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Cycle Route Via Romea Francigena Brindisi - Rome

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Elevation profile Cycle Route Via Romea Francigena Brindisi - Rome

Added on 26 Jan 2015,

on 26 Jan 2015

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Cumulative elevation loss in m


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by biroto-Redaktion on 26 Jan 2015

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Start location

Brindisi, Apulia, IT (5 m NHN)

End location

Rome, Lazio, IT (51 m NHN)

Beds4Cyclists, worth visiting and infrastructure

Name and address

Latitude / Longitude


Type of accommodation

Route km
Dist. to route
Elevation AMSL

Rating for cyclists


221 km
0,1 km
473 m


IT-85026 Palazzo San Gervasio




428 km
0,1 km
244 m


IT-81016 San Potito Sannitico


Boardinghouse / guest house


666 km
3,5 km
36 m


IT-00147 Roma




666 km
3,2 km
22 m

IT-00186 Roma


Heritage building(s)/World heritage site

Rome, Pantheon
Palazzo Farnese, Rome
Piazza Navona, Rome
Dome of Church of the Gesù, Rome

Old Rome is the historic medieval and renaissance center of Rome. While the oldest section of Rome is at the Forum, and the Modern Center has shifted to the Via Veneto, Old Rome remains the city's most charming district, with lovely piazzas (squares) and streets to wander and find small cafes and restaurants. Old Rome includes the neighborhoods of Navona, Campo de' Fiori, Pantheon, and the Ghetto.


