It was the moment I realised I suffered from claustrophobia. Sweat was pouring down my back. I felt dizzy. I wanted to freeze, shut my eyes and be anywhere but here. I couldn’t though. I was following a string of people through a narrow, tilted corridor. I was also being followed by hundreds of people, so there was nowhere to go and nowhere to stop. I had to keep going. I took a deep breath and gingerly stepped forward again, and again, and again. Until I reached yet another spiral staircase. My nemesis. Spiral staircases always make me feel unbalanced and nervous. I do not like them. This tiny, narrow spiral staircase was so compact that there wasn’t even a rail to hold, just a rope dangling down the centre. I thought I was going to be sick. I wanted to cry. Wearing huge Ugg boots was not ideal for this occasion. Again, I took a deep breath and, after apologising to the people behind me, slowly, I started to climb. It seemed to take forever. When was this hell going to end? Eventually, when I started to gain some confidence, I glanced up and I could see daylight shining above. I’ve never been so happy to see natural light in my life! Just a few more steps and this ordeal would be over.
I stepped out from the darkness of the staircase, and into the fresh air of the balcony. Again, I froze. This time in awe. I was in awe of the amazing view laid out in front of me. I could actually see all of Rome, and more. It was the most incredible view I’d ever seen. I rested against the barrier and took some time to savour this moment. Suddenly, the stress, tears and dizziness of the climb up to the top seemed worth it. This truly was a fantastic experience and I was glad I did it.
St Peter’s basilica is a truly impressive building. Inside is so ornate and beautiful. Take time to marvel at the statues and detail inside. Watch a service. Visit the crypt below. This is all free.
When you’ve savoured the inside, begin your descent to the top. In total there are 551 steps. You can pay extra to take the lift part way up which makes it 320 steps. Personally, I would just walk. It’s cheaper. It’s a good workout and the steps up to the top of the lift are easy. It’s the ones inside the actual cupola that made me feel claustrophobic. Having said that, going to the top of the church was my joint favourite thing I’ve done in Rome (alongside the Colosseum) and is worth the suffering. I recommend it to everyone who is fit and able to walk up to the top. The view you are rewarded with, truly is amazing!