Inside the Sistine Chapel. How do you like them apples ‘Mr. NO PHOTO!’

If the Colosseum and Roman Forum are the number one thing to see in Rome, then St Paul’s Basilica and Vatican Museum are surely number two.

Over the course of my five days in Rome I visited Vatican City five times. The first time I went to St Paul’s Basilica was on one of the afternoons where I had practically already walked there so I decided to keep going all the way. I was walking up the main entrance in to Vatican City, where you look straight up to St Pauls, and i was thinking the thing didn’t look THAT big. As you keep walking you think that you should already be there by now, but you aren’t, and the basilica is just getting bigger. When you finally come to the middle of the piazza infront of it you realise how freaking huge the thing is. Its very cleverly designed to make it look smaller on the outside than it really is. For example, you can actually fit the Statue of Liberty including the pedestal inside the dome with room to spare. Thats insane.

The line to get inside the basilica is very deceiving though. Its often hundreds and hundreds of people long. The equivalent length line at the Colosseum would take 5 hours. But this line is actually super quick, there is just a hold up because everyone gets x-rayed before you go in (well, barely, i never saw any of the dudes ever look at the screen). So the line even though it stretched halfway around the piazza only took 15 minutes. Another indication of the sheer size of it is the amount of people that are inside it. There would have to be at least 500 people wandering around at any time and you barely notice it. Inside its just gigantic, but not really over the top fancy shit everywhere in any way, its all very stylish. Everything is marble, and from what i can tell, very very good expensive Italian marble. You could spend a lot of time just walking around inside, theres things everywhere, and quite a few smaller chapels attached. But once again i have no idea who all the statues are of so i just look and think its cool, take a photo, then move on. I was still probably in there for an hour or so. I didn’t have time that day to go up to the top of the dome so I left that for later.

Next day I decided to hit up the Vatican Museum. This place is known to probably have the longest line of anything in the world. I took some advice from others and deliberately got there a bit later in the morning. See everyone thinks the same, get there early before it opens and avoid the rush. But everyone does that so it creates a massive line really one. Later in the morning and even the afternoon the line is actually smaller. However I don’t think i quite got there late enough, the line for me to get in from memory was just a bit over two hours. It winds around a few corners as well so you think you’re in and then you turn a corner and you’re like another hour away. There is people going up and down the line constantly as well trying to peddle their crappy tours of the place.

I arrived inside and just started walking. There is arrows that you can follow that take you through the main parts and eventually the Sistine Chapel. On the signs there is the next place you will come across and then under that they write Sistine Chaple. So you think yeah sweet its coming up. But there is actually about 83434 places between the next thing on the sign and the Sistine Chapel, they just don’t write them on it. Bastards. I walked past and looked at heaps of…stuff. Paintings and sculptures everywhere. Ive never looked at the roof so many times before. A lot of the rooms and halls you walk through the roof is exquisitely painted.

Eventually you make it to the Sistine Chapel. Walk inside and the place is packed, FULL of tour groups and people just standing around. The outside edges have seating as well. Walking in to the room you hear ‘NO PHOTO NO PHOTO’ very quickly. The taking of photos is not allowed inside and its pretty strict. I walked around for a bit and very quickly took a snap of the ‘creation of adam’. I then took another one not long after and had a hand put over the lens from one of the security guys. He told me to delete it and he saw the other photo I had taken but I made up some weirdo excuse that I deleted it but he didn’t see then i flicked through photos from like 3 days before. I ended up sitting down on one of the side benches at the end of the room and snapped off quite a few photos much more easily anyway. I didn’t push my luck though and left quickly after getting a decent photo. Thats really the last thing you see in the museum before exiting. I know people that have spent 6+ hours looking at everything inside, but a big chunk of it really doesn’t appeal to me that much. On the way out I made sure I took some snaps of the famous spiral staircase that you walk down to exit.

The second time I visited St Pauls was on a Wednesday morning. A lot of the time when travelling i don’t really have much concept about what day it actually is. The Pope usually does a sermon thing whatever you call it outside in the piazza every Wednesday, but I didn’t realise it was wednesday at the time and i also thought he was still in the UK. I walked in one of the side entrances to the piazza and I thought this is a bit weird there is people everywhere. And surprise surprise there he was, Mr Pope, sitting aaaaaaall the way up the front on a stage outside the doors of St Pauls. I don’t know what the occasion was, but he had two other dudes up there thanking a whole bunch of churches around the world, and then those people in the crowd would stand up and yell and cheer and then the Pope would give them a little wave. This went on for a bit, with the Pope every so often speaking in a different language to the various places. I stuck around for it all, taking a few photos. 200mm lens really doesn’t cut it though, he was pretty far away. After it was all over the people in the barricades near the front all left and everyone assumed it was over. I walked inside and all the way to the front and about 10mins later the Pope Mobile arrived and he got inside it and drove quite close to me back to wherever he lives. Unfortunately the dome and basilica weren’t going to open for another hour or so so I just had to leave and maybe come back later if I wanted to go up to the top.

I filled in some time that day doing I cant remember what and came back to St Pauls in the afternoon. There were people up at the top of the dome so I decided to get in line. The line this line looks gigantic, but once again only took me 20mins to get inside. I veered off to the right which is the entrance to the top of the dome. Whats funny about going to the top of the dome is that you can get two types of tickets. One where you just walk the entire way up, and another where you can take the lift. But heres the thing, the lift only takes you 1/3 of the way. How fat bastard lazy do you have to be to spend the extra money go up ONE THIRD of the way by lift. If you cant make it up that 1/3 of stairs then you sure as shit cant make it up the remaining 2/3 that are steeper. So obviously I just bought the normal ticket and made my way up. As you get higher and higher in the dome you are walking on about a 45 degree angle as you spiral around the dome. The view from up the top is pretty damn sweet, looks over all of Rome, and you can make out where everything is by spotting all the dome churches around the place. The afternoon is perfect for photos as well because the sun is over your shoulders. So yeah took quite a few snaps then made my way all the way back down to ground.

On the way out I made a quick detour and sent a couple of postcards, including one to myself for some reason. Vatican City actually has its own postal system so everything is postmarked from there which is kinda cool. And that finished up my time in Vatican City.