Vatican City Travel Guide
Known for being the heart of every Roman Catholic pilgrimage and the seat of the Catholic Church, the Vatican City (also known as the Holy See) is a sovereign state that is located inside the other, bigger city of Rome. It is comprised of an area that is a mere 110 acres, most of which are off-limits to the public, and it is patrolled by the Pontifical Swiss Guard, or “Helvetians”. Due to its size, it is easy for tourists to explore all of the accessible sections of the Holy See on foot in a single day. Despite the small acreage, however, The Vatican is filled to the brim with sights and attractions that continue to draw in not only pilgrims, but art and architecture enthusiasts from all over the world.
Within the walls of this tiny country can be found the Sistine Chapel which, by itself, is a prime example of classical architecture and it is definitely worth one’s admiration. More importantly, though, it also serves as the home to two of Michelangelo’s most important works of art, The Creation of Adam, and The Last Judgement. Besides these two famous frescoes, all of the walls and ceilings of the chapel are also adorned with paintings by other renaissance masters such as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio , Rosselli, Hendrick van den Broeck, and Matteo da Lecce. After the Sistine Chapel, there is also St. Peter’s Basilica that – other than being said to shelter the remains of the first pope, Saint Peter – is also filled with other world-renowned and priceless pieces of art. This includes another Michelangelo masterpiece, the sculpture known as The Pietà.
There are also the Vatican Museums where even more works of art from famous artists as well as from the Roman and Etruscan eras are kept and preserved. On top of various paintings and sculptures, they also carry a collection of old manuscripts and historical Papal letters, as well as other types of religious art and artifacts.
After touring the museums and chapels, one can then stop by another world-renowned location, the beautiful St. Peter’s Square, with its Tuscan colonnades and the famous Egyptian Obelisk right at its center. Go there on a Sunday or on a Catholic holiday, and you might even be able to catch the Pope deliver mass from the Basilica which overlooks the Square. Be warned, however, that should you drop by on one of these days, expect the crowd to be particularly packed.
When visiting the Vatican, here are several important things to keep in mind:
Passports aren’t required to enter the Vatican, but you will have to pass through scanners and bag inspections. Be ready to queue.
Remember that it is a religious site, so carefully pick what to wear. Avoid sleeveless tops and flip-flops, cover your shoulders, and don’t wear very short pants. Guards and other officials are allowed to turn away visitors they deem to be dressed inappropriately.
While most places allow visitors to take photographs, some don’t, so take careful note of signs around the establishment or consult with a guide. There are also places where flash photography is not allowed, and visitors are expected to follow this rule because the flash from cameras can degrade the artwork on display over time.
There are a number of places within Vatican City where one can sit down and have meals at, with menus that can accommodate everyone, from the budget traveler to the big spenders. However, refreshments are about all you should expect, as there are no lodgings available in this area, and there are also no modes of transport within the Holy See.
Just remember these simple rules, and you should be able to enjoy the beauty and culture that the city has to offer without any hassles.