Admire The Traditions Of The Swiss Guards At The Vatican
The Vaticans army and the Popes personal security team, the Swiss guards are something, unlike anything youve seen before.
From the 1500s onwards, the Swiss protected the Vatican and the Pope with their lethal weapons, the Halberd. Spear and ax in one, this weapon is still displayed with the guards on duty. Dressed in a seemingly mocking outfit, orange, and purple striped Renaissance attire, they fulfill mostly ceremonial duties but they are not to be messed with as they serve as the Popes bodyguards.
I dont advice to do anything illegal to up your chances of meeting a Swiss Guard, always follow the directions of the personnel on-site. Remember, the Swiss guards are also not a tourist attraction. But because they are so iconic and uniquely linked to the Vatican that I do recommend to admire their tradition and duty to protect the Vatican.
See The Pope In Vatican City
Ok, the first item on our list is actually not something you cannot do anywhere else, but as the Pope lives and works in the Vatican, the biggest chance and the greatest odds to see the Pope would be in Vatican City.
Your biggest chance to see the Pope, would be during one of the public sermons in St. Peters Square. You can easily get a free ticket to attend it. You need to download the request form online and send it by fax. Then youll receive a reservation and can show it to the Swiss guards to pick up your tickets. There is no assigned seating, first come first serve, so arrive on time.
Visit The Pantheon Romes Oldest Church
The Pantheon is a very interesting building in the sense that it was originally a Roman Temple built to worship the Roman Gods but eventually it was turned into a Catholic Church in the 7th Century.
This is perhaps Romes best preserved building since it never actually became ruins and instead it has been in constant use ever since its creation back in the first century AD. Today, you can enter and see the tombs of Italian painter Raphael and Italian Kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I.
Tip of Wonders #07: To take THE best photo of the Pantheons dome, I recommend you to place yourself in the center and actually lay down on the floor. Sure, people will stare but the final product is gonna make it worth it, my friends!!!
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Spend Half A Day Wandering Through The Vatican Museums
Together with St. Peters Basilica, they are the main reason why tourists from all over the world visit the Vatican State. The first part of this huge museum dates back to 1503 when Pope Giulio II offered his private collection to the city.
What to see?
- Sistine Chapel: it is the main attraction of the museum and it is famous for its frescoes and for being the room where the Popes election takes place. It takes its name from Pope Sisto IV that built it in 1481. Michelangelo took 4 years to paint it!
- Raffaellos Rooms: these rooms were decorated by Raffaello. Their names are Constantines Room, Eliodoros Room, Signatures Room and Fires Room.
- Pinecones Yard: it takes its name from a huge bronze pinecone located in a niche. It is really ancient and it was found in Agrippas baths. Another famous statue you can see here is The Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro.
- Apartment of Pio V: it is famous for the frescoes by Vasari.
- Gallery of the Geographic Maps: it is entirely decorated with frescoes representing geographic maps. It is also interesting to learn how geography was conceived in the Renaissance period.
- Apartment of Pope Borgia: Alessandro VI Borgia was one of the most controversial Popes in Italian history because of his declared nepotism and its many intrigues. His apartment was decorated by Pinturicchio.
Things To Do In Vatican City
The Vatican might be a small country in Europe but it has more exciting experiences than any other city in the world. After all, it is the headquarters of the Pope. Here are some of the best things to do in Vatican City.
1. Hang Around Saint Peters Square2. Wonder At Saint Peters Basilica3. Visit The Vatican Necropolis4. Meet The Pope6. Wander Around In The Vatican Gardens7. Take A Photo With A Swiss Guard8. Stop Over At The Castel SantAngelo9. Tour This Place At Night
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Gardens Of Vatican City
Closed to the public until as recently as 2014, the Popes private gardens take up more than half of the country, at 32 hectares.
The gardens encompass much of the central and western portions of Vatican City and have Medieval origins as orchards and vineyards for the Apostolic Palace, as well as an early medicinal garden for the 13th-century Pope Nicholas III.
These were remodelled at the start of the 16th century in the Italian Renaissance style, and there are now formal French and rambling English gardens, the latter complete with a pagoda.
The only way to see the gardens is on a tour, and its an experience not to be missed. As well as savouring this little oasis in a chaotic city, youll see lots of memorable curiosities.
Just to sum up theres the Medieval defensive walls, the Vaticans helicopter pad, a fragment of the Berlin Wall, specimen plants and trees from around the world, a 16th-century labyrinth, topiaries, fountains and a replica of Lourdes Grotto at the gardens highest point.
Roleplay As Maximus In Romes Colosseum
Come on, you know you WANT to re-enact Gladiators most iconic scene and shout ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?. Or am I the only crazy one?
