What is the best way to visit the smallest state in the world? Vatican City encloses beautiful masterpieces from different periods, so it definitely worths a visit when you come to Rome.
A complete visit to the Vatican City takes at least one full day, excluding visiting the Vatican Museums, which alone requires almost an entire day.
For this reason, I suggest an itinerary including my favorite views, the most stunning church in the world, a very exclusive art collection and the lesser known gardens in Vatican.
One of the most enchanting streets in Rome is Via della Conciliazione, the road which connects the state of the Holy See with the Capital city of Italy: this street was designed in 1936 and connects Piazza San Pietro with Piazza Pio XII, where a travertine line indicating the border of Vatican City.
Along Via della Conciliazione there are many kinds of shops where to buy souvenirs and sacred articles, but my preference goes to Savelli Religious Vatican Gift Shop, a family of craftsmen who started selling sacred objects in 1898.
If you want to have a unique religious gift, ask for the blessing service: the articles you bought will receive the Blessing from Pope Francis!
Walking on Via della Conciliazione, the view extends over St. Peter’s Square, “the greatest embrace in the world,” as Bernini called it, because its form recalls a hug, the Church’s one to humanity.
The Bernini colonnade and the obelisk – wanted by Nero in Rome and transported from Egypt – are the most interesting points to admire together with the famous facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Enjoy the optical effect given by the four column rows of the colonnade, they seem to disappear becoming one column.
Saint Peter’s Dome
The Dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica is also known in Rome as “cuppolone” and is a symbol of the Eternal City along with the Colosseum.
It is the tallest dome in the world and was designed by many artist in different periods: Bramante, Raffaello Sanzio, Sangallo, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Bernini.
The work of so many artists has produced a monumental work of sublime beauty.
The view from above is really breathtaking, because you can see Rome in its centuries-old beauty. The ticket costs € 8 if you choose to take the elevator and avoid the stairs, otherwise the ticket is 5 € and you can go to the top by walk.
The Pietà is one of the most beautiful artistic works ever made, a sculpture in marble realized between 1497 and 1499 by Michelangelo and commissioned by Jean de Bilhères, Ambassador of Charles VIII. It’s the only work ever signed by Michelangelo and represents the Christ lying on the legs of the Virgin Mary after his death. The sculpture is housed in the Basilica from XVIII century.
The Pontifical Swiss Guards
The Pontifical Swiss Guards serve the papacy since 1506 “with courage and fidelity,” as their motto says.
When you visit Vatican, have a look at the changing of the Swiss Guards that takes place every hour, just right below the “Arco delle Campane” arch of bells, the low arch on the left side of St. Peter’s Basilica.
It’s interesting to know more about these guards: in 1929, when the Papal State was born, the Swiss Guard became the official militia; the maximum number was set to 100, plus six officers; they deal with Pope’s vigilance and protection not only in the Vatican, but also during official ceremonies and during his travels.
The official dress uniform is blue, red, orange and yellow, and is inspired to the depictions made by Raffaello, while the colors are those of Pope Julius II family della Rovere.
The Gardens of Vatican are visitable only by guided tour or electric bus (therefore advance booking is required) at a cost of 32 €, check the official website to plan your visit: biglietteriamusei.vatican.va.
The Gardens are decorated with fountains, sculptures, trees and flowers coming from all over the world, and an artificial grotto devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes.
Tips for visiting the Vatican Museums
Vatican Museums can be visited free of charge every last Sunday of the month, but the queues are very long, so try to go there even two hours before the opening.
Please submit it as soon as possible, even two hours before opening (9:00 am). On this occasion the Museums are open until 2:00 pm and the last entry is at 12:30 pm. Except for the last Sunday of the month, every Sunday the Museums are closed.
In most cases, tourists come here just to see the Sistine Chapel, considered one of the wonders of the world.
About this masterpiece, Goethe said “Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving”.
The over 300 paintings painted in the whole Chapel represent scenes from Genesis, the birth and fall of man, The Last Judgment , Jesus’ ancestors, and so on.
Did you know that Michelangelo had never painted fresco before working to the Sistine Chapel? It took him four years to complete the work.
The Pinacoteca Vaticana (Art Gallery) is another of the most unrivaled places inside the Museums, often not included in guided tours. Its 18 rooms hold a rich collection of 460 paintings displayed in chronological order, from the Middle Ages to 1800, realized by the most famous painters of history, such as Leonardo, Caravaggio, Giotto and Raffaello.
An unmissable stop for travelers is the Gallery of Maps, which takes its name from the topographical maps painted by Ignazio Danti, where Italy is imagined divided into two by Appenines. In the other rooms of the gallery there are also maps of Europe, the world and many wonderful globes.
At the end of this tour the fatigue will be rewarded by the uniqueness of this very small state in the heart of Rome, the city packed with thousands of wonders.
Preview Photo St Peter Dome Credits: Giampaolo Macorig https://flic.kr/p/6CaX1x