Last Updated: 9th Mar 2014
Capital: Vatican City
Language: No Official Language – Italian widely spoken
Visas: Travel Visa Information
Officially recognized as the smallest country in the world, the Vatican City, (also known as the Holy See) is in the heart of Rome, Italy, and is most well known for being home to St Peter’s Basilica, the famous roof of the Sistine Chapel, the Pope and his Swiss Guard.
Very much a separate country from Italy, the Vatican has its own flag, post offices, radio and even its own Vatican website.
Religious pilgrims from all over the world revel in one of the Christian worlds most holy places while others always revel in the opportunity to perhaps attend a mass or blessing in the Square and perhaps see the pope with their own eyes.
The Vatican is an absolute must for art lovers and well as religious pilgrims alike who come to spend time in the very heart of the Catholic Church while rosary beads and other religious artifacts abound for the faithful.
Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
Perhaps the biggest draw card for the Vatican is the Vatican Museums and what is easily one of the greatest collections of art work anywhere in the world. The Vatican Museums are split into 13 separate museums with access to each individual museum varying from day to day. The most popular and famous parts of the museums are generally open most days however.
The biggest highlight of the Museums is the Sistine Chapel, the Popes private chapel with its roof painted by renaissance superstar, Michelangelo. The walls of the chapel are also covered in work by other renascence masters while Michelangelo later returned to paint the amazing and somewhat cynically almost coded ‘Last Judgment’ behind the altar. The Chapel is also the traditional venue for the election of new Popes.
The Sistine Chapel is the last stop on a visit to the museums but you should also take time to absorb the simply incredible and fascinating ancient artifacts and art work as you make your way thought the museum.
St Peters Basilica and Square
At heart of the Vatican is the biggest (and arguably most famous) Catholic Church in the world – the simply breathtaking St Peters Basilica. Regardless of your religious orientation it is almost impossible not to be impressed by the sheer size, grandeur and beauty of this spectacular building.
Entry is free and as such is one of the ‘must do’s’ while in Rome. The Basilica is home to Michelangelo’s beautiful Pieta sculpture, the tombs of many of the great popes and some awesome mosaics.
Also free, you can visit the crypt of the Basilica to visit the tombs of many more popes, including that of the great John Paul II and to see the original foundations, laid over 1600 years ago. Another popular visit at the Basilica is to climb the dome (Italian: cupola) for fantastic views down into the in the Basilica as well as over the entire Vatican and city of Rome.
St Peter ‘Square’ is in fact a huge oval area in front of the Basilica and is the gathering place for Catholic masses, blessings (usually held on Wednesdays and Sundays respectively if the Pope is in residence) and religious occasions and services.
The Square, like the Basilica is simply huge and is presided over by the Popes private offices and statues of over 100 saints.