Nevertheless, the Colossal Colosseum is Romes most iconic landmark by far and it shouldnt be missed at any cost. Be warned that summer is really hot in Rome so be sure to check outwhat to wear in Italy this summer.
Tip of Wonders #01: Want to skip the 2-3 hour line? Buy your Rome Colosseum Ticket Online and avoid queuing in the heat of the Italian sun! The entrance fee begins at 16 Euros for the basic entrance and goes up if you want to access the Underground and/or if you require an audio guide.
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Hear A Papal Address By The Pope Himself
Although you may think that the chances of seeing the Pope while visiting the Vatican City are rare, there are actually some opportunities to see the head of the Catholic Church while you are here and in fact, this is one of the best things to do in Vatican City.
If you are in the city-state on a Wednesday, you may want to consider attending the Papal address. This gathering takes place in St. Peterâs Square during the summer months. Here people gather to hear the Pope offer a blessing to those in attendance. The blessing is in Italian but it usually contains at least a few words of other languages peppered into it, including Latin, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and German.
There are also blessings extended to those who have passed away, or who are suffering from illnesses significant objects can also be blessed. Everyone is welcome to attend the address, but it is ticketed.
Tickets to the Wednesday address can be obtained in advance they are also free. But you should make sure to turn up early if you want a chance of getting a seat. Otherwise, you can actually book a guided tour of St. Peters Basilica which also includes the Papal audience here.
Overall itâs quite a unique opportunity to see the Pope in action he can be seen during other religious festivals such as Easter.
Get Spherical At The Sphere In Sphere At Vatican Museum
Of course, the Vatican Museum is on your list of things to do in the Vatican. Maybe it is even THE reason for your trip to Vatican City. But before you run to the Sistine Chapel, take the opportunity and admire the spectacular Sphere in Sphere sculpture in the interior garden of the Vatican Museum.
Youve probably seen this industrial, tormented orb on social media before, but you might not know it is called Sphere in Sphere. It is made by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro and he made many similar orbs and spheres. I made it my personal quest to find as many as possible .
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The Best Things To Do In Vatican City
There are many more things to do in Vatican City than youd imagine. The smallest state in the world, encapsulated as it is within the city of Rome, is home to an incredible range of attractions and you may wish to spend days there to see them all.
While there are no hotels within the Vatican where you can stay, you can definitely stay in Prati, one of the nicest neighborhoods in Rome, and cross the border to the Vatican any time you want to make the most of the many Vatican City attractions.
Curious to discover which are the unmissable things to do in Vatican City? Continue reading, as I will show you each and every of the Vatican City attractions you should not miss!
QUICK VATICAN CITY GUIDE
*5 BEST ATTRACTIONS: St. Peters Basilica Vatican Museums Sistine Chapel St. Peters Dome Vatican Gardens.
Stock Up On Religious Souvenirs At The Vatican
Another thing you can do in Vatican City is go shopping! No Prada or Gucci here, but you do find dozens, if not hundreds of religious paraphernalia shops. It doesnt matter if youre looking for life-size Maria statues or a rosary for your grandmother, they have it and they have it good!
Big, small, tacky or toned-down, crosses, rosaries, postcards of the Pope, and candles, lots and lots of candles.
Obviously, you can go shopping for religious items anywhere in the world, but nowhere have I seen such a broad selection and abundance of devote retail therapy as in the shops around the Vatican.
Bonus Tip: A Nativity Set from the Vatican makes for the perfect Christmas gift for people who love Italy.
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Be Part Of The Papal Audience
Regardless if youre a Roman Catholic or just a simple tourist roaming around the area, it would be a waste to visit Vatican and not be part of the papal audience. Join the Pope, Cardinals, and hundreds of people from around the world as they sing hymns, read homilies and pray for blessings. This usually happens in St. Peters Square or the Nervi Hall, according to what was scheduled at that time.
Suggested tour: Since this can be a pretty packed affair, its always best to get a guide to help you maneuver through the crowd easier.
Things Not To Missin Vatican City
Vatican City has many works of art and artifacts that beckon tourists from around the globe. Despite its small size, many of the most famous works of art in the world are housed here, making this a full-day adventure for all tourists of Italy. While most know that the Vatican is the central home for the Catholic Religion, many dont realize that it is its own governmental entity. A city center governed by the Pope, this residential and business center for the Catholic Church is located inside a 110-acre enclave in Rome. With a population of just over 800, it is also the smallest sovereign state in the world in terms of both size and population. Heres a look at the ten largest things this tiny city has to offer.
