Vatican City is an independent state, home of the Catholic Church and of course where you’ll find the Pope. It is entirely surrounded by Rome and a tourist must-go. Lots of people flock there because of popular attractions like St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. As well as those for me one of the reasons and a bucket list item was to step foot and explore in the world’s smallest country!
We were there for Christmas so naturally had to go see the Pope speak. He makes two appearances during the holidays – one on Christmas Eve for mass and another on Christmas. We decided to go on Christmas and once out of the subway were met with an army of others all shuffling towards the square. Although there was a queue and fuss through two security checkpoints, once in the actual square it wasn’t too busy. All kinds of people were there from nuns, religious folk and confused tourists. We had no idea what he was saying (sadly no translation on the jumbotrons) but looking around at the people crying and literally baiting on his every word – it was inspiring. I am personally not religious but so glad I got to witness and experience him talking with such a devoted audience.
A highlight for me was going into St. Peter’s Basilica and climbing to the top dome. For a little fee you can go to the tippy top and it is an adventure in itself. The pathway up there is claustrophobic, uneven and bizarre. There are a lot of stairs and parts where you’re in the base of the dome so the walls are curved/indented (it feels like you’re in a crazy house). The views though are stunning and well worth it. Before you get outside you reach the inner-section of the dome and are able to see the mosaic tiling up close which is awesome. Being able to see the detail put in there (from below you would have no idea) was really cool. Then once you’ve squeezed to the top the view of the square is ridiculous. You can see for miles and also walk 360 round and see into private gardens and the museum.
The Vatican Museums are a complex of different galleries and collections. The most famous part is the Sistine Chapel, probably due to Michelangelo’s frescoes. Unfortunately photography is banned from inside but it is absolutely mind-boggling. We must’ve spent a good half an hour sitting in there with our eyes jumping around not sure where to look. Imagine walking into a cube and every possible space that could be painted has been. In a weird comparison think Tangled and her being locked in the tower with no more wall space to paint. The amount of precision, detail and skill to paint some of those surfaces so beautifully is baffling.
Once you get past that masterpiece the museums house exceptional art, sculptures and ornaments. You should dedicate several hours here as it is a maze/one-way system round the complex. One of my favourite rooms was the Gallery of Maps. It’s a narrow hall but covering the two walls are painted topographical maps of Italy. It is so intense and the ‘sheep’ of tourists and guides really slowed down to shuffle through here as everyone was looking up and around. I would recommend going with a guide as there is so much significance here and it’s nice being on the knowing side oppose to trying to eavesdrop on someone explaining. We had to rush through here to catch our flight and unfortunately didn’t get to give the place the time it deserved – learn from my mistake and make this a priority!
A day or even afternoon from your Rome adventures should be spent here as a minimum. Not only to say you visited two countries but also for the pure uniqueness of it. The history and religious significance (even being a Jew myself) is wonderful to experience and immerse yourself in. If you want to check out what I got up to in Rome you can here and here (and why not Pompeii).