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Vatican City State

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[[File:noframe|250px|frameless|Vatican City State]]
Quick Facts
Capital Vatican City
Government Theocracy/ elective monarchy
Currency euro (EUR)
Area 0.44 sq km
Population 821 (July 2007 est.)
Language Latin (official), Italian (official)
Religion Roman Catholic (100% and official)
Electricity 230V/50Hz (European or Italian plug)
Country code +39
Internet TLD .va
Time Zone UTC +1

Perhaps the Vatican needs no introduction. The center of Catholicism, and encompassing the Vatican City state, as well as the surrounding Roman neighborhoods of the Vaticano, Prati, and Monte Mario, this small slice of the city is packed with more history and artwork than most cities in the world.


Vatican City (Citta del Vaticano), also incorrectly known as but popularly synonymous with the Holy See (Santa Sede), is the latest and only current Papal state in existence and the temporal seat of the Pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church. Situated within the city of Rome in Italy, the Vatican is the world's smallest state. Outside the Vatican City itself, 13 buildings in Rome and Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence, also enjoy extraterritorial rights. On April 19, 2005, Josef Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI.


The origin of the Papal States, which over the years have varied considerably in extent, may be traced back to AD 756 with the Donation of Pepin. However the popes were the de facto rulers of Rome and the surrounding province since the fall of the Roman Empire and the retreat of Byzantine power in Italy. Popes in their secular role ruled portions of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until the mid 19th century, when many of the Papal States were seized by the newly united Kingdom of Italy. In 1870, the pope's holdings were further circumscribed when Rome itself was annexed.

Disputes between a series of "prisoner" popes and Italy were resolved in 1929 by three Lateran Treaties, which established the independent state of Vatican City and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. On 11 February 1929, three treaties were signed with Italy which, among other things, recognized the full sovereignty of the Vatican and established its territorial extent.

In 1984, a concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion.

The pope is elected for life by the College of Cardinals. When the election was last held (Tuesday, April 19, 2005. Benedict XVI), it attracted large crowds. Pope Benedict XVI's predecessor Pope John Paul II's Inauguration Day (he was never crowned) of 22 October 1978 was also a major event.

Present concerns of the Holy See include interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, and the application of church doctrine in an era of rapid change and globalization. About 1 billion people worldwide profess the Catholic faith.


The Vatican sits on a low hill between 19 m and 75 m above sea level. With a boundary only 3.2 km around, the enclosed land area is smaller than some shopping malls. However the buildings are far more historic and architecturally interesting.


Although 1000 people live within Vatican City, many dignitaries, priests, nuns, guards, and 3,000 lay workers live outside the Vatican. Officially, there are about 800 citizens making it the smallest nation in demographic size on the globe. The Vatican even fields a soccer team composed of the Swiss Guard who hold dual citizenship.

Get in

Map of Vatican City

It's easy to get to the Vatican by taxi, bus or by foot from Rome—the closest neighborhood on the other side of the Tiber being Navona. Take the Metro line A to Cipro for the Museums, or Ottaviano for St. Peter's, or the tram to Piazza del Risorgimento.

From Central Rome, the #64 bus goes right to the southern end of the Vatican, but it is filled with pickpockets, guard your valuables! :) !

Get around

With a little more than 100 acres (less than half a square kilometer) within its walls, the Vatican is easily traveled by foot; however, most of this area is inaccessible to tourists. The most popular areas open to tourists are the Basilica of St. Peter and the Vatican Museums.

If you're heading up Monte Mario, wear comfortable shoes—it's quite a climb!


Latin enthusiasts rejoice! There is one country in the world that holds Latin (in addition to Italian) as its official language, and you can indeed get by within the city state only using the "dead" language. Italian, however, remains the more useful of the two. English is widely spoken here, as are most major languages of the world—this is the Vatican, a city for the world's Catholics and all who wish to see St. Peter's Basilica.


  • Monte Mario — the largest hill in Rome, with sweeping views of the Vatican and Rome across the Tiber.
  • Teatro Adriano
  • Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice)

Swiss Guard

Swiss Papal Guards

Swiss Guards Corps (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera) Swiss Papal Guards are posted at entrances to the Vatican City to provide security and protect the Pope. They wear very colourful clothing, similar to the clothing of court jesters; winter palette of clothing differs from summer palette. Actually, the design is attributed to Michelangelo or Raphael. The Pontifical Swiss Guards is also the smallest and oldest standing army in the world founded in 1506 by the warrior pope Julius II (the same pope who kick started the construction of this 'new' basilica and making Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel). The origins of the Swiss guards, however, go much further. The popes, as well as a lot of European rulers, regularly imported Swiss mercenaries since the 1400's. Swiss mercenaries were a major export of Switzerland before they started making watches.