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Vatican: The Proud Home To Human Ingenuity
Unveil a priceless trove of iconic art and architecture as you wander around the City where every building has a story to tell. You will instantly fall in love with the ornate walls and centuries-old buildings lined up on the cobbled streets. Moreover, visitors get mesmerized when they marvel the frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the divine painting of Transfiguration by the famous artist Raphael, and the evocative marble statue of Laocoön and His Sons. The presence of all these human marvels and many more makes the Vatican the place to be at to appreciate the unparalleled human flair.
Take Your Time At The Sistine Chapel At The Vatican
And this is really hard. The masterpiece of the Vatican Museum, a functioning room of the Vatican clergy and top tourist attraction in Rome, the Sistine Chapel is crowded.
Youll probably find the whole Vatican Museum to be overcrowded. But it is one thing to be rushed past the works of Italian masters in the Pinacotheca or the room of maps, or even Raphael Rooms. But do not get stressed and chased down or shoo-ed out of the Sistine Chapel.
The room with the amazing Michelangelo ceilings and the bigger than life Final Judgement wall are the last stop on the route of the Vatican. Once past the first gate, it is a one-way ticket out the door. The guards want to keep the crowds moving and will usher you along with the room. But if you really want to take in all the art of the Sistine Chapel and let it works its neck cramping magic on you, you need to take your time.
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Can I Stay Overnight At The Vatican
For people who count countries, a country can only be counted, when you spend at least 1 night inside the country. Sad news for those purists: you cannot stay overnight in the Vatican.
Unless you consider a career change and have your eyes set to become a member of the clergy or Vatican administration. Or you want to sleep on the street. Those are your only options to stay overnight in Vatican City.
For those who want a comfortable bed in a hotel or other accommodation, you need to look outside Vatican City. If you wish to arrive at 7 am or admire St. Peters Square late at night, you want to sleep as close to the Vatican as possible. Here are my recommendations for staying overnight close to Vatican City.
Visit The Vatican Necropolis
Beneath the basilica is the Vatican Necropolis where Saint Peters Tomb is positioned. A former cemetery encompassing Christians killed by Emperor Nero including Saint Peter, Vatican Necropolis is one of the fabulous things to do in Vatican City. Just 250 visitors are allowed to visit each day and hire a guide to explore the 20 mausoleums, including Saint Peters Tomb, which apparently contained his remains.
Leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope is the head of the Vatican City. Also, he is one of the prominent people in the world and meeting him is one of the best things to do in Vatican City. The pope addresses the audience in Saint Peters Square every Wednesday around 10.30 am. Greetings to special visiting groups from around the world, the pope will pray the Lords Prayer along with the audience.
This is one of the free things to do in Vatican City, you do need a ticket to visit the pope but it is not charged . If you are not available on Wednesday, then you can listen to the short speech delivered by him from the window at the noons on Sundays.
It comprises rooms that serve as papal residences and also exclusive collection of prison cells and weapons are showcased here. Coming to the top floor, it encapsulates a small terrace that treats the visitors with lip smacking coffee while enjoying the view of Rome.
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Best Foodies Options Around The Vatican
Luckily for you, Vatican City is not a Disney-like attraction that you can only enter once. You can also leave the Vatican and eat in the neighborhood around Vatican City!
Prati is the area that hugs and surrounds the Vatican closely. Here, youll find some of the best and most authentic foodies stops in Rome! Choose a delicious mortadella sandwich, or indulge with Michelin-star pizza from Bonci Pizzarium, Prati is the place to be for any food lover. If your brain is beaten to a pulp by the sensory overload of the Vatican Museum, a food tour of Prati is the ultimate reward.
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Tips For Visiting Vatican City Italy
The lines to visit the Vatican Museums are LONG. Purchase skip-the-line ticket online. Check out the website map and develop a plan. The crowds are massive and you will likely move slowly. There is a dress code, no bare knees or shoulders. The Pope speaks to the public twice a week: Wednesday at 10:30am and Sunday at noon. Seats are first to come first to serve, arrive at least 3 hours early. Photos are not allowed at the Sistine Chapel and the policy is enforced.
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General Tips For One Day In Vatican City
- Most attractions here are located with the Vatican Museums but some attractions are not part of it.
- I already mentioned this, but wear comfortable shoes. If you have any issues with walking for a sustained period of time, rent a wheelchair . The Vatican Museums have very few benches where you can rest and you dont want to lean on ancient art!
- Dress appropriately. If you do go in summer, you wont be allowed to enter the buildings of the city unless you cover your shoulders, and you cant wear shorts or miniskirts.
- Pack light, you will not be allowed to take bigger bags with you and have to go through security. The less you carry with you, the better.