I happily pulled a less-than-ideal-in-100-degree-weather black cardigan over my shoulders and gazed up 450 feet to the world famous dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Although I knew I would be sweating profusely within moments, I was still extremely excited to see the inside of the largest church on earth, something I’d been dying to see for a long time. My family was finally in Rome, the Eternal City, and I couldn’t be happier.
Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
My parents, brother, and I had arrived in Rome several days earlier, the fifth stop on our family’s first trip to Europe together. We took a taxi from the train station (much to my brother’s delight) to our wonderfully air-conditioned apartment at Casa Navona right across the street from one of the most vibrant and beautiful piazzas in Rome, Piazza Navona. Over the last few days, we had visited many major tourist sights in Rome: Palatine Hill, The Forum, The Colosseum, The Pantheon, and The Vatican Museum. But now we had finally arrived (with our guided tour, of course) at St. Peter’s Basilica, the ancient burial site of St. Peter and a modern Catholic church.
As our tour group marched up the steps of St. Peter’s, shielding our faces from the scorching afternoon sun, I noticed everyone around me also pulling sweaters on. In order to enter the basilica, shoulders must be covered. And as I was about to find out, knees must be covered also. I was at the front of the group, anxious to get the first peek inside.
As I approached the doorway, I heard someone yell “NO! TOO SHORT!” All of the sudden, a little, old Italian man came running up to me and sternly pointed at my dress, which I thought was actually pretty modest.
“YOU CAN’T GO IN! TOO SHORT!” I gasped and looked down. Sure enough, my dress didn’t cover my knees, but it was just shoulders that had to be covered, right? Apparently, knees have to be covered too. Who was this guy anyway, some kind of modesty police? I backed away from the basilica in shock.
The tour guide looked at my bare knees with a worried expression on her face. “Do you have anything else to cover your knees with?” she asked. I remembered a tip I’d read in our Rick Steves’ Rome guidebook — I could put a map over my knees. I grabbed a map of Rome from my bag and held it over my knees. But the guard shook his head. The rest of the group began to enter without me, and I sadly shrank back to the wall outside with my mom, who decided to stay with me. “Take pictures inside for us!” she yelled to my dad and brother. I was still too shocked and upset to speak.
Several minutes later, I got an idea. “What if I pulled down my spandex shorts so they cover my knees?” I asked my mom. We decided it might work, so I pulled the black shorts I always wear under dresses and skirts down to cover my knees. As we passed the guard, I saw him glance down at my knees, then back up at me with a bewildered expression. I calmly smiled and waddled into St. Peter’s.
The basilica was even more beautiful and ornate than I could’ve imagined, and even though I looked a little strange as I walked through, it was so worth it. Throughout our travels as a family, we’ve run into countless problems, but I’ve learned that sometimes all it takes is a little creativity to solve them.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.