A Definitive Guide to Visiting Italy’s Vatican City

Get the best out of your trip to one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations.

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Vatican City

Some Background Knowledge to Start

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy is the Vatican City, a walled state within the city of Rome. Most people don’t know that it’s a sovereign city-state, which means that it makes its own rules and has its own governing system independent to that of Italy. Formed in 1929, it is the smallest independent state in the whole world, taking up only a little over 100 acres. The Vatican City houses the official residence of the Pope and it is visited by millions of people each year.

St. Peter’s Square
You can enter the Vatican City through the famous St. Peter’s square. This square is characterized by great Baroque architecture from the 1600s, which includes symbols of the church embracing its people in its arms.

The Basilica
Also in St. Peter’s square is St. Peter’s Basilica, the most notable building in the Vatican City. This church’s dome can be seen for miles around Rome and is said to be the largest building in the Christian church, seating around 60,000 people. It is noted for being the burial site of the first Bishop of Rome, St. Peter, who is said to be the founding father of the Catholic Church. The discovery of his tomb was announced in 1950 after a decade of archeological research. All subsequent popes since also been buried there, the most recent being Pope John Paul II in April 2005.

At the entrance of the Basilica are statues of Christ, St. John the Baptist and 11 of the 12 apostles. You can enter the Basilica for free if you are properly dressed with your shoulders, knees and toes covered. If you’re counting on attending a mass at the Basilica, be sure to go on a Sunday.

The Museums

The Vatican City museums are also among the largest in the world, with over 1400 rooms and galleries that showcase 3000 years worth of art. The Sistine Chapel is amongst its most famous, and is known for being the private chapel the catholic cardinals go to when electing a new pope.

Guided Tours
So what is the best way to see all the sights the Vatican City has to offer? There’s an enormous array of guided tours available that can last for different periods of time where desired. Guided tours are offered for most of the places of interest in the Vatican City, and are a good idea to ensure that you don’t miss a thing at one of the best spots in your Italian vacation.