Between the beautiful Saint Peter Basilica, the mesmerizing paintings in the Sistine Chapel, and the exquisite collections of the Vatican museums; there was a LOT to see and experience in Vatican City. Just in case you didn’t know, the Vatican is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and where the Pope resides. You don’t have to be Catholic or even religious at all to appreciate its architecture, all the art and historical significance. If you’re heading off to Rome, Italy, make it a must on your list pronto!
Saint Peter’s Basilica:
The design and decor of the Basilica brought together all the greatest Masters of Renaissance; including Raphael, Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini. The architecture is a blend of Renaissance and Baroque styles, and it truly is a site to behold, with it’s intricately beautiful details, I specially loved the main baldachin (canopy) standing in the center of the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. The intricate canopy, designed by Bernini, marks the location of St. Peter’s tomb below. I absolutely love the light shining through the dome as it makes it for a divine picture. Also, don’t miss La Pieta, probably the most famous sculpture found inside St. Peter Basilica by Michelangelo.
TIP: Make sure you dress modestly, as it is a religious site and you don’t want to be that tourist that gets turned away for dressing inappropriately; so cover your shoulders and leave the Daisy Dukes for a country music concert girls. And guys, baseball caps are frowned upon, at least inside the Basilica and Sistine Chapel. It was sunny and warm so I had a sundress but brought a light cardigan to cover my bare shoulders.
The museums are a complex of collections that Pope Julius II started in the 16th century with one sculpture. Today it houses 54 galleries, with the Sistine Chapel being the final room. Is it worth it? We absolutely think so. Was it crowded? YES, but that’s the case with any major world attraction or historical site. Life isn’t perfect and no, you can not have the museums all to yourself. When we arrived around 11am, the line to the museum was wrapping around the building (we could see it from our apartment window). So our host at the Alimandi Hotel advised was to go have lunch near by and wait until after 1pm to go into the Vatican Museums to avoid the long lines. After we grabbed a bite and drank some vino of course, we walked towards the Vatican Museum around 1pm and she was right, the line was drastically shorter! We stayed at the Hotel Alimandi Vaticano, which was literally across from the Vatican Museum and only a 5 min walk to St. Peter’s Square, so we had plenty of opportunities to explore during the day, and take leisurely strolls at night; while enjoying some great gelato of course! The famous Old Bridge Gelateria is steps from the Vatican Museum’s front door. The shop is tiny and the original store of the famous gelato chain. The line was very long, but the homemade gelato cooled all our troubles away cause it’s just plain delicious. We made a point to try a different flavor every day and we think you should too. #gelatogoals
St. Peter’s Square:
A colossal square with capacity for around 400,000 people! That’s the equivalent of filling The NY Giants Stadium (aka MetLife Stadium) more than 4,5 times! Now that’s a lot of spectators; but St. Peter Square typically only fills to the edges on special occasions, such as Easter mass or when a new Pope is elected. The square stands in front of the St. Peter Basilica in perfect symmetry with an Egyptian obelisk right in the center, flanked by two fountains. Make sure you go check it out at night as well for a great view of it all lit up.
In case you didn’t know, the guards dressed in the peculiar, renaissance style uniform around Vatican City, are part of the Swiss Army. Since 1506, the Swiss Guard have been the “bodyguards” of the pope and Vatican City. They are highly trained in combat tactics and weaponry, so be in your best behavior like a good traveler.
Famously known for the paintings by Michelangelo that adorn its ceiling; the frescos are a beautiful example of High Renaissance Art and the Sistine Chapel is also where every new Pope is elected. At the highest part of the ceiling, you’ll see nine different scenes from the Book of Genesis depicted, included is the iconic Creation Of Adam. You know, the ‘two hands with fingers barely touching’, it’s kind of a big deal (postcard photo below). Interesting fact: Michelangelo declined the commissioned work at first, because he thought of himself as a sculptor and not a “painter”, to say he did a great job is an understatement! Unfortunately though, photography or video of ANY kind is prohibited inside the Sistine Chapel. So all you can do is take a really good mental picture and perhaps buy a postcard. I’m huge art lover, and with a background in graphic design, I’ve seen numerous photos of these fresco paintings in the Sistine Chapel in many Humanities and art books. But nothing compares to seeing it in person! (Fair warning: You might get a kink on your neck from looking up at all the detail) Below is a photo I took from some of my postcards. For more information and detailed photos of every inch of the ceiling frescos in the Sistine Chapel, click here Sistine Chapel Gallery
Have you ever been to Rome or the Vatican? What did you think? Do you think it’s worth waiting in the long lines? Share your thoughts! Ciao
Check out this interesting article from the History Channel: Curious Facts about the Sistine Chapel
Good to Know: Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays. Except for the last Sunday of the month when it’s free!