Vatican City is the world's smallest sovereign state. Sitting astride the Vatican hill - a few hundred meters to the west of the Tiber River - Vatican City's heart is St Peter's Basilica. The tiny state is home to some of Italy's most celebrated masterpieces that line the walls of the historic museums in the area. From Michelangelo's adorned Sistine Chapel to St Peter's Square, there is a great deal on offer for both the art lover and visitor alike. Sandwiched between the Vatican and the Tiber River, are the cobbled streets of the Borgo district. Here, the impressive Castle Sant'Angelo strikes a stoic pose over the river and the neighbouring Prati district.
Where to Stay near Vatican City
Although visitors are unable to stay in Vatican City, Wimdu has an array of properties on its outskirts, with Cipri and Prati being the closest alternative. There is a large selection of high-quality listings in Rome, which can be used as your base from which to explore Vatican City and the rest of the 'Eternal City'.
Things to See and Do in Vatican City
The Vatican Museums is the largest museum complex in the world. The maze of 1400 rooms span across 3000 years of art, including: The Sistine Chapel, the works of Raphael, Pinacoteca Vaticana – arguably Rome's best picture gallery and home to many renaissance masterpieces, and the Hall of Maps
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel was built between 1473-1481 as the pope's private chapel and as an electoral venue for the new pope by the cardinals. Michelangelo's stunning portrayal of the story of creation and Noah's journey cover the ceiling frescoes and alter wall. While other famous artists from the renaissance period, such as Perugino and Botticelli, decorated the other walls with biblical scenes and narratives. The Sistine Chapel is always the last room and the pinnacle of the tour of the Vatican Museums.Saint Peter's Basilica
Saint Peter's Basilica is a Late Renaissance church and, until recently, was the largest church ever built. Its location - standing on the site where Peter the first apostle was crucified and buried, - make the basilica one of the holiest sites i the world for those of the Christian faith. Many other popes are also buried in the basilica. Despite free entry, visitors must conform to a strict dress code that stipulates no knees or shoulders. The Basilica is open daily and masses are held every Sunday.St Peter's Square
The size of Saint Peter's Basilica made the need for a grandiose approach imperative. The huge Piazzo San Pietro (Saint Peter's Square) was designed by Bernini and built between 1656 and 1667. On alternate corners lie two stunning fountains, one designed by Bernini and the other by Carlo Maderno. The obelisk, that stands at just under 30 metres tall, rises from the centre of the square. Originally brought to Rome in the 1st century y from Egypt, the obelisk was transported from Nero's Circus, some 300 yards away, to its present location under the orders of Pope Sixtus V. This task took four months and was completed under the order of total silence, or death!Castel Sant'Angelo
The Castel Sant'Angelo was originally built as a tomb for the late Emperor Hadrian in the second century. Situated on the Tiber River, it was then used as fortress in Middle Ages, before becoming a papal residence in the 14th century. The castle still has an underground passageway that leads directly to the Vatican. Visitors today can view open-air concerts, special programs and exhibitions, with the Castel Sant'Angelo now pedestranised and utilised as a tourist hub of the area.The Swiss Guard
The Swiss Guard have protected the Vatican since 1506. Bedecked in traditional Swiss guard attire – Medici blue and yellow vertical stripes with a red beret – the guards, Roman Catholic Swiss nationals between 19 and 30 years of age, all high school graduates who have completed Swiss military service, stand tall at the Vatican Gate.Vatican Gardens
In addition to all the historical relics and fine art on display at the Vatican, there are also 23 hectares of beautiful, well-maintained gardens to explore. The gardens separate the Vatican and Rome from the north and west. Key attractions are the tiny villa, fortifications and fountains that date from the 9th century.
The importance and cultural significance of Italian food can never be trivialized. Still determinately regional, food in the Italian capital is heavily influenced by the butter and cream of the heavily French-influenced northwest. the cured meats and dumplings of the northeast, and the basil, seafood and pine nuts of the Ligurian coast.
Although it can be difficult to find a table amongst the swarms of tourists that visit Vatican city, with a little resolve and careful planning gems can be found.
Pizzarium serves gourmet pizzas from a modest exterior. The small takeaway joint serves some of the best pizza slices in Rome. Arriving on small, wooden chopping boards, the pizza has the archetypal thin and crispy crust, with fresh, flavoursome toppings. The Suppli (crunchy rice croquet) also attract well-informed locals.
La Veranda is perfect for those searching for a more upmarket experience within Vatican City. Situated under the Pinturicchio frescoes of the 15th-century Palazzo della Rovere, La Veraqnda specializes in dishes made from finest quality ingredients and array of stunning Italian wines. For those a little lighter of pocket, brunch, served between 11.30 am and 3pm on Sundays, is a great time to visit.
Fatamorgana is a fantastic geletaria, located down one of the small lanes that characterise Vatican City, Fatamorgana offers all the original flavours but also some of its own creations. The agrumi (citrus fruit) and basilico, miele e noci (basil, honey and hazelnuts) are certainly worth the gamble.