One of the must-dos in Rome is a visit to the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica – that pretty much goes without saying. While we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to all three of these sites, we were fortunate to add a fourth intriguing historical site to our itinerary – a visit to the original Bramante Staircase.

The Staircase is one of those hidden gems of Rome, which a lot of travelers don’t hear about, as it is not open to the general public. You have to take a paid tour to get to see this marvel of Renaissance architecture. Do your research on the cost of tours, as prices do vary.

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The view downward from the top of the Bramante Staircase

The Bramante Staircase was commissioned by Pope Julius II and built in 1505. Its purpose was for the Pope to be able to enter his private residence without exiting his carriage. Apparently, he had struggled to ascend the many flights of stairs whilst wearing his heavy papal vestments, so the ramp-like staircase was ordered. The structure connects the Belvedere Palace of Pope Innocent VIII to the city of Rome outside, and stands within the square tower of that building.

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Looking up from near the top of the Bramante Staircase

Designed by Donato Bramante, an innovative and renowned architect of the time, the staircase comprises a double-helix design, with two intertwining staircases. The idea was to allow both people and pack animals to ascend and descend without interruption. Horses and mules were used to carry large and heavy items into the papal palaces.

The staircase features giant Doric columns and a beautiful herringbone paving pattern of time-worn bricks. As we walked up the staircase, it was amazing to think about the thousands of people and animals who had trodden the path in the 500 years before our visit.

When we reached the top, we were treated to rather spectacular views of Rome. We spent quite a bit of time up there, just taking it all in and enjoying the various aspects of this beautiful city.

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View of Rome from the top of the Bramante Staircase

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Another aspect of the view from the top of the staircase. In this pic, you can see the row of white statues which adorn the top of the semi-circular buildings either side of St Peters Square.

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View of Rome with the twin statues on top of the Vittorio Emanuele monument in the distance (left side).

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View of Rome

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Vatican carpark and the Galea Fountain, which features a galleon as its centrepiece

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Historical photo of the staircase, looking upward, and a drawing of the innovative design

The original Bramante Staircase was the inspiration for the newer spiral staircase which was built in 1932, and is now used as the exit from the Vatican.

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The modern Bramante Staircase at the Vatican Museum. Photo credit: Mogul, Flickr

It was also believed to be the inspiration for the Pozzo di San Patrizio (St Patrick’s Well), which also features a double-helix staircase, and is located in Orvieto in Umbria, central Italy.

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Inside Pozzo di San Patrizio in Orvieto. Photo Credit: Andrea Federighi, Flickr

Have you been to the Vatican? Did you see the Bramante Staircase? 

The Besties Do Italy series details how Seize The Day Project’s Lyndall and her long time best friend Jane ventured to Italy to celebrate a significant birthday – sans husbands and children. Shhh, don’t tell anyone they’ve gone!  Read more posts in this fascinating series here: 

Visiting Rome’s gorgeous Piazza Navona –  Eternal Rome: I only just met you, but I think I love you – Cooking up an Italian storm in Roma – Finding the best gelato in Italy – Rome’s Campo di Fiori

Linking up with A Brit & A Southerner for #WeekendWanderlust i-djHdXJR-M

Also linking up with Albom Adventures for #WkendTravelInspiration  weekend-travel-inspiration-600x600