Even if you have never been to the Vatican, you probably know the same facts that annually attract millions of tourists to a small state. First of all, the Vatican is the center and main stronghold of one of the world religions, and besides this, there is also a place where a priceless collection of art objects is collected. In addition, it’s very convenient to visit the Vatican, if the road has already led you to Rome (and, as you know, all roads lead there sooner or later) - a tiny state is located in the heart of the “Eternal City”.
Of course, planning a visit to the Vatican is better not alone. Without a guide, you can also spend the whole day here, but, as practice shows, independent tourists miss a lot. In a place where every cobblestone on the pavement breathes history, a walk with a guide is especially interesting. If you wish, you can find the guide’s contacts on your own or use the services of Lela, about whom BlogoItaliano wrote in detail in the article Guide to Rome: your man in the Eternal City.
Sant'Angelo Castle was built during the Roman Empire
If finances are running out, you can always join a group excursion (Lela can also help with this) or take our Rome itinerary in 1 day, which not only tells how to optimally build a walk to see the maximum and get around the queue, but also how to organize a full-fledged and extremely high-quality audio guide to the main attractions almost for free.
But we were distracted. It's time to go directly to ideas ...
No. 10. Castle of Sant'Angelo
The history of the castle of Sant'Angelo began almost 2 thousand years ago. Like many other buildings in the Vatican, the castle was rebuilt several times. It was originally built in 135 by decree of Emperor Hadrian, who planned to build a tomb here for himself and his family members.
It is unlikely that the Emperor could have imagined that much later the fortification of the structure would become a reliable defense for many Popes. In case of danger, the Pope could easily get through the underground tunnel to Castel Sant'Angelo and take refuge behind its walls.
Castle of the Holy Angel was originally built as a mausoleum for the emperor
In the Middle Ages, a torture chamber was equipped in the castle’s underground prison, located directly below the fortress. It was from here during the time of the Inquisition that many prominent figures went to the stake, whose views contradicted the position of the Church. Among the most famous prisoners was the astronomer Giordano Bruno, accused of heresy.
The fortress acquired its present name in the 590th year. Then a plague raged in Rome, and in order to defeat the misfortune, Pope Gregory the Great held a procession around the city, offering a prayer for the salvation of the people. At the top of the fortress, he had a vision of an angel hiding his sword in a scabbard, as a sign of the end of the epidemic. Since then, the fortress began to be called Castle of the Holy Angel, and at the place of his appearance a bronze statue of the Archangel Michael was installed.
Now in Sant'Angelo is the Museum of Art and the National War Museum.
No. 9. Dome of St. Peter's Basilica
Be sure to go up to the gallery located under the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica. A bird's eye view of the panorama of almost the entire Vatican, its famous gardens and parts of Rome.
Dome of St. Peter's Basilica - the tallest church dome in the world: its height is 119 m and its diameter is 42 m. In order to go up, you will have to overcome 510 steps to the edge of the Dome, and from there along the narrow winding staircase another 330 steps to the terrace itself. The ability to lose a kilogram or two on the way to the Dome is inexpensive - only 6 euros.
Walking to the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica is worth the effort
If the number of steps to the top scares you, you can cut off part of the path due to the elevator. For the pleasure of getting to the roof without a break, you will have to pay 8 euros, but, in the end, you are not every day in the Vatican.
In addition to the view of Rome, the Dome of the Cathedral is also famous for another attraction - here is the highest gift shop in the Vatican and there is a post office where you can send a commemorative postcard. So do not hide your wallet far away - on the roof of St. Peter's Basilica this is not the most useless thing.
No. 8. Vatican Gardens
Of the 44 hectares on which is located Vatican, half of the territory is occupied by famous Vatican Gardens. You can get here only by appointment as part of the excursion group no earlier than 10 in the morning, because at 9.00 the Pope and his brother are engaged in morning jogging along the paths of the garden.
The first mention of the Vatican Gardens dates back to the end of the 13th century. At that time, vegetables, fruits and medicinal herbs were grown here for personal needs. Over the centuries, many of the Popes replenished the collection of trees and plants with samples brought to them from all over the world. The harmony of the surrounding landscape is complemented by a large number of antique statues, fountains, arbors, waterfalls and viewing platforms.
In addition to the classical garden surroundings, Ethiopian College, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences with the famous observatory of the 16th century, other buildings and even the railway are also located on the territory.
Number 7. Vatican's Sacred Grottoes
The Vatican's sacred grottoes are a unique system of catacombs, long narrow tunnels, numerous niches and chapels located under the Cathedral of St. Petra. The first caves at this place appeared in the IVth. century, and the latest attributed to the sixteenth.
The main relic of the Grottoes is considered the tomb with the relics of St. Peter. For the Christian faith that he preached in 64 AD during the reign of Nero he was crucified, and so that his death was especially painful, they hung his head down.
Famous gardens occupy half of the Vatican
Every year, thousands of pilgrims flock here to bow to the ashes of a great man. For centuries, the popes, kings and nobles sought to be buried next to the remains of St. Peter. The relics of emperors Otto II and Adrian IV, King James III and Queen of Sweden Christina are buried in numerous mausoleums, tombs and sarcophagi. The last refuge was found here by 20 popes, including and John Paul II.
No. 6. Audience with the Pope
Both the avid Catholics and ordinary inhabitants dream of seeing the Pope, and even better - receiving his blessing. Every Sunday at noon, if the Pope is in his residence, from his window he blesses the people gathered in St. Peter's Square.
If you want to see the Pope closer, go to the general audience, which takes place on Wednesdays in St. Peter's Basilica (except for the summer, when the Pope is in his summer residence).
At eleven o'clock in the morning, eight guardsmen bring the throne on which the Pope sits to the Cathedral. There he transplanted to another throne and addressed the audience with a welcoming speech. Then he blesses the believers, sanctifies the icons and other objects brought by them. You can buy tickets for the audience of the Pope at the link below.
The heads of state, the highest clergy and other “VIPs” are awarded personal audiences. If you have a very serious matter to Pope, you can try your luck and ask for a personal meeting. To do this, you must write a statement to the papal prefecture indicating the reasons for such a desire, fill out a special form and wait for an invitation to His Holiness. Lucky or not - time will tell ...
The continuation of the article TOP-10 ideas for what to see in the Vatican and the most interesting places we described in the second part of the Article, which is published here. And if you have not yet got access to our free BlogoItaliano Course in Italy, then it's time to do it.