About Vatican City
Known officially as the State of the Vatican City, the Vatican happens to be the capital of the Roman Catholic Church. Making for the smallest independent country of the world, Vatican City is known popularly for its architectural marvels. Packed with historical and religious buildings, this small nation has a charm of its own. Vatican City was founded during the 326 A.D. With the growth of housing and population, the very first palace came into existence during the rule of Pope Symmachus in the fifth century. The Papal States flourished under the Roman Empire and encompassed a huge part of Italy.
However, after the Italian unification in the nineteenth century, the only surviving Papal State was that of the Vatican. Vatican City started being considered as an independent state after the Lateran Treaty was signed in the year 1929. At present, the Vatican is one of the most popular tourist destinations of the world.
Attracting history fanatics and pilgrims, the country brims with a myriad of amazing attractions including the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Gardens, the Sistine Chapel, and the Basilica of St. Peter. Tourism happens to be the primary source of revenue of Vatican City with the Vatican Museums bringing in more than 4.3 million visitors alone every year.
How to Reach Vatican City
The nearest airport to Vatican City is Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO) in Rome, which is located at an approximate distance of around 27.8 kilometers from the country. The Vatican is directly connected to the airport by both roadways and railways.
By Road: The cheapest way to reach Vatican City from Rome Airport (FCO) is by driving, which generally takes around 26 minutes.
By Rail: Visitors to the Vatican City can also take a direct train to reach the Vatican from the airport. Direct trains depart daily from Fiumicino Aeroporto every 30 minutes and reach the destination in 26 minutes.
By Bus: Tourists can even take direct buses to the Vatican from Rome Airport (FCO), which will take them about 30 minutes to reach their destination. Daily direct buses generally depart from the Rome Fiumicino Airport Bus Station every 30 minutes.
Best Time to Visit Vatican City
The low season for tourism activity in Vatican City happens to be the winter months from late November to early December and from mid-January to late February, except New year holidays and Christmas. This implies that there is less crowd in the country during this time, which makes for the most ideal season for visiting the Vatican.
Since the museums and the other important tourist places of the country remain closed during Sundays, almost all the weekenders flock to these destinations on Saturday making them too crowded. Hence, Fridays are generally considered as the best day of the week for visiting the major attractions of Vatican City, with Thursdays and Tuesdays making for a considerable second option.
The best time of the day to head to the top tourist destinations of Vatican City is early afternoon. During this time the rush remains low and there is less crowd at the various historical and religious destinations.
What Not to Miss at Vatican City
A plethora of popular tourist attractions are located in the Vatican City. Here are some of the important places you’ll like to pay a visit to when you are in the Vatican:
1. St. Peter’s Basilica- Situated in St. Peter’s Square, the iconic St. Peter’s Basilica is counted among the world’s most charming basilicas. Constructed between the year 1506 and 1626, this church was developed using the baroque architecture.
St. Peter’s Basilica happens to be an important pilgrimage spot for the Catholics as it is positioned on the site where the very first Pope, Pope Peter is believed to have been buried. Most of the important speeches of the Pope are delivered in the square, right before the basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica can be visited from 7 AM to 6 PM, on all days. There is no entry fee to visit the place, unless one wishes to pay a visit to the dome.
2. The Vatican Gardens- Vatican City has got over half of its area covered with beautiful parks and lush green gardens. The Vatican Gardens are positioned right behind Saint Peter’s Basilica and the iconic Vatican Museums and have an area of near about 23 hectares.
The Vatican Gardens can be visited from Monday to Saturday and the place remains closed on Catholic holidays and Sundays. In order to pay a visit to these beautiful gardens, you need to make an advance booking. Tourists tour the gardens in electric buses and each tour lasts till 45 minutes.
3. The Sistine Chapel- The majestic Sistine Chapel is popular all over the world owing to the incredibly mesmerizing ceiling architecture of Michelangelo. Forming an important highlight of the tour of the Vatican Museums, this iconic Chapel is counted among the most crucial artistic treasures of the world.
The Sistine Chapel can be visited from 9 AM to 6 PM, from Monday to Saturday. The Chapel remains closed on Sundays, except on the month’s last Sunday when visitors are welcomed from 9 AM to 2 PM. It is important to note that no pictures can be taken inside the Sistine Chapel and silence should be maintained in its premises. It is suggested to head towards the perimeter and grab a seat as it is of course a much more comfortable way of marveling the wall and ceiling murals.
4. The Vatican Museums- The world-famous Vatican Museums is home to many of the world’s most popular and beautiful art pieces, including the mesmerizing works of Michelangelo and Raphael. The museum also shelters artifacts and arts from the Roman Empire, ancient Greece, and ancient Egypt, most of which happen to be the collections of the popes over the ages.
The important highlights of the Vatican Museums include the Gallery of Maps, the Raphael Rooms, and the Etruscan sculptures. The Vatican Museums can be visited from 9 AM to 6PM, on all days of the week except on Sunday. The last entry to the museum is at 4 PM. It is recommended to make advance bookings if you do not want to be a part of the long entry queues.
5. Castel Sant Angelo- Constructed along river Tiber’s shore in the 2nd century, Castel Sant Angelo happens to be a popular museum of the Vatican. Built as a mausoleum by the Rome Emperor Hadrian, the structure was transformed into a strong military fort in the fourteenth century.Tourists can book guided tours and visit the five floors of the museum or just sit at the café on the top floor and catch a glimpse of the mesmerizing vistas of Rome.