Ancient Rome
  • The Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda,  +39 0668300230. M-Sa 8AM to 7.30PM, Su 9AM to 6PM, public holidays 9AM to 1PM, closed Jan 1, May 1, Dec 25. Originally built in 27 BCE, by the Emperor Hadrian (AD 125-128), this ancient temple was built as a temple to all the gods of the Roman state but has served as a Christian church since the 7th century. It is the only building from the Graeco-Roman world which has remained substantially intact and in continuous use throughout to the present day, and as it is still a functioning church, silence is requested during your visit. The Pantheon is celebrated for its large dome. From inside you'll see traces of the former bronze ceiling, melted down during the reign of Pope Urban VIII to make weapons for the fortification of the Castel Sant' Angelo. The hole in the center of the ceiling, though, is an original feature designed for architectural reasons (the dome would collapse without it.) If it happens to be raining, you should definitely go to the Pantheon to see the rain pouring into the building through the hole in the ceiling. There are holes in the ground that drain the water. The spectacular doors are Romans, but not the original. The original bronze beams of the pronao were melted down by Pope Urban VIII and might have been used to create Bernini's Baldacchino, or canopy, in Saint Peter's. The dome is the largest masonry dome in the world, larger than that of Saint Peter. The building now appears to be built in a depression, but this was not the original appearance. The street level at the sides and rear has risen about 10 meters since the original construction due to the accumulation of debris from 2,000 years of settlement. This has necessitated the maintenance of the deep trench that keeps the building from being buried. Free. 
  • Largo di Torre Argentina. Not, as commonly believed, named after the country but after the city of Strasbourg (Argentoratum in Latin), from which came a courtesan of Pope Alexander VI who lived nearby. Four Roman Republican-era temples, Pompey's theater and a Roman public toilet ("Latrina") have been excavated. The largo is also home to a large number of cats which are tended by the local animal rights organization. (Purportedly a jab at Mussolini who excavated the area and is said to have hated cats.) 
  • Temple of Hadrian, La Borsa, Piazza di Pietra. The temple of the Emperor Hadrian was consecrated in 145 AD by Emperor Antoninus Pius. The remains of the antique temple were incorporated into a new building that served as the Papal Customs House. It was finished around 1690 and today accommodates the Stock Exchange (Borsa). 
  • Chiesa del Gesù, Via degli Astalli, 16 (Piazza del Gesù; not far from Piazza Venezia towards Largo di Torre Argentina),  +39 06 69 70 01. 7AM to noon, 4PM to 7PM. This is one of the two main Jesuit churches in Rome, the other being the nearby Sant'Ignazio. The interior is Baroque art on steroids. Simply astounding. 
  • Sant'Ivo della Sapienza, Corso del Rinascimento, 40,  +39 066864987. Su 9AM to noon, closed Jul and Aug. This little church is hard to find but well worth the extra effort although it is often closed when you get there. One of Borromini's masterpieces. It is located only a block from Piazza Navona, but not usually visible from the street, as one must enter the courtyard of an old palazzo to reach the church. Sant'Ivo is a small church the dome of which is shaped like the Star of David, but with every other point rounded. The steeple seen from the outside looks like it has a staircase wrapped around it that ascends to heaven. As the church was commissioned by the Barberini family that produced a number of popes and whose family symbol was the bee—some say the steeple resembles the stinger of the insect. 
  • Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Piazza della Minerva, 42,  +39 066793926. M-Sa 7AM to 7PM, Su 8AM to 1PM, 3 to 7PM, monastery M-Sa 9AM to noon, 4 to 6.30PM. This church is literally right next to the Pantheon. It is one of Rome's only Gothic churches, and well worth looking inside, although its plain square façade makes it look inconspicuous from outside. Excellent stained glass windows. 
  • San Luigi dei Francesi, Piazza San Luigi dei Francesi, 5,  +39 066882718. 8AM to noon, 3.30PM to 7PM, closed Thu afternoon. This church is roughly halfway between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. It is most notable for a side chapel which contains three Caravaggio masterworks: "The Calling of St. Matthew", "St. Matthew and the Angel" and "Martyrdom of St. Matthew". 
  • Sant'Ignazio, 8 A Via del Caravita. Between the Pantheon and Via del Corso. A stunning example of Baroque art. The ceiling frescoes are especially fine, including a trompe l'oeil dome by the master Andrea Pozzo.
  • Sant'Agnese in Agone, Piazza Navona,  +39 0668192134. Tu-Sa 9AM to noon, 4 to 7PM. By Borromini, reputed to be on the spot where St. Agnes was martyred in the fourth century A.D. This lovely basilica church is small with an almost circular interior. It is undergoing rehabilitation and the facade and dome are hidden in scaffolding. It seems to be open only until noon. 
  • Santa Maria dell'Anima, Via Santa Maria dell'Anima, 66,  +39 066828181. 9AM to 1PM, 3 to 7PM. Contains the tomb of Pope Hadrian IV, the last non-Italian pope before Pope John Paul I. 
  • Santa Maria della Pace, Vicolo dell'Arco della Pace, 5,  +39 066861156. Tu-F 10AM to noon. The church was built by order of Pope Sixtus VI (della Rovere). The campanile was erected in 1504 by Bramante and the church has frescoes of the four sibyls by Raphael in its interior. 
  • San Nicola in Carcere. Church built on the site of three Roman pagan temples, which can be explored underground for a small fee paid at a desk near the church entrance. €3.
Historical Squares and Streets
  • Campo de' Fiori. If it is sunny, you'll catch a few young people and older gentlemen sitting at the base of a statue in the middle of the open space. The statue is a brooding, hooded Giordano Bruno—an excommunicated Dominican monk and one of the earliest cosmologists who held the idea of an infinite universe. He was burnt at the stake for heresy on this spot on 17 February 1600. The piazza is used as a marketplace during the day, and party central for college students and tourists at night. When the sky gets dark and the street lamps go on, the Campo de' Fiori fills with people and lovers wander arm in arm in the crowd. Over the buzzing of conversation and the occasional burst of laughter you may hear a young vocalist belt out O Sole Mio at the top of his lungs as change plunks into his accordion case. 
