Spring has sprung in the Eternal City, and along with the warm Mediterranean sunshine comes oppor-tunities to experience Italy like never before.
In recent weeks restrictions on travel for international tourists have eased and there is a palpable excitement among the Italian-American community here in America. Flights are being booked and daydreams of “La Dolce Vita” are growing.
A familiar question from family and friends rings true: “When are we going back to Italy?”
My response is always the same …“As soon as possible!”
In my last column I touched upon the remarkable experience of attending Papal Mass, paying close attention to the beauty of seeing thousands of pilgrims come together. The backdrop of St. Peter’s Square is equally stunning and almost indescribable unless witnessed firsthand. The Vatican museums and Basilica are mere steps away while the magnificent St. Peter’s Dome overlooks the entire city of Rome and all her splendors. The halls of the Vatican museums are home to nearly 70,000 works including artifacts, Roman statues, sculptures, literature, and arguably the world’s greatest collection of Renaissance art. Some have contemplated the Vatican museums to house the most significant collection of art in human history. Needless to say, the Sistine Chapel sits atop this list and rightfully so. It is purely remarkable, a masterpiece I cannot accurately account for in words to properly accommodate its sheer magnificence. Spend time here. It is a life moment that adheres to your memory like no other.
While visiting the museums you will surely notice the throngs of guided tours, mostly all following similar paths eventually ending up in St. Peter’s Basilica. Completed in 1626, it is considered the “greatest of all churches in Christendom” and draws pilgrims from all corners of the earth to reflect in its beauty. For the adventurous, climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome offers an unforgettable experience as well, ultimately placing you at the highest point in Rome overlooking St.bPeter’s Square with the Eternal City on a stunning 360-degree display. The climb to the top is a claustrophobic and winding staircase of over 300 steps and often highly crowded. The views are worth the climb but the effort required is not for the faint of heart. Authorized tours of the Vatican Gardens, visiting the Vatican post office and witnessing the “changing of the guard” also offers picture-worthy moments during your first visit inside the world’s smallest government.
• Visiting the Vatican Museum should be planned. Buy tickets in advance to avoid standing in long lines, in particular during the summer months.
• Don’t rush your visit. You will not be able to experience everything the museums have to offer in a single day. Lucky for you that just means you will have to visit again!
• Do not try to take photographs inside the Sistine Chapel. It is important to be respectful of the guidelines, in particular the rules related to photography and videography while visiting.
• Climb the steps to St. Peter’s Basilica Dome only if you are healthy enough. While worth the views once at the top, the climb is difﬁ cult and can be claustrophobic for some.
• Be sure to buy a postcard at the Vatican post ofﬁ ce and address it to yourself. When you arrive home you’ll have an ofﬁ cial postcard from the Vatican post ofﬁce!