Places to Visit near Vatican City
A plethora of popular tourist places are located at a proximate distance to the Vatican City. Here are some of the important attractions you’ll like to plan a getaway to from the Vatican:
1. The Colosseum- Better known as the ‘Flavian Amphitheatre’, The Colosseum has its name among the 7 Wonders of the World. Located at an approximate distance of 5.5 kilometers from Vatican City, this place makes for a major attraction for the tourists visiting the country.
Manifesting the beauty and elegance of the old Roman architecture, the Colosseum happens to be the world’s largest amphitheatre. This ancient structure is believed to have witnessed the rise as well as fall of the huge Roman Empire.
2. Civitavecchia- Situated at a very proximate distance of about 76 kilometers from Vatican City, Civitavecchia is known for its majestic monuments and rich archaeological sights. Flaunting a mild climate, blue sea, natural sites, and a historic port, this place makes for an amazing getaway for the history fanatics and nature lovers visiting the Vatican.
Some of the important attractions of Civitavecchia include Fort Michelangelo, The Taurine Baths, Ficoncella Thermal Baths, Sanctuary of the Madonna of Pantano, and Cathedral of Civitavecchia.
3. Leaning Tower- Known to be the signature sight of Italy, the Torre Pendente indeed justifies its title, leaning at an angle of 3.9 degrees. Officially known as the Duomo’s Campanile, this 58 meters high tower took over 200 years for its construction. Lying at an average distance of 300 kilometers from Vatican City, the Leaning Tower propels every tourist of the country making for an ideal getaway for them.
4. Assisi- Sheltering a myriad of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this place is packed with a host of historically significant structures. Situated at a distance of around 175 kilometers, Assisi forms an amazing getaway for the shopaholics, history fanatics, and architecture enthusiasts.
Some of the major attractions of Assisi include Rocca Maggiore, Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi Cathedral, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, San Damiano Church, and Basilica di Santa Chiara. When in this city, visitors love to shop for ceramics, religious sculptures, dried pasta, medieval weapons, Umbrian cured meats, and Umbrian chocolates.
Other Essential Information About Vatican City
Location: The World’s smallest country, Vatican City is located on the Tiber River’s west bank and is surrounded on all sides by Rome, Italy.
Distance from Nearest Airport: Vatican City is located at an approximate distance of around 27.8 kilometers from the nearest airport, which is the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO) in Rome. You can reach the Vatican from the airport by train, bus, or car within no more than just 25 to 30 minutes.
History of Vatican City
The region of the Tiber River’s west bank, which consists of Vatican City today, was a mere marshy land called Ager Vaticanus in the bygone times. The history of Vatican City as the headquarter of the Catholic Church started with the development of a shrine over the grave of St. Peter in the fourth century A.D. in Rome. The region turned into a major commercial district and pilgrimage destination, though it was deserted after the Papal court moved to France in the year 1309.
When the church shifted back to the Vatican in the year 1377, iconic landmarks like the new St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Apostolic Palace surfaced within the boundaries of the city. The Vatican was positioned in its present condition, in the form of a sovereign country after the Lateran Pacts were signed in the year 1929.
Things You May Not Know About the Vatican
There are a number of important facts associated with the world-famous Vatican City, which is unknown to many people. That said, here are some of the things you might not be knowing about the Vatican:
1. The Vatican is the world’s smallest country- Surrounded by Italy with a border of two miles, the Vatican happens to be an independent state covering an area of just 100 acres. This makes it 1/8th of the total size of the Central Park of New York.
The Vatican is governed as a monarchy and all the power remains in the hand of the pope. The country produces its own money and stamps, operates its own media outlets, has its anthem and flag, and issues its own license plates and passports.
2. The Vatican was signed into existence by Benito Mussolini- The conflict between the Catholic Church and the Italian Government ended in the year 1929 when the Lateran Pact was signed, allowing Vatican City to exist independently and compensating $92 million to the church for the Papal States. Vatican City utilized this payment for re-growing its Coffers. Benito Mussolini, the Italian Government’s head signed the pact on the behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III.
3. Popes did not leave Vatican City for about 60 years- Popes continued ruling over a group of independent Papal States across central Italy till the nation unified in the year 1870. The Papal States were seized by the newly formed secular government, except Vatican City and a war surfaced between the Italian Government and the church.
The popes did not acknowledge the kingdom’s authority and Vatican City stayed beyond the control of the Italian National. The popes denied to leave their country and surrender to the Italian government's authority for over 60 years.
4. The Vatican Observatory has a state-of-the-art telescope in Arizona- The city’s light pollution made it very difficult for space scientists to observe the night sky at the Vatican Observatory. Hence, the observatory founded a new research hub at Tucson in Arizona in the year 1981. Vatican City conducts space research using an advanced telescope, which is positioned at the top of Mount Graham in Arizona.
Tips for Visiting Vatican City
There are some important things every visitor needs to keep in mind when visiting the Vatican City. Here are some of the top tips you should follow if you are paying a visit to the Vatican:
1. It is advisable for the tourists to visit the Vatican City with a knowledgeable and experienced guide.
2. Make advance bookings and proper planning ahead of your visit to the Vatican.
3. Vatican City is a religious place. Hence, acquire a proper understanding of the dress code that you are expected to follow.
4. The Vatican City offers a plethora of picturesque attractions. Hence, make sure you are ready with a good camera.
5. Have enough time to take thorough tours of the museums and other historical and religious places of the Vatican City.
6. Consider visiting the Vatican City during the off-season, if you want a crowd-free tour of the place.
7. Take an audio tour if you are visiting the Vatican Museums.