We thought that the sign said 3 euros for the elevator and 2 euros to climb the stairs. We paid the 3 euros and waited in line for the elevator.
(I think that these were the only tickets, other than bus or metro tickets, that we bought the whole time we were in Rome. Most everything in Rome – churches, art, piazzas, back alleys, Easter Mass, Via Crucis, the Natale di Roma event – were free.)
What we didn’t realize was that the elevator only took you up to the base of the dome – the platform/rooftop just behind the statues of Jesus and the Apostles that look out onto the Piazza. There were some nice views here. You could look down into the basilica of St. Peter’s, or up at the beautiful dome that Michelangelo was working on from 1546 until he died in 1564. It was not completed until 1626. I thought that Jesus and the apostles looked rather militant from the rear, armed with crosses and swords. We were able to walk right next to the mosaics that circle the Dome’s base. It looks like real gold to me.
Then we saw the little stairwell that led up and around the dome itself. Without thinking much about it, we got in line. There was no backing down once you got started. I had to really focus on not having a claustrophobic panic attack, the stairwell was so winding and narrow and slanted. The final climb had no rail, but a rope (!) with which to pull yourself up! We were rewarded with great views, a sense of accomplishment, and very wobbly legs.