Monday, June 12th

We started out the day early because they were predicting the temperature in the 90's.  On the syllabus for today was to climb the dome in St. Peter's Basilica and then visit the church and the crypt.  After our experience with the crowds at the Vatican Museum last week, we all decided that it was worth leaving at 6:30 in the morning to go climb the dome before the heat and the crowds multiplied.  It was the best choice ever.  The bus in the morning was pleasant.  And if you have been reading any of my other entries you will know that I typically don't use the word "pleasant" and "bus" in the same sentence.  There was no line for the climb so we all bought our tickets.  We went with the 8 Euro ticket which gave us an elevator ride for the first 330 steps (don't be judgmental, we have been averaging 7 miles of walking every day).  We then started the last of the climb-221 steps.  Please see my pictures of the hallways under the AP Studio Art tab in Artworks.  At one point I felt like I was in some crazy reenactment of Alice in Wonderland.  I promise I didn't have any "Drink Me" potion before we started!  The last set was a spiral staircase that was so tight there was a rope hanging down the center to act as the railing.  Once I walked out of the entryway it was all worth it.  The 360 degree view of Rome was INCREDIBLE.  I posted 2 of the pictures of the view.  We were able to spend about 20 minutes on top just taking in the views.

On the way down you are able to stop at the roof line where you can mail a postcard from the dome or even have a cappuccino.  I've also posted a few of those pictures.  I was at the same level with the statues that line the top of the Basilica.  They don't look quite as large when you are standing down in the plaza, but at this level you can see their massive scale.  

We continued down where we were let out into the interior of the Basilica.  I have had the opportunity years ago to come to St. Peter's, but the enormity of the space took me again by surprise.  The light floats into the space with such a soft quality.  We were able to explore the different areas of the Basilica.  You will see some interior pictures as well as the "Pieta" by Michelangelo.  This was the only sculpture that Michelangelo signed. He later regretted the vanity of this act, and resolved never to sign another piece of his work.  He was only 24 years old when he sculpted it.  It was commissioned specifically to be put in the Basilica.  He was able to convey the unbearable sadness in Mary's face when a mother loses a child.  I believe that is why so many people are able to connect with the piece.  It is one of my favorite sculptures.  

We were also able to go down into the crypt under the altar where there is a shrine to mark where St. Peter is buried.  There are also a number of other popes and dignitaries that also have their sarcophagi in the crypt area.  I was hoping to see St. John Paul II's tomb, but that area of the crypt was roped off.  

The day ended earlier than normal because we started so early, but that gives me time to finish up visiting all the sites of the Path of Illumination tonight...  I will hopefully have something to post later...  Ciao for now!  

Part Two:  Tonight we went out for gelato at Caffe Portofino because they have special gelato creations.  See pictures in the AP Art Studio tab under Artwork.  We ended up with 4 very delicious creations- 2 that actually smoked because of dry ice under the gelato- how cool is that?!  We justified eating them because we shared them, that makes it all even out, right?  From there we walked over to the Castel Sant'Angelo and the last stop on my path to Illumination  for Angels and Demons fans.  We even ran across the bridge just like Robert Langdon did in the movie (imagine Rocky going up the steps in Philadelphia-we looked just that good).  I've posted a number of images of the Castle and the Angel Bridge that runs across to it.  The 10 angel statues on the bridge were designed by Bernini...Illuminati confirmed?  

We did end the night walking down the street from the Castel Sant'Angelo towards St. Peter's Basilica.  We got to spend some time standing in the square.  It definitely is one of the most peaceful places at night.  It was a great end to a really lovely day in Rome.

So, I discovered today that my roommate has a function on her phone that tracks how many miles we walk during the day.  I'm going to add a new piece of information onto the blog.  I'm going to call it "Mileage by Andrea".  The plan is to go back to all the blogs and add it onto it over the next day. I hope you enjoy (or at least feel a little sympathy for us!)  We tend to be averaging around 7 miles every day.  We do need to walk off all those carbs and gelato though.

Mileage by Andrea:  7.7 miles