canopy, the Baldacchino, is shrinking from view. Looking up, I see another great work of Michelangelo and take a very deep breath. On the stairs, the slow momentum of the crowd takes me to the top.There are a few chances to rest briefly on the flights and recharge the water bottle.The walls begin to close in towards the apex. No place to be claustrophobic. I comfortably navigate the short acute section near the top, with its vertical rope bannister. Then, fresh air and daylight. I am there! Exiting the Lantern I move around the small narrow balcony. All of us enjoy the great vista to the clear horizon.Truly worth the climb. We look down on the 140 statues on top of the Collonades and also pick out the many points of interest near and far. The descent seems less effortless and quicker. This has been a very special day for me personally. I look again at a family photo taken in October 1950 by the right hand fountain. It is of me with my late father. I had not visited Rome since. I do remember throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain then. Of course I repeated the custom this time. I plan to return to Rome very soon.

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