  • Piazza Navona. The pride of Baroque Rome, was established towards the end of the 15th century, and preserves the shape of the ancient Stadium of Domitian. The buildings surrounding the square stand where the spectators once sat, watching the spectacle of the naumachiae (battles among ships). The square remains completely unspoilt by traffic and modern buildings. Today, the square is an immensely popular place to sip a cappuccino, shop, and watch street performers. Behind the piazza at the northern end, you can still see remains of the Roman athletic stadium well below the current ground level. Amongst the various monuments of the square, look especially for the two Baroque masterpieces by Bernini and Borromini. 
  • Piazza Colonna. Where the building of the Italian Government, Palazzo Chigi is situated. Also there is a marvelous carved column—hence the name—dating back to Imperial Rome. 
  • Piazza della Minerva. A small piazza just behind the Pantheon. The centerpiece is a statue of an elephant by Bernini with an ancient obelisk on its back. 
  • Piazza di Sant'Ignazio. Small and attractive piazza tucked away in a neighborhood near Pantheon. 
  • Piazza di Monte Citorio. Where you can find the building of the House of Representatives. 
  • Piazza di Pasquino. Small piazza about 20 m (65 ft) from Piazza Navona, behind the Brazilian Embassy. There is a statue named "Pasquino", according to a legend named after a tailor who used to work nearby and had a reputation for complaining. The statue has been used for the past three centuries as a place to hang messages, complaints and other opinions which have to be shared with the neighborhood. The statue is probably an ancient Roman portrait of Hercules. 
  • Via Giulia. An example of urban planning that goes back to Pope Julius II, who, in 1508, envisioned it as a street that would connect all major government buildings. It is around a kilometer long and is in a straight line, an unusual feature for the time. It is lined with some interesting palaces but these days is more known for its antique shops. Via Giulia runs parallel with and one block from the River Tiber. 
  • Via della Gatta (Street of the Cat). The Via della Gatta connects Palazzo Doria Pamphili with Palazzo Grazioli. The sculpture of the cat is on one of the corners of Palazzo Grazzioli. 
  • Via de Coronari (Street of the Rosary Dealers). In the Middle Ages pilgrims on their way to St. Peter's had to pass through the Via dei Coronari in order to cross the Tiber at Ponte St. Angelo. The street got its name from the people who sold rosaries to the pilgrims. It follows the ancient Via Recta which led from what is today Piazza Colonna to the Tiber. In the 15th century Pope Sixtus IV initiated the construction of private buildings. Today, several houses dating back to the 15th and 16th century may be seen. House nr. 156/157 is said to have been the House of Fiametta, the mistress of Cesare Borgia. 
  • Via del Governo Vecchio. The street is named after the Palazzo del Governo Vecchio, the seat of the Papal government in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was part of the Via papalis which connected St. John Lateran and St. Peter's. Houses nr. 104 and 106 date to the 15th century and there are some houses from the 16th century as well. The palace on nr. 123 was intended to be the residence of Bramante. The Palazzo del Governo Vecchio is situated just opposite. 
  • The Ghetto. The Ghetto lies between the island in the River Tiber and the Theatre of Marcellus and includes Rome’s synagogue. It was established in 1555 as a result of a Papal Bull by Pope Paul IV that required all Jews to live in the area, considered one of the least desirable quarters of the city, as it was subject to constant flooding by the river. The area was originally enclosed by walls and gates that were only open during the day. With the end of the Papal States in 1870, the requirement that Jews live in the Ghetto came to an end. The walls were torn down in 1888 and much of the ghetto was demolished. However, there is still much to see, including walls of buildings that incorporate Roman ruins, and there are several good Jewish restaurants.
Historical buildings
  • Palazzo della Cancelleria, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. This remarkable building served as the site of the Apostolic Chancellery, or offices of the Pope, for centuries, and now houses a Vatican court. Tucked behind the facade is also the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Damaso, an ancient Roman house church rebuilt in the 15th century. 
  • Palazzo Farnese, Piazza Farnese, 67,  +39 06 68892818. phone for opening times. Since 1871 this has been the French Embassy. This sixteenth century palace houses a library of collections by the French school in Rome, particularly on Roman archaeology. Note the two beautiful fountains in the piazza. 
  • Palazzo della Sapienza, Corso Rinascimento, 9 (Bus 70 81, 87, 492; Close to Piazza Navona),  +39 06 686 4987. This building housed the University of Rome from the middle of the 15th century until 1935. The splendid interior courtyard was created by Giacomo della Porta. The inside church of Sant'Ivo (see above) is one of the masterpieces of the architect Borromini. 
  • Palazzo Altemps (Branch of the Roman National Museum), Via Sant' Apollinare 8 (Bus 70, 81, 87, 492),  +39 06 6897091. 09.00-19.45 except Mondays. Simple and elegant lines make up this building, whose construction began in 1480 for Count Girolamo Riario, nephew of Papa Sisto IV and was taken up by architect Martino Longhi for the new owner, Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps. Today it houses one of the branches of the National Museum of Rome, showcasing Renaissance Sculptures and the museum's Egyptian collection. 10 euros (6,50 for EU citizens of ages 18-24) gives admission to this and the three other National Museums of Rome. 
  • Palazzo Taverna, Via di Monte Giordano. The building is in one of the most hidden corners of the city center among Piazza Navona and Castel Sant'Angelo. It served as residence for the Orsini family. Nowadays it is private property and one can only glance at the courtyard and the amazing fountain inside, erected in 1618 by architect Antonio Casoni. However, the brief moment is worth it. 
