A view from the top: St Peter’s Basilica – Vatican City

Did you know Vatican City is the smallest country in the world? Pretty cool, huh? It’s not just a city in the middle of Italy, it is an actual independent city-state, where it issues its own stamps and passports and everything. So when in Rome… you can’t really pass up an opportunity to go see it for yourself! My favourite part of Vatican City was climbing the dome of St Peter’s Basilica to get some spectacular views over St Peter’s Square and Rome.

view from the top of St Peter's Basilica

Because the Vatican City is a religious site, the dress code must be respected – no shorts, bare shoulders or short skirts. For us visiting in November, this wasn’t a problem as it was pretty chilly. We also found the queues in November perfectly fine, it took us around half an hour to get through security checks. Again, this might be somewhat more lengthy during summer.

There are two ways to climb the dome – climb all the way by foot (551 steps) or go part way in the lift and climb the rest (320 steps). There is a slight price difference, obviously climbing by foot is slightly cheaper.

People standing at the highest point of the climb at the top of the dome (St Peter's Basilica)
People standing at the highest point of the climb at the top of the dome

Pros – The view! The climb is quite an experience but it’s worth it when you reach the top, even just for bragging rights and a quick instagram snap.

Cons – 551 steps is A LONG WAY! My dad didn’t even bother coming up the dome with us as he hates heights but to be honest, I think he might have found the climb too much of a challenge. In addition to the number of steps there are also parts that are very narrow, especially where you’re climbing inside the curve of the dome.

View inside the Basilica from the interior balcony - St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City.
View inside the Basilica from the interior balcony

Surprises – After the initial climb (or where I believe the lift may take you to) you reach the interior balcony where you are still inside the dome and can look down on the people visiting inside St Peter’s. At first we were a bit like, is this it?! But then we realised you can climb a little further to get those spectacular views from outside and over the square. Oh and there’s a cafe and shop on a terrace part way up too.

Verdict – When in Rome… make this a priority.


If you liked this then you might enjoy the view from Campanile di San Marco in Venice or any of my other View from the Top posts.

The Quirky Cat Sanctuary of Rome

The quirky cat sanctuary of Rome

Most people who know me will know that I’m an aspiring Crazy Cat Lady – hey even my Secret Santa gift at the office Christmas party was a crazy cat lady mug! So when I heard about the quirky cat sanctuary of Rome, I knew I had to pay a visit.

Cute cat

Just 5 minutes walk away from the Pantheon is the Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary, home to around 150 cats who live in the ancient ruins. The ruins themselves are amongst the oldest in Rome (400-300BC) and are thought to be the place in which Julius Caesar was assassinated. As for the cats, they are free to wander the ruins and are very well cared for by a team of volunteers.

These Roman ruins are home to a cat sanctuary, believe it or not!

Visitors are welcome to visit from noon every day but you can’t just wander around the ruins, you can view from the street above or if you walk down the steps on the corner of Via Florida and Via di Torre Argentina you can visit the little gift shop they have down there.

Cats being cats

As well as the gift shop, there is also an indoor section of the sanctuary. This is mostly for cats that need to be indoors for health reasons, but of course other cats wander in and out of the shop part because cats pretty much do what they want don’t they?

Cat shop at Roman Cat Sanctuary

The friendly volunteer who was minding the sanctuary on the day I visited showed me and my mum into the part of the indoor bit of the sanctuary that was locked (presumably to stop cats who didn’t need to be in there getting in there). I petted a random cat who was perched on a scratching post and then he/she climbed onto me and made me have cuddles!!! It was so cute. But sadly, all good things must come to an end but the cat was having none of it.

Visiting the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in Rome

Eventually I did break free but I did feel guilty for cutting short our cuddles. However I did buy a calendar from the shop as the money goes straight back in to feeding and caring for the cats.

Torre Argentina is a wonderful place for a short visit and I would definitely recommend it to all animal lovers! For more information take a look at the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary website.

The quirky cat sanctuary of Rome

For more feline inspired blog posts take a look at my photos of cats around the world or read about that time I visited a cat cafe in Tokyo.

