Using Jet Lag to Soak Up St Peter’s Basilica

by Jessica on February 22, 2008

Jet lag is an inevitable part of traveling overseas, but rather than a negative to your trip, you can use it to your advantage.  If you are traveling from the states to Europe, you can expect that you will be up early, sometimes very early on the first morning of your trip.
On our first morning in Rome, Gary and I both awoke around 2:30 am.  We both tried to go back to sleep, tossing and turning in the little bed, but after going to bed around 6:00 the night before our bodies were ready to be up.  We holed up in the little bathroom, and read our guide book for about an hour before we heard the boys stirring. 

Anticipating our early rising, we had planned to go to the Vatican to beat the lines. Lines at St Peter’s Basilica can be up to 2 hours, so we were keen on being at the front of the line.  By the time we had eaten breakfast and traveled by subway to Vatican City, it was 6:30 am.  St. Peter’s Basilica opens at 7:00 am, so we had about 30 minutes to leisurely explore the courtyard.  The sunrise cast a pink glow over the Basilica, as Gary enjoyed taking pictures of the exterior.  We were the only people in the area except for groups of nuns that hurried across the courtyard from time to time.
At 7:00 am, we entered the Basilica, not even needing to stand in line or pass through security.  Inside, clergy were conducting mass in a variety of different languages with groups of people gathered around.  The atmosphere in the Basilica was holy and reverent, and it struck me that we had afforded ourselves a very unique opportunity.  Later in the day, as the tourists thronged in the doors, St. Peter’s Basilica would begin to look more like a tourist attraction or a museum.  But at this early hour, with the prayers and Scripture reading, we were able to absorb St Peter’s as it was truly intended: a sanctuary.
We turned quickly towards Michelangelo’s Pieta, where I was able to admire the statue from every angle at my leisure.  The boys took a minute to rub the toe of St Peter’s statue that has been rubbed by likely millions of pilgrims and tourists alike.  We continued to the center of the Basilica and stood amazed at the monstrous baldaccino that marks the grave of St. Peter beneath.
It is has be somewhat of a mini miracle when two little boys are so willing to be silent.  Even the echoing sounds of our footsteps seemed to be too noisy in the hallowed space, so the boys tiptoed from one part of the basilica to the other.  As we rounded the corner, we heard familiar words as a service was presented in English.  I knelt down on the ground so that I could be on the same level as the boys and explain the service.  I am not now, nor have I ever been Catholic, and although I am sure that I did not completely explain everything properly, I am sure that we saw the best St. Peter’s had to offer us.

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