  • Palazzo Crivelli, Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 22. This building also known as the Doll House was built in the 16th century. It is unique for the quantity and quality of the decorations—lions' heads, satyrs and disfigured heads that adorn the facade attributed to the sculptor Giulio Mazzoni. 
  • Palazzo Spada, Piazza Capo di Ferro. This building was erected in the 16th century for Cardinal Girolamo Capodiferro. One century later it was acquired by another powerful Cardinal, Bernardino Spada, and was restored by Borromini, who created the forced perspective optical illusion in the arcaded courtyard. 
  • Palazzo Madama, Corso del Rinascimento,  +39 0667061. every 1st Sat in a month 10AM to 6PM. This palace of the 16th century was erected by the famous Medici family. It was the residence of Cardinals Giovanni and Giuliano Medici, later Pope Leo X. and Clement VII. Catherine de Medici, Pope Clement VII's niece lived here until her marriage in 1553 with Prince Henry, the son of King Francis I of France. The palace is named after Madama Margerita of Austria, the illegitimate daughter of Emperor Charles V. Since 1871 it has been the seat of the Italian Senate. 
  • Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 141. chapel only open on March 16 7AM to noon. The palace was built by the architect Baldassare Peruzzi on behalf of the Massimo family. The former palace was destroyed during the pillage of Rome in 1527. The Massimo family can be traced back to Quintus Fabius Maximus who defeated Hannibal in the 3rd century BC. The building is open to the public on March 16, only in order to commemorate the miraculous reanimation of Paolo Massimo by St. Philip Neri in 1538. 
  • Palazzo del Collegio Romano, Piazza del Collegio Romano. The Collegio Romano was a college of the Jesuit order. Many popes, cardinals and bishops were educated here. Since 1870 it has been a secular (non-monastic) school. The coat of arms on the doorway is that of Pope Gregory XIII (1572–1585). The tower was erected in 1787 and served as an observatory. Until 1925 all clocks in Rome were set after that of the Collegio Romano. 
  • Hosteria dell'Orso (Bear's Inn), Via dei Soldati, 25 (bus 70, 81, 116, 186, 204, 280, 492,628). M-Sa 8AM to 1PM. A historical inn where reputedly the Italian poet Dante Aligheri and French travellers of the 16th century, including the poets Francois Rabelais and Michel de Montaigne, stayed. 
  • Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), Piazza Navona. By Bernini, in the very centre of Piazza Navona. Incorporates an Egyptian obelisk and symbolises four of the world's great rivers (the Ganges, the Nile, the Danube and the Plata), representing the four continents known at the time. 
  • Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor), Piazza Navona. At the southern end of the Piazza, designed by Bernini but the main statue of the Moor was done by Giacomo della Porta and the other statues are 19th-century copies of the originals. 
  • Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune). A 19th century addition to the square, made to balance the Fontana del Moro. 
  • Fontanella del Facchino ((Fountain of the Porter)), Via Lata. Like Pasquino, the Facchino is one the so-called "speaking figures" which are peculiar to Rome. He is looking out of the Banco di Roma building. The man depicted is holding a barrel in his hands and is carrying water. It is sometimes said that he is looking similar to Martin Luther, but more probably a porter who died while carrying a barrel is depicted here. 
  • Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle fountain), Piazza Mattei (just to the north of the Ghetto). A pleasant fountain in an out-of-the-way square. It was originally meant to have four dolphins rather than turtles but the dolphins proved to be too large for the water pressure so the turtles were added as an afterthought.
  • Palazzo Doria Pamphilj (Doria Pamphilj Gallery), Piazza del Collegio Romano, 2; entrance: Via del Corso, 305 (bus 64, 81,85, 117, 119, 492),  +39 06 6797323. F-W 10AM to 5PM, closed Jan 1, Easter Sunday, May 1, Auf 15, Dec 25. Good collection of Renaissance and Baroque art, including by Velasquez, Titian, Raphael, and Bernini, all owned by the Doria Pamphilj family. Excellent audio guides really bring the paintings to life. €12. 
  • Museo Napoleonico (Napoleonic Museum), Piazza di Ponte Umberto, 1 (bus 70, 81, 87, 116, 186, 280, 492),  +39 0668806286. Tu-Su 9AM to 7PM, closed jan 1, May 1 Dec 25. The museum is dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte and his family. After Napoleon's death in 1821 the Pope gave permission to his family to settle down in Rome. His sister married Prince Camillo Borghese. 
  • Palazzo Altemps (branch of the National Museum of Rome (Museo Nazionale Romano)), Piazza Sant'Apollinare, 46,  +39 0639967700. Tue to Dun 9AM to 7.30PM, closed Jan 1, Dec 25. See Historical Buildings. € 10,00 standard adult/€ 6,50 EU citizens age 18-24 for access to all four National Museum of Rome sites. 
  • Crypta Balbi (branch of the National Museum of Rome (Museo Nazionale Romano)), Via delle Botteghe Oscure, 31,  +39 06 39967700. Tue to Dun 9AM to 7.45PM, closed Jan1, Dec 25. This museum is built on top of the excavation site of the Balbi Crypt, a building from the first century A.D. which underwent considerable modifications in the following centuries. Through the building's history, the museum gives us glimpses of what Roman life across the ages was like. Free visits of the ruins are possible. The Essedra ruins are only accessible on Saturdays and Sundays, at 10:45AM, 11:45AM, 12:45PM, 2:45PM and 3:45PM € 10,00 standard adult/€ 6,50 EU citizens age 18-24 for access to all four National Museum of Rome sites. 
Columns, Obelisks and Statues
  • Column of Marcus Aurelius.  
  • Obelisco di Montecitorio (Montecitorio Obelisk). An Ancient Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome in 10 BC. 
  • Santa Maria Minerva Obelisk, Piazza della Minerva (bus 116 and all lines on Via del Corso and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II). One of Bernini's masterpieces, an obelisk on the back of an elephant. 
  • Pie di Marmo (Marble Foot), Via di Santo Stefano del Cacco (bus 62,63,64,70,81,116,186,492). The marble foot belonged to a temple of the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. 

