The Vatican Dome

The alarm blares at 7:00 AM.I snooze it. The alarm blares at 7:10 AM. I snooze it. The final alarm blares at 7:15 AM, waking me and my roommate up.I can tell she is pissed; Tuesdays are the days she gets to sleep in. I stumble around looking for my glasses. I can’t find them on my bedside table,so I stumble to the bathroom (further angering my roommate). The shower has no water pressure or heat today and I kick myself for not showering last night. Living in a city with so many ancient monuments is amazing, but why do the pipes have to be ancient? I get a message from some classmates; they are meeting for coffee. I can’t even see yet(still looking for my glasses), how are they already out of their apartments? We’re meeting at St Peter’s in the Vatican in 30 minutes. As early as it is, I can’t get over the fact that I’m waking up in Rome and walking to the Vatican for a class. It makes waking up early admissible. I walk out into the streets just as the sun starts to rise. Italy in the morning is beautiful. The supermarket next to my front door is already open; I say good morning and grab an apple. I live 2 blocks away from the Vatican, but the misty morning is so nice I wish I could walk for longer.I see someone rollerblading. How they haven’t wiped out on the bumpy and lopsided cobblestone is beyond me.I see my classmates. We exchange small talk while waiting for our teacher; mostly we complain about how early it is, but I secretly love it. The tourists are enjoying their hotel beds and breakfasts while we get Michelangelo’s masterpiece all to ourselves.We are the only ones in line and after a quick security check, webegintoascendthe first flight of stairs. A classmate gives us aquickintroduction to the Michelangelo dome. After what seems like 20 flights of stairs, we make it to the halfway point. We are eye-level with the dome. The mosaics are at least 8’ wide and the people at the floor of the transept are the size of ants. I’m in awe. This church is so much bigger than one can fathom. The size isn’t the only thing that causes my sense of awe, this was built by the hands of men, the hands of men without power tools. So many stairs -578 to be exact. There are only 5 students in the class, and we are all trying topretend we are not out of breath. An utterly vertical, spiral staircase two feet wide with no end in sight gives me a wave of claustrophobia. Fresh air washes over me and the most spectacular view of the Eternal City stops me in my tracks.

The cool, morning air wipes the memory of 578 stairs off my forehead. The mist is starting to dissipate and every architectural monument we’ve learned about for the past four years is in sight. There are people that never see one architectural wonder and I get to see hundreds in once glance.So many cellphones taking pictures. I hate the touristthat come to monuments and art galleries just to look at things though a camera.Here we are, standing on top of the Eternal City, and they’re corrupting the pure magnificence of this view with a crummy iPhone. It’s infuriating. After a much too short amount of time for the effort put into getting to the top, we walk down the 578 steps and start the rest of our day. I live in Rome, where I can wake before the sun and see the world,and then grab lunch. I never want to leave.

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