Vatican City is the smallest country in the world; a land-locked country within the city of Rome in Italy, it has its own Post Office and a colorful army: the Swiss Guards.
Most visitors to Rome, make the trip up Via della Conciliazione, a busy road connecting Vatican City with Rome (no border controls). It leads to St.Peter’s Square dominated by St.Peter’s Basilica.
Flanked by a colonnade designed by the renowned artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the Basilica has one of the largest domes in the world visible from miles.
Tourists (appropriately dressed) queuing to go inside, have to go through rigorous airport-like checks before being allowed to enter the Basilica.
Inside, the opulent interior includes the famous sculpture by Michelangelo “La Pieta'” and a bronze statue of St.Peter; it is believed that, those who touch one of the feet of the statue, will be blessed; that explains the different color of the right toe of the statue as, it is constantly touched and kissed by worshipers everyday.
After visiting the Basilica interior, it is worth to take a trip down to the Vatican Grottoes; chapels and tombs of previous popes can be visited including St.Peter’s tomb and the final resting place of the much loved Pope John Paul II.
For people not afraid of heights, climbing to the top of the Basilica’s dome it is a must. A lift goes up to a terrace with views of St.Peter’s Square below from the statues of the saints that adorn the exterior of the Basilica.
A short climb up a (very) narrow staircase, takes visitors all the way to the top, giving the opportunity to get even more magnificent views of Rome and Castel Sant’Angelo on one side and, the Vatican palaces and gardens on the other.
From here the Palazzo del Governatorato, the administrative center of the Vatican, can be seen and also the huge buildings housing the Vatican Museums built around a courtyard. One of the most beautiful museums in the world, miles of corridors with statues, tapestries, and intricate decorations are the prelude to an artistic extravaganza: the Sistine Chapel.
Visitors from all over the world come to see this masterpiece; part of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope official residence, it is here that the Papal conclave to elect a new Pope is held. But the main attraction for visitors are the artworks, especially the frescoes by Michelangelo on the ceiling: depicting the Creation of Adam, with the iconic image of the hand of God giving life to Adam. Scenes of the Last Judgment can be seen over the altar. A number of Renaissance artists worked on decorating the Sistine Chapel including Raphael, Perugino and Botticelli and their works can be admired here.
Huge crowds gather in St.Peter’s Square on Wednesdays for the Papal Audience when, the Pope gives its blessing while touring the square in the famous Popemobile. On Sundays, during the Angelus, he gives its blessing (in a number of languages) from a window in his apartment overlooking the square. A day trip to Vatican City is normally included during a stay in Rome, combining a visit to the Eternal City with a short trip abroad all on the same day.