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Input taken over from:

Wikivoyage contributors, 'Rome/Old Rome', Wikivoyage, The FREE worldwide travel guide that anyone can edit, 12 May 2016, 18:35 UTC, <> [accessed 3 September 2016]

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666 km
5,0 km
32 m

VA-00120 Roma


Heritage building(s)/World heritage site

Vatican basilica St. Peter from a roof near saint Peter square.
St Peterʹs Square
Gardens of Vatican City
Swiss Guard

The Vatican City (Italian: Città del Vaticano; Latin: Civitas Vaticana) is the world center of Catholicism. As a district of Rome, it encompasses the Vatican City State (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano; Latin: Status Civitatis Vaticanae), as well as the surrounding Roman neighborhoods of Borgo and Prati. This small slice of the city is packed with more history and artwork than most cities in the world, and indeed many countries.


The Vatican City is the temporal seat of the Pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church. Situated within the city of Rome the Vatican is the world's smallest state. You may also hear the term Holy See (Italian: Santa Sede; Latin: Sancta Sedes), which is used to refer to the Diocese of Rome—that is, the ecclesiastical and administrative authority of the Pope, rather than the sovereign governmental entity that is the Vatican City State.


Vatican City is all that remains of the Papal States, the former temporal land holdings of the Pope. Over the years, this territory varied considerably in extent, and may be traced back to AD 756 with the "Donation of Pepin". However the popes had been the de facto rulers of Rome and the surrounding province since the fall of the Roman Empire and the retreat of Byzantine power in Italy. Popes in their secular role ruled portions of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until the mid 19th century, when many of the Papal States were seized by the newly united Kingdom of Italy. In 1870, the pope's holdings were further circumscribed when Rome itself was annexed.

Disputes between a series of "prisoner" popes and Italy were resolved in 1929 by three Lateran Treaties, which established the independent state of Vatican City, granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy, recognized the full sovereignty of the Vatican and established its territorial extent. In 1984, the agreement was revised to eliminate Catholicism's position as the only state religion of Italy, but the essential features of the agreement remain in force today.


The Holy See — the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church which are housed in Vatican City — has diplomatic recognition from the overwhelming majority of countries in the world and has permanent observer status in numerous international organizations, including the United Nations General Assembly. However, though there are Papal nuncios (equivalent to ambassadors) in many foreign capitals, the Vatican does not house any diplomatic missions; instead, foreign embassies to Italy that are in other parts of Rome double as missions to the Vatican.


The Vatican is between 19 m (62 ft) and 75 m (246 ft) above sea level. With a circumference of only 3.2 km (2 mi), the Vatican City itself is smaller than some shopping malls. Most of the area consists of the Vatican Gardens.


Although 1,000 people live within Vatican City, many dignitaries, priests, nuns, guards, and 3,000 lay workers live outside the Vatican. Officially, there are about 800 citizens, making it the smallest nation by population on the globe. The Vatican even fields a soccer team composed of the Swiss Guard, who hold dual citizenship.


St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro). The basilica is open Apr-Sep: daily 07:00-19:00 and Oct-Mar: daily 07:00-18:00. It is closed Wednesday mornings for papal audiences. The centre of the Catholic world, this magnificent basilica with its Michelangelo-designed dome has an awe-inspiring interior. This place is huge, but everything is in such proportion that the scale escapes you. Construction of the basilica began in 1506 and it was not completed until the end of 1626. Thus it spans two architectural periods. The overall design by Bramante and Michelangelo is Late Renaissance but the façade designed by Maderno and the interior, which owes much to Bernini, are both Baroque in style. The interior is lavishly decorated and contains a large number of tombs of popes and others. There are also several sculptures in side chapels, including Michelangelo's Pietà.

