There’s an old saying: don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today. I learned the sad effect of not heeding this sage advice when, on my first visit to Rome, I missed out on the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica and Michelangelo’s famous Pieta.
This is how it happened: Jim and I ended a multi-month trip with seven days in Rome. We immediately fell in love with the city, its incredible beauty, and its thousands of years of history. The day we arrived, we went for a walk exploring and ended up in the Vatican.
The large oval Piazza San Pietro was mostly empty in the early evening, but a long-ish line snaked around the perimeter of columns to enter into St. Peter’s Basilica. The line looked like it was moving pretty quickly, but we were tired and decided to return later when we would have more time and be more fresh. We were going to be here for six more days after all, which seemed like plenty of time.
After doing a little research, we decided we would see the interior of St. Peter’sBasilica the same day we had tickets for the Vatican Museum (famous for the Sistine Chapel ceiling and School of Athens frescoes, among countless priceless artworks and religious artifacts). Even better, we read in a guidebook that we could skip the line going into St. Peter’s Basilica’s altogether by entering it directly from inside the Vatican Museum.
We had morning tickets to the Vatican Museum on our last full day in Rome. In the meantime we filled our days with Roman antiquities like the Colosseum, day trips, and other Renaissance and Baroque churches and public squares. And we made the most of it while eagerly anticipating our final day in Rome and the crown jewel of Renaissance art and architecture: The Vatican.
On our last day arrived we visited the museum. Everything was going great until we were ready to leave. We searched for the exit we had read about that would lead us directly into St. Peter’s Basilica’s back entrance. But when we found the door, it was blocked off.
We didn’t grasp the meaning of the blocked exit until we left the Vatican Museum and walked all the way around the long Vatican Wall back to the front of Piazza San Pietro.
The square was swarming with thousands of Catholic youths excitedly anticipating some sort of papal presentation. The Basilica was closed for the duration of the day.
After saving up for years, traveling for months, and spending seven whole days in Rome, we never did see the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica or Michelangelo’s Pieta. It had been one of my top ten “musts” of the entire trip, and we missed it.
We missed it when we could have easily seen it that first night when we arrived.
In the end, we brushed it off with the idea that we’ll see it next time we’re in Rome, which we will. And this past summer I returned to Rome, this time with Jim’s sister, and I finally got to see it.
Jim, on the other hand is still waiting for his chance.
From this experience, we’ve learned the importance of not postponing our “must-sees” or “must-dos.” But rather, we’ve learned that we must prioritize and do the “musts” first. You’ll never know when a site will close for a holiday, a strike, or a pope speaking to thousands of German youths.
— Laura Rowley