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Vatican City A-Z
Citta del Vaticano, the Vatican City, might only have about 1,000 total residents and only encompass about 110 acres of total space, but the history of this small nation-state is extremely complex.
It has a multi-million dollar budget and to fully understand the workings of Citta del Vaticano requires an understanding of religion at some core level. Millions come to visit every year to do more that just attend mass or catch a glimpse of the Pope.
Are you coming to the Vatican City in the near future? Then let’s explore the hidden world of this capital of the Roman Catholic Church together to make this the trip of a lifetime! One word of caution: there are many areas within Citta del Vaticano that do not allow bare knees or shoulders to be displayed. If you’re wearing shorts or a sleeveless shirt, you may just find yourself escorted out of the City by a guard or two.
First Stop: The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is the home of many papal activities. It’s name actually comes from Pope Sixtus IV who commissioned the chapel’s restoration in the late 15th century. The Papal Conclave meets here when necessary to choose a new pope. The Pope’s residence is also on the grounds of the chapel. Most people come here to see the magnificent ceiling that Michelangelo painted nearly five centuries ago because this one artistic effort forever changed the course of the art world. You can’t miss it!
You also shouldn’t just visit the Sistine Chapel to look upwards. During the restoration process in the 15th century, a number of Renaissance painters were commissioned to create works of art for the interior of the chapel. There are some very famous names amongst the list of artists, including:
- Sandro Botticelli,
- Pietro Perugino,
- Domenico Ghirlandaio, and
- Cosimo Roselli.
Of particular note are two series of frescos entitled The Life of Moses and The Life of Christ. Michelangelo also created the fresco at the altar of the chapel, a piece that is famously title The Last Judgment.
Climb To the Top of St. Peter’s Basilica
Did you know that St. Peter’s Basilica is the tallest church in the world? If you could get to the top of the Basilica, you’d be guaranteed a magnificent view of Citta del Vaticano, wouldn’t you? If you don’t mind putting in the work to climb to the top, then you’ll be in for a treat because it can be done!
Many people choose to access the roof by elevator, but there are more spectacular views to be had. There is an interior stairwell of 170 steps that will lead you up to the base of the dome for a great look at the artistry from an up close and personal standpoint. Don’t stop there, however, because the real views come after you make your way up to the balcony of the lantern. It’s a one-way journey of over 300 steps that will give you a workout, but one that’s incredibly worth the work.
Explore Underground on the Scavi Tour
Did you know that archaeologists are excavating underneath St. Peter’s Basilica? Most people know that there is a necropolis underneath the Basilica, but they don’t know that you can actually tour the various mausoleums that lie beneath. That’s because tours through the necropolis are extremely limited to just 200 or so people per day. You’ll need to reserve a spot at least one month in advance to make sure you’ve got a spot.
A tip for families: the Roman Catholic Church does not allow anyone under the age of 15 on this tour. There are no exceptions to this rule. You’ll also want to keep any backpacks or handbags someplace safe for this tour because there isn’t much room to navigate on your own, much less with a cumbersome bag.
Pictures aren’t allowed on this tour either, but you will get a fascinating glimpse at the history of the families who helped to make Rome the success it is today. You’ll also reach the area where the Church believes that Peter’s remains are kept. Work is ongoing throughout the subterranean tunnels and the passageways are very tight and narrow, so for those that struggle with claustrophobia, you may wish to take a deep breath before continuing!
Take a Full Day To Explore the Vatican Museum
Whether you agree with the policies of the Roman Catholic Church or not, there is no denying that they have been in existence for a very, very long time and have amassed quite a collection of artwork and treasures through the wealth that they have traditionally had over time. In the Vatican Museum, you’ll see many of classical works of art that you just won’t find anywhere else. Where else, for example, could you find a Raphael Room?
You’ll also find an incredible room of ancient maps in the Vatican Museum that will transport you back into time. Don’t let all of your attention stay on the maps that cover the walls – make sure to look up in that room. We won’t spoil the surprise for you! There’s also a large collection of ancient Egyptian works and the “New Wing” contains sculptures that date all the way back to the 1st century.
Over the course of a day of touring the Vatican Museum, you can expect to walk several miles [really!] so be sure to wear some comfortable shoes. You may also consider spending more than one day in the museum to fully realize the impact that these works of art have on the soul. Make sure you arrive early because this museum is incredibly popular and you’ll wait a minimum of 60 minutes to get in the doors if you arrive mid-day.
Are You Ready To Visit Citta del Vaticano?
The Vatican City might only be 110 acres in size, but it has a world of activities that will touch your mind, body, and soul in a unique way. Make reservations in advance so that you can experience these hidden treasures that not every visitor gets the chance to enjoy! From the depths of the Basilica to the very top, Citta del Vaticano is just waiting for you to come explore it. Are you ready to heed that call?