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Vatican City is always worth a visit. A city trip to Rome often includes a visit to Vatican City. Rightly so. Most tourists do Vatican City in a day, but you can explore for days here. With the various top-class museums, as well as St. Peter’s Church and more. These are the best things to see and do in Vatican City.
St. Peter’s Basilica is an important site for pilgrimages by the Roman Catholic faithful. Once, it was the Circus of Nero, where Saint Peter, the apostle (and first Pope) is supposed to be buried. The first basilica was built in 324. But because of its poor construction it collapsed, after which the current basilica was built between 1506 and 1626.
The Basilica di San Pietro is a cruciform shape, with a nave that has a Latin cross form. So far, 148 popes are buried in the church, including Pope John Paul II. In addition, there are various relics of Saint Peter. Also special is the Pietà, a famous sculpture by Michelangelo (who was 24 years old when he made it). You can find it close to the entrance, to the right (behind glass).
The world-famous St Peter’s Square is in front of the basilica. The design of the square is by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, considered by many experts to be sublime because it naturally leads you towards the church. Saint Peter’s Square was built between 1656 and 1667.
It is 240 meters wide and 340 meters long. There are two colonnades encircling the square, symbolising the ‘maternal arms of mother church’. There is a 25.5-meter obelisk in the center of the square from ancient Egypt. There are also various fountains on the Piazza San Pietro.
It is sight known the world round: the Pope blessing the people on St Peter’s square from the balcony at St Peter’s. This event takes place every Sunday at 12 o’clock, except for when His Eminence is abroad. Everything can be witnessed on large television screens.
At Christmas and Easter, the Pope will give his traditional Urbi et Orbi speech. From 1 July to 31 August, the Pope will stay at his summer residence in the village of Castelgandolfi. It is possible to travel there from Rome to attend the traditional papal Sunday blessing.
The museums in Vatican City are among the best in the world. You’ll find art collected by numerous Christians from Roman buildings throughout history. It wasn’t always acquired in the most friendly way. There are countless showpieces, including a painting with Michelangelo where he was added in later, as a tribute to his work. You can buy a ticket that covers all Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican Museum is always busy. If you want to outsmart the long line of people at the entrance, you should book a guided tour. It might cost you a little more, but you will be inside much faster. Besides, you will learn so much more about the many masterpieces. Once your tour is finished, you can always hang around a little longer, although this is not encouraged.
Access to the museum is free on the last Sunday of the month, but it will be extremely busy then. The best time to view all these wonderful artworks is in the afternoon. The reason; most visitors come here in the morning.
The Passeggiata del Gianicolo will lead you from the Trastevere neighbourhood to the Vatican. It’s a road through green hills, that offers a different view of the city around every bend. You’ll come across the Fontana dell’ Acqua Paola along the side of the road.
This is a walk you can take early in the morning, but also when evening falls. The evening will provide for some serene views; the last rays of the sun fading away and the city lights slowly come on.