Vatican is a tiny city-state, the smallest in the world surrounded by Rome. Of course, as a tourist, you don’t exactly feel that you are getting into a new country nor are you asked to show any documents so well interesting trivia to know. Vatican is the seat of the Catholic Church and the Pope is the effective heaf. Now, many tourists like us that visit Vatican do it for the gorgeous architecture and the splendid artefacts and paintings than for religious reasons.
As you enter the large compound, you come to the St. Peter’s Square where you get a great view of the St. Peter’s Basilica. You can only access it by queuing up again after you exit the Vatican Museums. Quite crazy if you don’t have a guided tour (which mind you is expensive and frankly constricting as you will have to do everything that the tour guide takes you through) or a skip-the-line ticket.
So take your pics of the beautiful Basilica and proceed to the entrance and tickets to the Vatican. This is the only place in all of Italy where the free line is stopped while the other line for tours and skip-the-line goes continuously. Pretty discriminating, I would say. Also, once you have passed through the line to reach the metal detectors, it’s chaos. A sea of people to wade through to make it to the toilets and the ticket counters. Toilets have huge queues again. Pick up your audio guide at least because there is so much to see here.
As you go through the Vatican Museums, the sights will astound you. The frescoes are elaborate and quite simply mind boggling.
So many sculptures, paintings etc. to wade through that it actually feels a bit much to take in.
To add to it, it is very crowded and perhaps more seating could have been provided to rest your aching limbs a bit. Carefully decide if you wish to do everything or skip sections not interested in. I leave you with some pictures.
This is the Chapel within the Apostolic Palace which is the official residence of the Pope. It is significant for paintings inside and the lovely frescoes on the ceiling by Michelangelo. You are asked to maintain silence and not stay for very long once inside. Just before you enter the Sistine Chapel is a cafeteria and toilets. Famished we ate our lunch here which were a lovely salad of fresh mozzarella and greens. Again, seating is an issue and our feet were ready to cave in.
You could get inside the St. Peter’s Basilica and climb on top (additional entry fee) for a stunning view of the Vatican. It is a Chapel which is considered among the holiest Catholic shrines. It is also known for its Renaissance architecture. You can see more works of Renaissance artists within the Basilica. If you have taken a guided tour, you could see the Vatican gardens as well.
But we were extremely tired and skipped these. Either way, don’t forget to marvel at the beauty of the Basilica from the St. Peter’s Square.
- Get that skip-the-line tickets. Not worth waiting in the general queue for over 2 hours. And then one more line for St. Peter’s Balisica. That is sheer insanity. You will have to do this at least 2-3 days in advance online through Vatican site. It is 20 Euros per adult.
- There is a dress code in place. Make sure your legs are covered, nothing above the knees permitted (both men and women). Also no bare shoulders allowed.
- Carry some snacks with you as the first cafeteria you chance upon is quite a distance when you begin your sightseeing within the Vatican.
- Fewer rest rooms so use every one of them you see in sight. They are free of charge though and like many Italian public toilets, they don’t have a seat on the commode even in ladies toilets. Quirky, eh?
While trains are a great mode of transport within Italy and we loved using their high-speed trains, between countries we preferred to take flights. From Bangalore to Italy and back, we had booked via Emirates Airlines and we took a flight from Venice to Paris later on our trip. Do these bookings in advance.
With this we come to an end of my Roman holiday. Hope you have enjoyed this series.