The Vatican is the smallest country in the world. The government is called "The Holy See" and is led by the Pope.
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Latin, Italian, French, German LOCAL CURRENCY: Euro GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION: Independent state surrounded by the city of Rome, Italy
Originally I had planned to spend one full day at the Vatican. I arrived at opening, and began with the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel. But when I left, I saw that the lines to enter the Basilica were insanely long, wrapping around all of St. Peter's Square. So instead, I did some sight-seeing in other parts of Rome in the afternoon, and returned a couple days later to go inside the Basilica and climb to the top of the dome. I didn't mind coming here twice though - The Vatican was my favorite part of Rome! The Sistine Chapel was amazing, but really everything in this tiny country is beautiful.
Piazza di San Pietro "St. Peter's Square"
Bird's Eye View
Cupola di San Pietro "Dome of St. Peter's Basilica"
There is a dome at the top of St. Peter's Basilica, and you can climb the 551 steps to the top (or take an elevator part-way, to skip the first 320 steps). The way up is claustrophobic, as the stairs get progressively narrower and angled the higher you go. However, the amazing 360-degree view at the top was worth it. From the dome, I could see St. Peter's Square, all of the gardens and interior of the Vatican city, and the surrounding area of Rome.
Made it to the top!
The slanted, narrow stairwell that spiraled up to the top of the dome
Basilica di San Pietro "St. Peter's Basilica"
Pictures just can't do St. Peter's Basilica justice. It is the biggest one I've ever seen (and I have seen a LOT of cathedrals and basilicas when I was in Latin America). Every inch of the walls, ceilings, and floors was elaborately decorated. Inside there is also St. Peter's Treasury, which contains bejeweled church ornaments, embroidered vestments, and the bronze slab tomb of Pope Sixtus IV.
Cortile della Pigna "Courtyard of the Pinecone"
The Vatican Museums consist of works collected by various Popes throughout history. I'm usually not an 'art' or 'museum' person, but I really appreciated all of the beauty here, and ended up spending about 5 hours wandering through all of the museums. The Sistine Chapel was of course my favorite part, but unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos inside. Below, I've shared some photos of my other museum highlights - The Gallery of Maps, The Apostolic Library, Room of Immaculate Conception, some of Rafael's Rooms (Stanza della Segnatura, Stanza di Eliodoro, Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo), andthe Picture Gallery.
Galleria delle Carte Geografiche "Gallery of Maps"
Musei della Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana "Vatican Apostolic Library"
Sala dell'Immacolata "Room of Immaculate Conception"
Stanza della Segnatura "Room of the Signature"
Disputation of the Holy Sacrament
Stanza di Eliodoro "Room of Heliodorus"
The Mass at Bolsena
The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila
Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo "Room of the Fire in the Borgo"
The Coronation of Charlemagne
Battle of Ostia
The Fire in the Borgo
Oath of Leo III
Pinacoteca "Picture Gallery"
On the Way Out...
Before leaving the Vatican, I stopped in the official Vatican Post Office, to send a post card to Mom & Dad ;) Then walked down the beautiful spiral stairway to leave.
-- The best stories are found between the pages of a passport --