To get in, you will first go through a metal detector (after all, this is an important building). Don't be put off if there is a long line in front of the detectors; the whole thing moves quickly. The line is usually shorter in the morning and during mid week. A strict dress code is enforced, so have shoulders covered, wear trousers or a not-too-short dress, and take your hats off. Women must wear scarves or something to cover their heads. You might be required to check your bags at the entrance. Photos are allowed to be taken inside, but not with a flash. Visits to the basilica are still possible while Mass is in progress. Free admission. 

  • The dome, which dominates Rome, has a total height of 136.57 metres (448 ft) from the floor of the basilica to the top of the external cross. It is the tallest dome in the world. Its internal diameter is 41.47 metres (136 ft), slightly smaller than the Pantheon and the cathedral at Florence. Most of the final design was by Michelangelo, building on earlier designs by Bramante and Sangallo and taking much of his inspiration from the cathedral of Florence. After Michelangelo's death in 1564 the work was completed by Giacomo della Porta. You can take an elevator up to the roof and then make a long climb up 323 steps to the top of the dome for a spectacular view. Taking the elevator costs €7 (€5 to climb the stairs) and you should allow an hour to go up and down. During the climb and before reaching the very top, you will find yourself standing on the inside of the dome, looking down into the basilica itself. Be warned that there are a lot of stairs so it is not for the faint at heart (literally or figuratively) nor those suffering from claustrophobia as the very last section of the ascent is through little more than a shoulder-width spiral staircase. The dome opens one hour after the basilica and closes one hour before the basilica.
  • In the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica is a Pietà, the first of four works on the same theme by Michelangelo depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. The sculpture, in Carrara marble, was made for the funeral monument of the French Cardinal Jean de Billheres and was moved to its current location in the eighteenth century. It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed. In 1972 the Pietà was attacked by a mentally disturbed person using a geologist's hammer, which is why it now appears behind a bullet-proof glass wall. Reconstruction was not helped by the fact that some onlookers helped themselves to fragments after the attack.
  • Underneath the altar in the second chapel on the right are the remains of Pope John Paul II.
  • The first chapel in the south aisle, on the left as you enter, is the baptistry. The font is a fourth-century sarcophagus but its lid comes from another sarcophagus, which held the remains of the Emperor Hadrian. This lid was dropped by workmen, broke into ten pieces, and was subject to expert restoration, with the gilt-bronze figure of the "Lamb of God" being added at that time. The tomb of Pope Alexander VII, towards the end of the aisle, is by Bernini and is considered a masterpiece of Baroque art. The tomb is supported by four female figures. The two at the front represent Charity and Truth. The foot of Truth rests upon a globe of the world, her toe being pierced by the thorn of Protestant England. The Baroque period coincided with the Reformation and St. Peter's was seen as an affirmation of Catholicism.
  • The central internal feature is the Bernini-designed baldachin, or canopy, built over the Papal Altar underneath the dome. The baldachin had to be enormous to avoid being overwhelmed by the size of the basilica. To obtain the quantity of bronze required, Bernini was given permission by Pope Urban VIII to strip it from the portico of the Pantheon. It is considered to be one of the great works of the Baroque period and remains the largest bronze sculpture in the world.
  • Against the north east wall of the dome is a statue of St. Peter. One foot of the statue has been largely worn away by pilgrims kissing it over the centuries. Set in niches under the dome are four statues associated with holy relics held in the basilica including one of St. Longinus holding the spear that pierced the side of Jesus, by Bernini.
  • In the apse, at the far end of the basilica, is a large bronze throne, also by Bernini. Known as the "Cathedra Petri" or throne of St. Peter the throne houses a chair which was claimed to have been used by Saint Peter, but is more likely to date from the twelfth century.

Free 90-minute tours leave daily from the Tourist Information at 2:15PM, many days also at 3PM. Telephone: 06-6988-1662. €5 audio-guides can be rented from the checkroom.

The Pope

If you want to see the pope, you can either see a usual blessing from his apartment at noon on Sunday, just show up (but in the summer he gives it from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, 25 km from Rome) or you can go to the more formal Wednesday appearance. The pope arrives in the popemobile at 10:30AM to bless crowds from a balcony or platform, except in winter, when he speaks in the Aula Paolo VI Auditorium next to the square. You can easily watch from a distance, or get a free ticket, which you must get on the Tuesday before. There are a number of ways:

  • Your hotelier may be able to book one for you
  • You could wait in a long line at St. Peter's on Tuesday where the Swiss Guards hand out tickets at their post to the right of the basilica, after 12:00 on Tuesday
  • You could contact the Santa Susanna Church to get you a ticket (online or call 06-4201-4554), which you pick up there on Tuesday between 5PM & 6:45PM, on Via XX Settembre, Metro stop: Repubblica.
  • Finally, to book a free spot in the square or auditorium, call 06-6988-4631

The pope may occasionally be away on a state visit, however.

