Would you believe you could explore a whole country on foot in one day? That is definitely possible when visiting Rome, Italy. Vatican City – the smallest country in the world is actually an enclave nestled in Rome, set on the shores of the Tiber River. As it is walled and cocooned inside Rome city, Vatican City functions as a country that can be visited within a city. Vatican City is one of the holiest destinations in the world because it is the abode of the Pope and a holy sanctum of Christianity. Additionally, this little nation is renowned for its magnificent Renaissance art collections, graceful architecture, and heritage. Vatican City measures less than a square kilometre in the area which can be easily explored in a day. The Vatican City is one of the few destinations that can only be explored on foot, as it does not have any transportation within its perimeter. A day trip from Rome is all you need to discover its many splendors. Here are some of the best Vatican city tourist attractions you should visit on your excursion to Vatican City.
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When in Rome, you should not miss a visit to this artistic marvel. The Sistine Chapel, housed in the Apostolic Palace, encompasses the efforts of Italy’s leading painters, sculptors, and architects. These include noted Renaissance artists such as Botticelli, Raphael, Perugino, Rosselli, and Michelangelo, although Michelangelo’s work has played the greatest role in captivating visitors. Michelangelo’s masterpiece – the Last Judgement, and the famous ceiling art of the Sistine Chapel have been preserved here through the ages. The Sistine Chapel fresco on the ceiling has over 300 figures and represents popular scenes such as the creation of Adam. In the Sistine Chapel, the ceiling covers a massive 5800 square meters, and Michelangelo is said to have taken four years to complete the fresco painting.
St. Peter’s Basilica
The highlight of Vatican City – St. Peter’s Basilica – has a great significance in Catholic history since it is the burial place of Saint Peter, one of the apostles of Christ and the first Bishop of Rome. Built-in the 16th and 17th centuries by some of Italy’s greatest artists and architects of the Renaissance, the church is an outstanding example of Italian architecture. It took more than a century for this magnificent building to be completed. Christians consider it to be the holiest shrine in the world and it is one of the most visited places in the world. While the exterior is dominated by a magnificent dome, the interior is decorated with ornate pillars, fresco and murals, and impressive statues. Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, Raphael, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini contributed to this complex with their works of art and their valuable contributions will blow your mind when you visit.
Did you know that Vatican City has over 50 fascinating museums? Collectively known as the Vatican Museums, these Vatican city points of interest house one of the largest art and history collection in the world. This complex includes museums such as the Vatican Historical Museum, the Museo Gregoriano Egiziano, the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, the Museo Chiaramonti, and the Museo Pio-Clementino, all established by Pope Julius II in the 16th century.
The famous Sistine Chapel is also included in this collection. In these museums, you can see some of the best artwork and sculptures from the Renaissance period. Museums require admission fees except on the last Sunday of the month when admission is free.
One of the best things to see in Vatican City is the Vatican Gardens. Created way back in the 13th century by Pope Nicholas III Orsini, this sprawling verdant landscape is beautifully maintained to keep its lush exotic foliage looking fresh and elegant. It is also famous for its well-placed sculptures and fountains, as well as the 18 Marian statues that are permanently installed in the garden. Initially cultivated as a European medicinal herb garden, the garden was expanded to include plants, herbs, and floral shrubs from around the world. Additionally, the Vatican Gardens underwent a massive restoration by Donato Bramante, who built terrace gardens, courtyards, and popular sites such as the Palazzo Belvedere, Octagonal Courtyard, and Belvedere Courtyard. A staggering 23 hectares of the Vatican Gardens make up nearly half of the entire Vatican city property – out of a total of 49 hectares. Surreal but incredibly soothing, the lush gardens exude a sense of calm. Make sure you pre-book your trip to Vatican Gardens if you want to visit as they only accept a limited number of visitors per day.
St. Peter’s Square
In Vatican City, the most prominent landmark is the Piazza San Pietro, also referred to as St. Peter’s Square. The massive complex is located right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. The iconic landmark is where visitors and pilgrims gather to see the Pope. An Egyptian obelisk erected in 1586 forms the center of the entire arena designed by the Italian architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Flanked by 140 statues, 284 colonnades, and two magnificent fountains, it is one of the most famous squares in the world and probably the first thing you will see when you enter Vatican City.
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History buffs and bibliophiles can’t miss a visit to the Vatican Library. The Vatican Library is a part of the Vatican Museums and is located in the Vatican Palace. It was established in 1475 by Pope Sixtus IV and today is the world’s most important repository of manuscripts. Over a million printed books and 75,000 historical manuscripts can be found in the library, which also includes the largest collection of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew texts. The oldest manuscript preserved in this library dates to the first century. Furthermore, it houses a collection of more than 300,000 Papal, Greek, Roman coins and medallions. It is considered to be the largest and oldest functional library in the world.
Vatican City is the epitome of Christian spirituality and the historical essence of Europe. Anyone visiting Rome in Italy should definitely spend a day exploring this magnificent destination. A day is all it takes to view Vatican City famous places and it offers a great opportunity to boast that you have toured an entire country within a day. If you ever get a chance to visit this destination, don’t miss it for the world!