Vatican City is a walled enclave within the premises of Rome. The city covers a total area of 44 hectares and has a total population of 842 people, which makes it the smallest state in the world in terms of population and people. The city receives a large number of tourists every year, who visit it in order to meet the Pope and explore the churches.
The smallest state in the world in terms of population and area, the region is famous all over the world for being the seat of the Church. Some of the things to do in Vatican City include exploring the beautiful architecture of the place. It is recommended that you head to St. Peter’s Basilica, which is a church built in the 1500s and has a high altar, which is the spot where Peter was buried. You might not know this but the Vatican museums have some of the best masterpieces and sculptors from the Renaissance period, so make sure that you take a look. Other things to do in Vatican City include taking a tour of Scavi, which is basically a first century necropolis that is the place where St. Peter is said to be buried. Your trip to Vatican City is incomplete without seeing the Pope, so you can get the chance of seeing him on Wednesdays at 10.30 and on noon during Sundays. The guided tours for the city are for €32, which is something that you must experience.
The climate of the place can be classified as Mediterranean with hot summers and mild winters and it is located on a low hill that is 75 m above the sea level. Even though Vatican City is not a part of the European Union, it shares open borders with Italy and is accessible if you have a Schengen visa. Some of the recommended places to eat in the city are Castroni, Franchi, Gelarmony, Hoi Restaurant Rome, Insalata Ricca, Old Bridge, and the Siciliainbocca, whereas the recommended hotels are Angel Hotel, Armony Suites B&B, Best Western Spring House, Franklin Feel The Sound Hotel, Grand Hotel Gianicolo, Hotel Isa, Maison Vaticana, and the Vatican Station Rome. Make sure that you go and meet the Swiss guards as they are the smallest army in the world that was found in 1506 by the ‘warrior Pope’. Other points of interest that you must check out include St. Peter's Basilica, St. Peter's square, Vatican museums, Castel Sant'Angelo, and the Palazzo di Giustizia because you will be in awe of the beautiful architecture of these buildings and places.
Even if you don’t know about St. Peter’s Square, you will not be able to miss it when you’re in the Vatican. The piazza is one of the most famous in the world due to its location and importance and the beauty that is apparent. Also, while the name might suggest it is a typical square, the piazza is absolutely huge. Have you ever seen the Pope give Mass in the Vatican? That happens in St. Peter’s Square. The square has the space for more than 80,000 people at a time.
This is the premier place to view St. Peter’s Basilica. It would be more accurate to say that it feels like the St. Peter’s Basilica has you in its embrace, and the effect is intentional – the designer referred to the columns around the square as the arms of Mother Church. You will be amazed by all the beauty that surrounds you; this is definitely the place where you will find most of the tourists. Thousands of people come here, both for the architectural value, and also to be able to receive blessings from the Pope. It’s always better to go when you know there’s going to be a mass, however if you are most interested in the architecture and want to explore the square, go some other time when it isn’t full of people.
The Sistine Chapel is famous for its beautiful frescos. It is located right in the Apostolic Palace, which is the official residence of the Pope. It was constructed in 1483 and is visited by many religious people due to its importance. For everyone else, the main attraction here is the ceiling. The ceiling and frescoes in the Sistine Chapel are hard to describe in words; they are among the best pieces of art one can find in the world. They were also made by Michelangelo, and you can easily see why he is as revered as he is once you see his work here.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is talked about a lot in the art world, but the arresting influence it has on one is incomparable. It doesn’t matter how religious you are; the beauty of the work will have you standing there and having a religious experience. The work here is so great that even people who have zero interest in art will find it overwhelming. There is another fresco by Michelangelo in the chapel called The Last Judgment and it is equally as amazing. The Sistine Chapel is very popular with tourists, so it’s almost impossible to visit at a quiet time – there are no quiet times.
There are two staircases which are referred to as the ‘Bramante Staircase’. One is the original staircase designed by Bernante and built in 1505, which is not open to the public. The other staircase was designed by Giuseppe Momo and built in 1932; however, it is given the same name because it follows the structure as the original one. The staircase is a double helix; it was made on the Pope’s request. There was a need for the stair case to be without steps and animals also needed to be able to traverse it so that heavy loads and carriages could go up and down.
The solution by Bramante was ingenious – two staircases that are built in a helix-like structure between each other. The Bramance Staircase is the exit to the Vatican museums, which means that if you visit the museum, you will get to see the staircase as well. If you want to see the original staircase, that is also possible, however, you will have to be part of a special tour that explicitly includes the original staircase. To see the original, it is necessary for a guide to be present with you. If you are serious about historical sites then add such a tour to your list of things to do.
The museums within the walls of the Vatican are referred to as the Vatican Museums. There are a total of 54 galleries in the museums. The Vatican has collected numerous invaluable items of historical importance during its existence, and these museums are the best place to see this accumulated historical wealth. There is an interesting history behind the creation of the museums; they owe their existence to one marble sculpture- Laocoön and His Sons.
The marble structure was legendary due to the Natural History encyclopedia by Pliny, which was published in 79 AD. He described the marble structure and how amazing it was, and specified that it was in the court of Titus. The sculpture was then lost. In 1506, a farmer claimed that he had unearthed the sculpture from his vineyard. The Pope immediately sent two of his best to investigate the sculpture, one of whom was Michelangelo. On their recommendation, the sculpture was bought and put on display. From then on, the display was expanded to become the Vatican Museums of today. There are a number of other notable structures and pieces of art in the display of the museums. Also of note is the Bramante Staircase, the modern iteration of which forms the exit of the museums.
Considered as the tallest building in the Ancient Roman Empire, the Castel St. Angelo is one of the most remarkable places to visit in the Vatican City. It was built between 123 and 139 AD and was later used as a palace and fortress by the popes, providing centuries of Christian heritage for every visitor to the Vatican. The Castel of St. Angelo is a cylindrical building with a statue of an angel erected on the top after whom the castle is named.
It was initially built as a tomb of Hadrian, a Roman emperor, but was changed into a castle in the 14th century by Pope Nicholas III, who bridged the castle to St. Peter’s Basilica with the Passetto di Borgo corridor. The castle became a fortress, housing the residence of several popes, and during the Sack of Rome in the 16th century, it became a place of refuge for Pope Clement VII from the onslaught carried out by the Landsknechte of Charles V.
Castle St. Angelo was also used as a prison by the Papal state, one in which the famous philosopher and poet, Giordano Bruno, was imprisoned for six years. Benvenuto Cellini, a famous goldsmith and sculptor, is also reported to have been imprisoned here.
The Gardens of Vatican covers much of the Vatican Hill and are beautifully maintained and groomed. We will be honest with you, the gardens aren’t really the main point of visiting the Vatican. If you have limited time, we would recommend making sure you see the other sites in the Vatican and keep the gardens off your things to do list. However, if you have extra time in Rome, then we would definitely recommend visiting these gardens. Do note that these are private gardens and are not open to the public. They are open only for special tours.
The fact that the Gardens of Vatican are private means there aren’t a lot of visitors here. That leads to a perfectly peaceful atmosphere, and these gardens are a great place if you need to refresh your mind. The Pope’s private gardens are exquisitely beautiful. There are many sculptures and other designs spread throughout the parks. There are bus tours of the gardens and walking tours as well. The bus tours shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes, however the buses do not stop much. The walking tours take around 2 hours, and they will provide you ample time to appreciate the beauty of these gardens.