St. Peter's Square

Most of the Piazza di San Pietro is actually an oval. There is a small, almost rectangular section immediately in front of the St Peter's and an opening to the Via della Conciliazione opposite the basilica. There are two stones (one on each side of the square) between the obelisk and the fountains. If you stand by either of these stones, the four columns on the colonnades merge into one. In total there are 284 columns. When Bernini came to design the piazza he had to incorporate the obelisk and a fountain designed by Maderno, both of which were already there. The symmetry of the square was enhanced by the addition of another fountain, designed by Bernini.

The obelisk in the middle of the square was transported from Egypt to Rome in 37 A.D. by the Emperor Gaius Caligula to mark the spine of a circus eventually completed by the Emperor Nero. The so-called Circus of Nero was parallel to and to the south of the east-west axis of the current Basilica. It was here that Saint Peter was killed in the first official persecutions of Christians undertaken by Nero beginning in 64 A.D. and continuing until his death in 67 A.D. The original location of the obelisk is marked with a plaque located near the sacristy on the south side of the basilica, where it remained until it was moved in 1586 A.D. by Pope Sixtus V to its present location.

During the Middle Ages, the bronze ball on top of the obelisk was believed to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar. When it was relocated it was opened and found to be empty. The present reliquary, the Chigi Star in honor of Pope Alexander VII, was added containing pieces of the "True Cross". This is the only Egyptian obelisk in Rome that has never toppled since being erected in Ancient Rome and is the second largest Egyptian obelisk after the Lateran obelisk. The obelisk nearly shattered while it was being moved. Upon orders of the pope, no one was to speak a word while it was being moved otherwise they would be excommunicated. However, a sailor shouted to water the ropes to prevent them from burning. He was forgiven and in gratitude for saving the day, the palms for Palm Sunday still come from the sailor's home town of Bordighera in Portugal. The moving of this obelisk was celebrated in engravings during its time to commemorate the Renaissance's recovery and mastery of ancient knowledge.

Until the Fascist era visitors approached St. Peter's Square from the Tiber River by two narrow parallel streets that did not provide the same views as seen today. Mussolini dictated that a warren of poor houses be knocked down to make way for the Via della Conciliazione and the new buildings alongside it. The name of the street commemorates the Lateran Treaty of 1929, under which the Vatican was recognized as an independent state by the Italian government.

The Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum, Viale Vaticano. Mon-Sat 09:00-18:00 (ticket office closes at 16:00), Sun closed (except last Sunday of the month, when it is free, crowded, and open 09:00-14:00 with last admission at 12:30). The museum is closed for holidays on: Jan 1 & 6, Feb 11 & 22, Mar 19 & 28, Jun 29, Aug 15, Nov 1, and Dec 8 & 26. One of the greatest art galleries in the world, the museum is most famous for its spiral staircase, the Raphael Rooms and the exquisitely decorated Sistine Chapel famous for Michelangelo's frescoes. Much of the museum is organized so you follow a one-way route leading to Raphael's rooms and the Sistine Chapel but there is much more to see as well. If you are very short of time, it will take at least an hour to visit the Sistine Chapel.

The Museum is usually the most hot and crowded on Saturdays, Mondays, the last Sunday of the month, rainy days, and days before or after a holiday but, basically, it is crowded every day and if you want to see the gems that it contains you will have to tolerate the crowds or sign up to very expensive private tours after the museum is closed to everyone else [1]. Dress code: no short shorts or bare shoulders. There are often lengthy queues from the entrance that stretch around the block in the early morning. Non-guided visitors should join the queue that is to the left as you are facing the entrance; the queue on the right is intended for guided group visitors. You can book online in advance and with a booking you can skip the queue. Audio-guides are available from the top of the escalator/ramp for €7. Two people to share a single unit plugging in a standard set of earphones. €16 adults, €8 concessions. Additional €4 booking fee per ticket if booked online in advance.

