If you're only in Rome for 1 day, you should definitely walk past the Colosseum and spend a few minutes checking out the ancient Pantheon, but the only place you really must visit in the city is the Vatican. A brief walk or a metro ride from the main part of the city and lying across the river, the Vatican's vast historical and cultural heritage make it one of the top must see destinations in the World. The sights inside can be broadly split into the museums, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica interconnected by walkways through courtyards and beautiful gardens.
Most people are pleasantly surprised to find that the Vatican State Museums offer such a rich and diverse range of exhibits. There are two parts of the museum which focus on the Vatican including the Historical Museum and a section dedicated to the history of Christianity in general. In addition, however, a much larger part is dedicated to a wealth of general human culture and history with artefacts ranging from classical Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities to tapestries, ceramics and mosaics from the early modern period.
There are a vast number of various palaces and rooms through which you will go on your way to eventually end up in the Sistine Chapel. These may be the most opulently decorated rooms in the entire world as velvet appears to lie on gold and marble sparkles in every colour of the rainbow. Every bit of the wall has either beautiful murals, paintings or tapestry on show and you think you've seen it all when you walk into the Chapel and realise that you haven't. Somewhat similar to the Raphael Rooms on the way, every inch of the Chapel is covered in beautiful painting.
Undeniably the star attraction of the Pope's Apostolic Palace, the majority of the decoration was done by Michelangelo and considered to be his best work including the infamous The Last Judgmentmural on one of the walls. Other famous painters including Botticelli were also commissioned to paint by Pope Julius II and you are guaranteed to be wowed by the grandure and scale of the serene chapel.
The formal entrance to St Peter's Basilica is through a queue on St Peter's Square which is on the opposite side of the Vatican to the Museum entrance. You may notice, however, that the Sistine Chapel has two exits one of which is intended for group tours. If you manage to slip through here, which often is a fairly easy task, you'll end up bypassing the walking and waiting time as the door will lead you straight through to the Basilica.
Inside, this largest and most well-known church within the Vatican walls is as grand as it is on the outside. The decoration is not as intricate or detailed as some of the other places within the Vatican, but it is most definitely worth visiting if you are coming to the Vatican.
The Vatican needs little introduction as this world's smallest country is also one of the best known. The first church to be built on the hill was the Constantinian Basilica which in the 4th century was reputedly erected on the very spot where St Peter was buried. The first papal palace was built next to the church during the course of the 5th and 6th centuries by Pope Symmachus in a bid to move from Rome's Lateran Palace and out of the city.
The Vatican served as the Pope's residence intermittently as they changed their preference to other palaces around Rome and even Avignon in France during the 14th century. Despite this, the Vatican remained the spiritual home of the Catholic faith amd built up colossal wealth alongside a vast Empire. It was not until the 19th century that almost all of this Empire was taken over by the new Kingdom of Italy and the Vatican became a much more focused religious establishment.
The independent State of the Vatican was only formally created in 1929 as part of the Lateran treaty which put a final line between Italy and Roman rule. This document settled a number of governmental, financial and legal considerations and the Vatican has existed as a sovereign country ever since. The Holy See declared itself to be neutral during the Second World War which spared it invasion and destruction when Hitler occupied Rome and continues to be the formal residence of the Pope and the focal point of the Catholic Church.
Throughout the Year
The Vatican - Fast Track
Viale Vaticano, 100
Vatican City 00120