Vatican City Travel Guide
Vatican City is the smallest country in the world at on .17 square miles (that is around 9 football fields) and is situated in the heart of Rome, Italy. Vatican City is ruled by the Pope of the Catholic Church and is roughly one-half gardens, one quarter St Peters Basilica & Square, and one quarter museums & palace. There are zero entrance formalities to walk into the country by either the museum entrance or into St Peter’s Square, but you will have to go through a metal detector to enter any buildings.
Even though Vatican City is known as a Christian site, the name comes from the time before Christ and is the Roman name for the small hill across the Tiber River from the city. The Circus of Nero was built on this hill and was used as a chariot race course at first. Later it was the site of many Christian deaths, including St Peter (between 64 and 68AD), who is considered the first Pope.
In 326 Emperor Constantine ordered a basilica to be built over the tomb of St Peter after the Emperor made Christianity an official religion. This first church lasted until 1506 when it was in disrepair and the Renaissance was beginning. It was decided to tear down the old church and build the finest church in the world.
Even though the palace was begun in the 5th century the Pope only lived here sporadically. Between the 8th and 19th centuries the Pope was also the secular ruler of the Papal State, which controlled much of central Italy. By 1870 the newly formed Kingdom of Italy controlled all of Italy and technically the Pope did not have any lands including Vatican City, even though this is where they retreated and hung out. The “prisoner Popes” was finally resolved in 1929 when the Lateran Treaty was signed making Vatican City an independent country and giving the Pope control over it.
In September 2017 I visited Rome for four days with my girlfriend and we stayed near Vatican City. We spent an entire day in Vatican City and stopped by each evening.
Likes, Dislikes, and Recommendations
Vatican City is amazing with the art work, architecture, and history. You can see everything in Vatican City in one really full day if you like, or break it up into two days. I recommend purchasing your tickets to the museum (6th busiest in the world) online and in advance. In addition to the museum you can get guided tours of the gardens and/or the Necropolis (note this is a different grave site than the one under St Peter’s Basilica, which you can visit by arranging tickets here).
I have two secrets for you. First, you can skip the line to get into St Peter’s Basilica by going through the door on the right as you exit the Sistine Chapel during your museum tour. Also, do not forget to go to the top ofthe dome. Second, Old Bridge Gelateria is the BEST place to get ice cream in Rome and is just across the street from the northeast corner of the Vatican City wall.
Soon you can get even more helpful hints by watching the travel video I am making for Vatican City. Also, you can read what all I did there in my blog posts located below the video.