You don’t need to be religious to visit this little country, and neither do you require a visa. You simply cross the white line separating St. Peter’s Square from the rest of Rome and there you are. Enclaved within the city of Rome, Vatican City is officially the smallest recognised state in the whole world. Home to the Pope Vatican is the beautifully preserved state of the Catholic Church. In 2014 I was excited to tick one more box next to my wish list as I was in the World’s smallest, independent recognized country since 1929, with around 800 people living within 44 hectares.

img_2458-2On tope of Vatican Dome overlooking  St Peter’s Square where thousands line up every week to get a glimpse of The Pope
IMG_2566 (2).jpgSecurity guards at the entrance of St peter’s Basilica

To get to St. Peter’s Square, the famous entrance to this magnificent historical landmark, I took a walk along Via Ottaviano (about 800m), if you do not want to walk, you can take the tram or the bus and get off at Piazza del Risorgimento and proceed on foot. In a few minutes I arrived in St. Peter’s Square, always a meeting place for thousands of tourists and faithful Catholics from around the world. Pope appears in public every Wednesday if he is in the country. Though I did not visit on Wednesday, the roads were not so crowded and it took me 15 minutes to get inside St peter’s Basilica Church. The entry to lower part of the church is free however if you don’t arrive here early you can take up to 1-2 hours before you enter. It can be a real painful experience as there are no shades to escape rain or bright sun. the security guard will catch your attention immediately as they are the most colorfully dressed security I ever witnessed so far.

rome_st_pierre_dome.jpgVatican Dome
If you are not part of a tour group, like me, hire a professional tour guide who can give you more attention and can take you to important sections of the Museums that are usually not included in the standard itineraries (like the Pinacoteca Vaticana art gallery). For this type of tour, it’s possible to choose different times of the day. Another advantage of the tour arrangements—both group and individual—is the guides are authorized to take visitors directly from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica, while individual visitors cannot
IMG_2531 (1).jpgInside the crowded church
The Vatican Museum inside is HUGE! I don’t know whether it is humanly possible to see everything, the amount of stuff is simply too overwhelming. Right from the start, it was painting followed by more painting, mecca for art connoisseurs. But for commoner like me, I just browsed through whichever that caught my eyes. As a traveler I have never spent time on things that do not interest me hence I am not the kind who would have wanted to get glimpse and picture of every art work. I went for the ones that caught my eye.
1134165951_34feb6ac98_b.jpgSistine Chapel
You will need several hours for this visit, but it’s really worth it!
But be careful!
To get to the museums, the queue is always very long, however you have the option to book a guided tour online, in order to immediately start your tour. I missed the Vatican museum as I was mesmerized with the Vatican Dome and I did not have the time to complete both. The ticket to reach up is around 8 Euros and additional 5 Euros if you want to take the elevator. I chose to climb up as I had read about the spiral stairs and that was my area of interest. Its 350 plus stairs. It can be tiring so carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated and take short breaks in between. Some areas of the staircase can get very narrow and cramped and you might not be able to take breaks when you are following a large group as the stairs are really narrow. To make way for others you gotta go moving.
IMG_2485 (2).jpgSpiral Staircase that leads to Vatican Dome
9087567034_f682f005a9_b.jpgThe most popular spot inside the Church
IMG_2565 (2).jpg
Dedicate a few minutes of your visit to the Sistine Chapel, known worldwide for being the place which holds the conclave and is decorated with one of the most famous and celebrated works of art in European artistic culture, by Michelangelo.
-Don’t go with an intension to cover the whole place, it can be very overwhelming even if you have full day. Being an experiential traveler I focus on leaving content with whatever I cover rather than a fear of missing out.
-To avoid long queues, book the tickets online, this will leave you with more time to cover the place
-Mind your dress code, you will not be allowed to enter the Church in cut sleeve and short dresses. To be safe I always carry a stole with me when I travel, it can serve multipurpose.
– Carry a bottle of water with you to avoid dehydration while climbing the dome
– There are plenty of restaurants outside the square to dine
– The Vatican city is easily accessible from Rome through tram, bus and train
– Walk around the square to enjoy the historical panorama of Vatican City
What was your overwhelming moment during any travel?