In the church-heavy city of Rome, St Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro) in Vatican City outshines them all. The world's largest church is an opulent spectacle of religious architecture with origins dating back to 349AD when Emperor Constantine commissioned a church over the tomb of St Peter, the first Pope, before it was demolished and replaced with the current incarnation built between 1503 and 1626.
Five of Italy's most recognised artists, Bramante, Raphael, Peruzzi, Antonio Sangallo the Younger and Michelangelo, laboured on the construction of the new St Peter's Basilica. The result of the 123-year project is the monumental church, which clocks in at 193m in length, 42m wide and is topped by a 132.5m-high dome. The exterior Renaissance architectural style is complemented by the sumptuous Baroque interiors. Main features of the façade include the Loggia delle Benedizioni (Benediction Loggia) where newly elected Popes are announced and where the pontiffs deliver blessing on religiously significant dates. The bronze doors date back to the original basilica and show scenes from the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul.
Within the edifice, there's a multitude of art including Michelangelo's 'Pieta' sculpture near the central nave. Pietro da Cortona contributed the Baroque Holy Trinity fresco in the Cappella del Santissimo Sacramento while Bernini carved the angel statues. Bernini also designed the huge bronze canopy over the papal altar as well as the statues around the canopy and the throne of St Peter. It is also possible to climb up into the dome for views of the basilica interior as a whole. It's €7 to take the lift up to the terrace level and climb 320 steps to access the dome's gallery or €5 to take the stairs (551 steps). You can also follow the narrow, winding staircase up to the lantern at the top of the dome for a view across Rome and surrounds.
Entry to St Peter's Basilica is free, but dress modestly by covering shoulders and legs to gain admission. To visit, take buses 32 or 81 to Risorgimento station. From here, it's an 11-minute walk down Via di Porta Angelica into Largo del Colonnato and Largo degli Alicorni and into Vatican City.