There was a post recently about the perfect Sunday that started me thinking about all the other really good days I had experienced but during the week, usually on holiday. We tend to be quite predictable in our choice of destination, often Italy usually Venice, or France, we love Paris. There are good practical reasons for our choices, neither my wife or I had been to Italy when we got together and Venice was our first holiday as a couple. It’s one of those places that it’s easy to dismiss, if you’ve stood in Piazza San Marco, admired the frescos and mosaics in the cathedral, viewed the network of islands for the top of the campanile and crossed the Rialto bridge what more is there? Rather a lot if you look. Venice is a labyrinth of narrow alleyways that open out on to small squares hidden from view and away from the tourist “must see” areas it is a quiet and beautiful place to explore. But I digress, Venice is for another day, I want to tell you about another beautiful city in Italy.
One of my most memorable days took place in Rome. We had been in the city for couple of days and were beginning to find our way around. To celebrate my 48th birthday we decided to do something different, something that would remain a highlight of our visit years later. We decided to climb to the very top of St Peter’s basilica. This expedition entails ascending several flights of stairs just to reach the flat roof where the statues are that you can see in all the pictures on television or on a postcard. To reach the apex of the dome you must venture inside and continue via a narrow spiral staircase that follows the contour of the dome as it winds its way to the highest point where you emerge to what must be one of the most spectacular views in all of Rome. It is simply breathtaking, not unlike the ascent which is definitely not for those with breathing problems or any form of heart disease. It is a long claustrophobic and strenuous climb but then I am not someone who frequents the gym.
Having achieved this feat taken a few photographs and marvelled at the panorama laid out before us we then descended by an equally narrow and long staircase to emerge back in to the sunlight of the Vatican square. To complete our visit we queued to see the wonderful work of Michelangelo, the ceiling in the Sistine chapel, it is every bit as magnificent as you would expect. To describe it as painted does not convey the splendour of his work, although the chapel is actually quite small it is in it’s own way equally as breathtaking as our view from the dome. After such a morning there was only one thing to do, go directly to a cafe and have a really good lunch.
I loved Rome and all its treasures and spending my birthday there was the high point of the year.