Hello fellow explorers!
If you’ve read my recent post all about what to do in Rome, Italy you probably noticed that vising the Vatican was missing. Well, that’s because I thought it deserved it’s very own post. There is so much to see inside St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum that they definitely needed their own post. Plus, this way you get to see more pictures and learn a little bit more about the different places within the Vatican. Lets get started!
//The Vatican is it’s own city state (the world’s smallest!) that has been around since 1929. They have their own currency that is accepted throughout the EU, as well as their own stamps!
How to see the Pope:
// On Sundays if the Pope is in Rome he holds a Sunday Angelus at noon from his apartment window. The whole speech takes between 15-20 minutes but it takes forever to get inside so head there nice and early! I had the privilege of getting to be around for this. I had no idea what was going on, we all just assumed it was always this busy trying to get into St. Peter’s Square. Turns out, the Pope was going to speak!
// On Wednesdays, if the Pope is in Rome he holds a Papal Audience. You need a ticket to get in, but the tickets are free. As these events are a very big deal, you should arrive as early as possible. Security opens at 8 am and the audience begins at either 10 or 10:30 depending on the season.
// Be aware that there is a dress code for the papal audience (as it is sometimes held inside). Especially if you will be going into the Basilica afterwards you need to be prepared outfit wise. Shoulders and knees must be covered at all times. And remember, no hats allowed inside. It’s disrespectful anywhere, but especially in a church type setting. If you’re going in the summer, it does get very hot in Italy so bring a cardigan to cover your shoulders and be sure you don’t have shorts on!
St. Peter’s Square
// This place is massive! On special events or holidays it can fit up to 400,000 people. No, I didn’t add an extra 0 on accident. It really can fit 400,000 people. You must see this place in person to really get a feel for how grandiose it is.
St. Peter’s Basilica
// There are a few places to go once you get to the Basilica. You can go into the grotto, up into the dome or into the basilica itself. I highly suggest all three although, going up into the dome isn’t free like the rest of the basilica. It’s over 500 steps or you can take an elevator partially up and only climb 300ish. The Grotto is spectacular, and nice and cool in the heat of the summer. You can enter the grotto either from inside the basilica (near the giant altar pictured below) or, before you enter the basilica on the left.
// Growing up I can always remember a model statue of the Pieta that my grandparents had in their spare bedroom. The model was housed in a little glass box and I loved it. I’m not sure what drew me to it all those years but, the second I knew I was headed to Rome I was on a mission to find it. I spent nearly an hour slowly roaming the Basilica checking out everything and thought I had missed the Pieta. Turns out, the statue was right near an entrance that I hadn’t came in. Fun fact, Michelangelo was just 24 when he sculpted Mary and Jesus.
The Vatican Museums
// Three tips for this place. 1) Buy tickets ahead of time so you can skip the line. The wait for the queue is generally over an hour without tickets. See the picture below where the queue is on the left and I’m briskly walking by all of them on the right 😀 2) Give yourself most of the day to wander around if you really want to see everything, two hours minimum for a quick walk thru. 3) The Vatican Museum is closed on Sundays so, plan accordingly. A lot of museums in Rome are closed on Monday, making the Vatican Museum busier. My tip is to go on any other day you’ll probably enjoy your trip much more.
// There is something for everyone in the Vatican museum but the biggest must see on everyone’s list is the Sistine Chapel. I expected a chapel… with pews and stuff. Nope, just a mid sized room for standing only. Anyways, the artwork was breathtaking and the Creation is beautiful but, the weird speaker system broadcasting a “shhhhh” to get people to be quiet was super distracting.
// If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands I highly suggest just wandering without an agenda. There are a ton of exhibits to see and it’s pretty massive of a building. Luckily, there is a restaurant on site because you’re sure to work up an appetite. I only grabbed a drink so I can’t speak for the food unfortunately. Above, you’ll see one of my favorite halls in the museum. Giant maps. Everywhere.
Take this fun staircase towards the exit and enjoy the rest of your day in Rome, If you’re looking for other things to see and do, check out my full guide to Roma!