Vatican City is located in the heart of Rome and believe it or not, it’s the smallest country in the world. It’s 120 times smaller than Manhattan or 1/8 the size of New York’s Central Park. It’s about a 30 minutes walk from the Pantheon. Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope at its head. Museum admission fees, stamp and souvenir sales, and contributions generate the Vatican’s revenue. There are numerous attractions to visit and places to eat, but here are my recommendations:
Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed St Peter Square to be one of the most magnificent, largest, and famous squares in the world, and it’s held more than 300,000 people. The square has 284 columns and 140 statues of saints above the columns. In the center of the square, you’ll find the obelisk, carried from Egpyt to Rome, and two fountains. This is where the masses receive the Pope’s weekly blessing.
What Have I Learned: The colonnade marks the border between Italy and the Vatican. You won’t need a passport to enter St Peter Square/Vatican City but there is a security check.
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world for Christendom. Several of Italy’s great Renaissance architects designed the temple including Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo. The basilica was called St Peter’s after one of Jesus’s twelve disciples known as Saint Peter, who became one of the founders of the Catholic Church and was executed in Rome and buried where the Basilica now stands. Visitors should climb to the top of the dome to see the stunning view of St Peter’s Square but the last part of the climb is a narrow and steep spiral staircase.
What Have I Learned: Both men and women need to cover their knees and upper arms. They prohibit wearing shorts or skirts above the knee, sleeveless tops, and low-cut shirts.
Cost: St. Peter’s Basilica is FREE but Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica on foot is 8 Euro (9.56 USD) and Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica with elevator is 10 Euro (12 USD)
Hour: Mon to Sun: 7:00 AM – 6:30 PM
Pope Julius II started the museum by donating his private collection back in 1503. Since then, multiple private families and other popes have enlarged the collection and it’s become one of the largest in the world. Michelangelo spent four years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel between 1508 and 1512. A couple of famous masterpieces to look out for: Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement, Raphael’s School of Athens, Caravaggio’s The Entombment of Christ, and Leonardo da Vinci’s St. Jerome.
What Have I Learned: To avoid one of the longest lines in Rome, try not to go on the last Sundays of each month (when the admission is free), during Holy Week, or weekends. The best time to go is on weekdays at 1:00 PM or book an English-speaking guided tour of the Vatican to skip the line.
Cost: 17 Euro (20 USD) – Sistine Chapel is included in all Vatican Museum tickets
Hour: Mon to Sat: 8:30 AM – 6:30 PM (Final Entry 4:30 PM)
We arrived right when they opened and were the first ones to be seated at one of the five tables that they have outside. The server brought us 6 different small rectangle pizzas to try. This was a really interesting and delicious sample platter.
What Have I Learned: There are two Pizza Zizza shops on the same block and there are outdoor seatings at both locations.
Cost: Pizza platter cost 9 euros (11 USD)
Hour: Mon to Sat: 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM & 6:00 PM – 10:30 PM, Sun: 6:00 PM – 10:30 PM
This is a great gelato spot near Vatican City that started 30 years ago and only uses 100% Italian milk. Since this spot was so cheap, we decided to get two cones with 3 different flavors.
What Have I Learned: A lot of the locals like this gelato shop including nuns and priests so don’t be surprised when you see them waiting in line.
Cost: 3 scoops for 3 Euro (~4 USD)
Hour: Mon to Sun: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM