Five Reasons to Visit Vatican City

in Country Guides, Sightseeing

St. Peter's Basilica

Inside St. Peter's Basilica - Photo Andreas H.

Many devout catholics will hope to visit the Vatican at some point in their lifetime. Vatican City is the smallest country in the world and as the home of the Pope it is considered the centre of Catholicism. Around 800 people live in Vatican City, many of them nuns and priests.

But even for the non-religious there are plenty of good reasons to visit Vatican City. It is packed with some of the world’ s greatest artworks and every building has a story to tell.

1. History

Swiss Guard Vatican City

A Papal Swiss Guard - Photo: BBMaui

Since the fall of the Roman Empire the Pope has been the de facto ruler of Rome. A series of treaties in 1929 established the Vatican City state as independent and made Roman Catholicism the main religion of Italy. As the pope is elected for life by a College of Cardinals, large crowds turn out to see the successors being crowned.

If you notice any brightly coloured folk around then they are the Swiss Guards Corps who protect the Pope. They are both the smallest and the oldest standing army in the world having been founded in 1506 by the warrior Pope Julius II.

2. The Basilica of Saint Peter

The Basilica of Saint Peter has an incredible painted dome which was designed by Michaelangelo. It is large enough to fit the entire Statue of Liberty inside and surely one of the most impressive buildings in Rome.

3. Amazing views

Saint Peter’s Square

Saint Peter’s Square - Photo: A. Miranda

The most scenic way to enter the Vatican is along the Via del Plebiscito from Piazza Venezia to Saint Peter’s Square. The Vatican is actually very small and much of it is off limits to tourists anyway. To see all this state has to offer head up to Monte Mario, though this climb is quite intense and not for the faint-hearted. It is in fact the largest hill in Rome and gives amazing views across the whole city including the River Tiber.

4. Latin

If you ever had to learn Latin at school and wondered why you bothered then Vatican City is the place for you. Latin is the official language of the Vatican. However, if you did not have to spend time declining Latin verbs, English is widely spoken too.

5. The Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo - Photo: Juan Rubiano

The Castel Sant’Angelo should be seen by anyone who plans to visit Rome. It was the mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian having been built about 130 years after the death of Jesus Christ. But over the years others took advantage of this excellent structure, and in medieval times the Popes added a number of rooms for their residences onto the castle. By the 19th century the Castel Sant’Angelo had been turned into a prison but today it is a museum. It has also been used in the filming of the Dan Brown novel Angels and Demons. It costs 8.5 Euros to enter and is open from 9am with the last visitors allowed in at 6.30pm.

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