  • The Sistine Chapel is a rectangular brick building with no exterior decoration. There is no exterior entrance, it being approached from within the Vatican buildings. Inside, the walls are divided into three levels. The lower is decorated with frescoed wall hangings. The middle of the walls has two cycles of paintings, "The Life of Moses" and "The Life of Christ", painted by Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Signorelli, Pinturicchio and Perugino, among others. The upper tier contains a Gallery of Popes. Around the tops of the windows are the "Ancestors of Christ", painted by Michelangelo as part of the ceiling. The ceiling proper contains nine paintings inspired by the Old Testament, showing God's Creation of the World, God's Relationship with Mankind, and Mankind's Fall from God's Grace. Michelangelo was reluctant to work on the ceiling but was unable to refuse an instruction by a pope, Julius II. He worked on it between May 1508 and October 1512, which included a one-year period when he did little work. Given that most of the painting was done by Michelangelo himself, rather than his pupils, completing it in such a short period was an amazing achievement. The ceiling had to be worked on piece by piece as frescoes require painting when the plaster is still damp and most of the time Michelangelo was lying on his back in considerable discomfort.
    It is not allowed to take pictures or talk loudly in the Sistine Chapel (although everybody flagrantly violates these rules). While one may agree with this policy or not, the visit would be a much more pleasant one without the guards having to yell out Shh! or No foto e no video!! every two minutes. The bottom line is: respect the rules and let every visitor enjoy the best of the experience, even if no one else does. If you try to sneak a picture (again, like everyone does), you'll get a bad photograph and a screaming guard as your reward.
  • Raphael's papal apartments (Stanze) were begun in 1508 when the painter was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II. The first room on which he worked was the Stanza della Segnatura, the pope's library and office. The four walls have the themes of Theology, Poetry, Jurisprudence and Philosophy. The Poetry wall contains portraits of Greek and Ancient Roman poets, as well as of contemporaries of Raphael, such as Dante. The most impressive of the four walls is The School of Athens, representing philosophy. Well-known Greek philosophers are represented, often with the faces of famous Italians of the time. Plato, for example, is believed based on Leonardo da Vinci; Euclid appears to be like Bramante, the first architect for the rebuilt St. Peter's. In the Stanza d'Eliodoro one of the characters bears a likeness to Raphael himself. Pope Julius II is also introduced into the scenes.
  • It would be a big mistake to just visit Raphael's rooms and the Sistine Chapel and then leave the museum. The Pinacoteca should not be missed. Among other works of art, it contains one of the relatively few paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, the unfinished St. Jerome in the Wilderness, three paintings by Raphael, a tryptich by Giotto, Caravaggio's Entombment and works by Perugino and Filippo Lippi.
Swiss Guard
  • Swiss Papal Guards (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera). They are posted at entrances to the Vatican City to provide security and protect the Pope. They wear very colourful clothing, similar to the uniforms worn by Renaissance-era soldiers. The Pontifical Swiss Guards is also the smallest and oldest standing army in the world, founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II. The origins of the Swiss guards, however, go back much further as the popes had regularly imported Swiss mercenaries during the 1400s. 
Borgo and Prati
  • Castel Sant'Angelo, Lungotevere Castello 50,  +39 06 32810. Daily 09:00-19:30 (last entry 1h before closing). Perhaps the most fascinating building in Rome. The core of the structure began life as the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian, built between 135 and 139 AD. Subsequent strongholds built on top of the mausoleum were in turn incorporated into a residence and castle by medieval Popes. The building was used as a prison until 1870, but now houses a museum. Opera buffs will be exhilarated to visit the balcony from which Tosca leaps to her death. Film buffs will recognise it as a setting from "Angels and Demons". €10, with reductions. Roma Pass accepted. 
  • Passetto di Borgo. Pope Nicholas III connected Castel Sant'Angelo to St. Peter's by a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. This proved useful for Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome (1527). You can still see much of the Passetto by walking along the Borgo Sant'Angelo, which runs parallel to, and north of, the Via della Conciliazione. 
  • Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice). Wandering around the shopping and residential district of Prati, close to the Vatican, you may notice rather a lot of lawyers' nameplates outside buildings. This is also Rome's legal district because of the proximity of the Palazzo di Giustizia or Palace of Justice. This massive monstrosity on the banks of the Tiber was built on alluvial soil, which necessitated a concrete platform to support the foundations. Despite this, later settlement of the building led to the need for restoration work in 1970 and it is said to be still sinking. There were many allegations of corruption during its construction, something not unknown in the Rome of today, and this, combined with its appearance, gave rise to its nickname of the Palazzaccio or Ugly Palace. 
  • Ponte Sant'Angelo. This is a footbridge connecting Castel Sant'Angelo with the other side of the Tiber. It is a Roman bridge completed in 134 AD by Hadrian, to give access to his newly constructed mausoleum. Pilgrims used this bridge to reach St Peter's Basilica, hence it was earlier known as the "bridge of Saint Peter". In the seventh century the castle and the bridge took on the name Sant'Angelo, when it is said that an angel appeared on the roof of the castle to announce the end of a plague. The statues of ten angels on the bridge reflect its name. 

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