Vatican City has many works of art and artifacts that beckon tourists from around the globe. Despite its small size, many of the most famous works of art in the world are housed here, making this a full-day adventure for all tourists of Italy. While most know that the Vatican is the central home for the Catholic Religion, many don’t realize that it is its own governmental entity. A city center governed by the Pope, this residential and business center for the Catholic Church is located inside a 110-acre enclave in Rome. With a population of just over 800, it is also the smallest sovereign state in the world in terms of both size and population. Here’s a look at the ten largest things this tiny city has to offer.
The top 10 things to do and places to go in Vatican City
Expert Travel Tip: Don’t be denied entry to the Basilica! Like most, this religious building has a strict dress code. If you arrive wearing shorts, short skirts, or bare shoulders you may not be allowed in. Carrying a scarf or shawl with you and having a long pair of pants or long skirt in your day bag is always a good idea.
The Rafael Rooms
Commissioned by Pope Julius II, and later by Pope Leo X, these rooms contain a mass of frescos painted by famed artist Rafael. These frescos are prized for their return to classical methods of painting including symmetry and revolving characters around a central focal point of the work. While most of the paintings in these rooms were completed by Rafael himself, not all are his handiwork. Some are the work of students under his direction and in his style, while others were completed by other famous artists including Giulio Romano and Gian Francesco Penni. The latter artists completed Rafael’s vision posthumously.
The Vatican Library
We love a good library, and this one ranks right up there with the best. The Vatican’s library is one of the richest in the world if judged by the value of its content. The library boasts hundreds of thousands of titles. Among them are 7,000 works printed before 1500 AD, 25,00 medieval handwritten books, and 80,000 handwritten manuscripts, collected since the library’s founding in 1450. You can also find a large collection of more modern titles. The books and other written works, including beautifully illustrated Gospels, Biblical codices, and ancient scrolls all fill shelves that fall beneath the beautifully adorned walls. No shortage of paintings here, either as your eyes are filled with beautiful murals and frescos.
Extend into the depths of St. Peter’s Basilica into the grottos to experience a new level of respect at the tombs of past Popes and leaders of the Catholic faith. You’ll also find the towering original pillars of the original 4th-century structure here. Find the entrance to the Grottos in the Pier of St. Andrew, near the high altar.
No photos are allowed and only 250 guests per day are granted access to this necropolis, but it stands out as a worthwhile experience if you can make it onto the guest list. The supposed burial site of St. Peter, the tour lasts just over an hour and will be required to be booked many months in advance. There are many stairs to descend, so you should be in good physical condition, too.