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The quirky cat sanctuary of Rome - something not to be missed for all those crazy cat folk out there!

Alphabet Dating - I is for Italy

Alphabet Dating – I is for Italy

November was the month for our letter ‘I’ alphabet date. November was also the month of my Dad’s 60th birthday, where we decided to surprise him by taking him to Rome for 4 nights with my mum.

So Alphabet Dating letter ‘I’ became ‘I for Italy’, slight cheat but hey ho, when in Rome (see what I did there?).

I hadn’t been on holiday with my parents for 10 years but things went pretty smoothly, infact I think they were glad of our company as my husband became Human Sat Nav and I became Event Co-ordinator.

When in Rome

We visited all the typical tourist attractions – Vatican City, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum etc. Plus I tricked my Dad into visiting an amazing Cat Sanctuary in the ruins.

The joke of our trip occurred on our last day when my mum suggested that after lunch we head to Piazza Navona, which for the fact geeks out there was built over the 1st Century AD Stadio di Domiziano and hosted the city’s main market.

According to Lonely Planet it is nowadays “Central Rome’s elegant showcase square”.

According to my mum “There’s nothing there, but it’s all going on”.

Lonely Planet call it "Central Rome's elegant showcase square". My mum says "There's nothing there, but it's all going on". Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy. #Inspiring #Travel #Quote

When we got to Piazza Navona however, we realised that it really WAS all going on. There were cameras rigged up, important looking people busying about, crowds of gawkers and part of the square had been cordoned off. We later found out, through the brilliance of twitter, that they were filming a Hollywood movie that day! The film is called American Assassin and stars Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton. And if you see a girl in a yellow coat hovering about in the background, then that will be yours truly!

Making a movie in Rome

The filming of 'American Assassin' in Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy.

We had a wonderful time in Rome, sadly it was too cold to eat as much gelato as I might have liked but otherwise November was a good time to visit as the crowds were alot less (we queued for 30 minutes to get into the Vatican unlike the 3 hours we could have spent if we had gone earlier in the year).

Stay tuned for more Rome posts coming soon and keep an eye on my instagram for a few of my pics!

Arrivederci Roma!

The vibrant island of Burano – Weekly photo challenge

According to its official website, Burano is often named among the top 10 most colourful places in the world. Having been there myself, I knew it would be the perfect contribution to this weeks WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme – VIBRANT.

Burano is an island that lies in the Venetian Lagoon and is easily visited on a day trip by boat from Venice itself. Often these trips include the islands of Murano and Torcello too, but Burano was my favourite.

The vibrant island of Burano is mostly famous for two things – lacemaking and the coloured houses that line its canals. The coloured houses that inspire many photographers and tourists to get snap happy.

This is one of my favourite shots from my visit.

The vibrant island of Burano in the Venetian Lagoon, Italy.

If you like this picture, why not follow me on instagram or check out some of my other photo challenges.

Venice at sunrise – Weekly photo challenge: Early bird

I love a weekend summer morning. A bright, fresh, brand new day ahead of me gives me a sense of optimism and freedom – especially if I have no plans for the day. Ironically, I am not really “a morning person” and as much as I love a sunny morning, I love my bed and my weekend lie-in more. However, sometimes we have no choice but to get up before sunrise and sometimes we are glad that we did.

After a long weekend in Venice, our departure was an early one, but this was one of those ‘drag yourself out of bed’ moments you can look back on and be grateful for. St Mark’s Square at sunrise is wonderfully peaceful and a complete contrast to the the square during the day, overcrowded with tourists.

st-marks-square-first-thing-in-the-morning

These photos were taken at approximately 5.30am, when there was just us, one or two early morning wanderers and the pigeons up and awake. Oh and not forgetting a bride, groom and photographer… although I wasn’t sure if they were genuine newlyweds or if they were actually fashion models. I didn’t like to ask, but either way they were avoiding potential photo-bombers.

venice-at-dawn

If you’re in Venice, try to take a walk at dawn. But shhh keep it to yourself otherwise everyone will be doing it!

venice-at-sunrise

For more Early Bird inspiration, check out this week’s photo challenge.