St Peter's Basilica

Dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City

The centre of the Catholic world, this magnificent basilica with its Michelangelo designed dome has an awe-inspiring interior. This place is huge, but everything is in such proportion that the scale escapes you. To give you a comparison, you can fit the Statue of Liberty, statue and pedestal (height from ground of pedestal to torch: 93m), underneath the dome (interior height of 120m from floor to top of dome) with room to spare.

To get in, you will first go through a metal detector (after all,this is an important building). Don't be put off if there is a long line in front of the detectors; the whole thing moves quickly. The line is usually shorter in the morning and during mid week.

Baldacchino and Dome, St. Peter's Basilica

Aside from going inside, you can take an elevator up to the roof and than make a long climb up 323 steps to the top of the dome for a spectacular view. It costs €6 for the elevator, and allow an hour to go up and down. During the climb and before reaching the very top, you will find yourself standing on the inside of the dome, looking down into the Basilica itself. Be warned that there are a lot of stairs so it is not for the faint at heart (literally or figuratively) nor the claustrophobic as the very last section of the ascent is through a little more than shoulder-width spiral staircase. Instead of leaving out the doors you came in, go down into the crypt to see the tomb of Pope John Paul II, the crypt leaves out the front.

Note: A strict dress code is enforced (as in many other houses of worship), so have shoulders covered, wear trousers or a not-too-short dress, and take your hats off (which is the custom in churches in Europe). You might be required to check bags at the entrance. Photos are allowed to be taken inside, but not with a flash. The lack of light will probably cause your pictures not to turn out very well, so you may want to buy a few postcards to keep as souvenirs.

The basilica is open daily April to September 9AM-7PM and October to March 9AM-6PM; closed Wednesday mornings for papal audiences.

Daily mass at 8:30AM, 10AM, 11AM, 12PM, & 5PM Monday to Saturday, and Sundays & holidays at 8:30AM, 10:30AM, 11:30AM, 12:10AM, 1PM, 4PM, & 5:30PM.

Free 90 minute tours leave daily from the Tourist Information at 2:15PM, many days also at 3PM. Telephone: 06-6988-1662. €5 audio-guides can be rented from the checkroom.

Tours are the only way to see the Vatican Gardens, €12, book at least a day in advance by calling 06-6988-4676, Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday at 10AM, depart from tour desk and finish in St. Peter's Square. To tour the Necropolis and Saint's Tomb, call the excavations office at least a week in advance at 06-6988-5318, €10 for 2 hour tour, office open Monday to Saturday 9AM-5PM.

If you want to see the pope, you can either see a usual blessing from his apartment at noon on Sunday, just show up (but in the summer he gives it from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, 25 miles from Rome) or you can go to the more formal Wednesday appearance. The pope arrives in the popemobile at 10:30AM to bless crowds from a balcony or platform, except in winter, when he speaks in the Aula Paola VI Auditorium next to the square. You can easily watch from a distance, or get a free ticket, which you must get on the Tuesday before. There are a number of ways:

Interior of St. Peter's Basilica
  • Your hotelier may be able to book one for you
  • You could wait in a long line at St. Peter's on Tuesday where the Swiss Guards hand out tickets at their post to the right of the basilica, after 12:00 on Tuesday
  • You could contact the Santa Susanna Church to get you a ticket, which you pick up there on Tuesday between 5PM & 6:45PM, on Via XX Settembre, Metro stop: Reppublica. Call 06-4201-4554, or go to [17]
  • Finally, to book a free spot in the square or auditorium, call 06-6988-4631

The pope may occasionally be away on a state visit, however.

St. Peter's Piazza

St. Peter's

The Piazza di San Pietro is actually an ellipse. There are two stones (one on each side of the square) between the obelisk and the fountains. If you step on either of these stones, the four columns on the colonnades merge into one. The fountains were made by two different architects, Maderno and Bernini.

The obelisk in the middle of the square was transported from Egypt to Rome in 37 A.D. by the Emperor Gaius Caligula to mark the spine of a circus eventually completed by the Emperor Nero. The so-called Circus of Nero was parallel to and to the south of the east-west axis of the current Basilica. It was in this circus that St. Peter was killed in the first official persecutions of Christians undertaken by Nero beginning in 64 A.D. and continuing until his death in 67 A.D. The original location of the obelisk is marked with a plaque located near the sacristy on the south side of the Basilica, where it remained until it was moved in 1586 A.D. by Pope Sixtus V to its present location.

During the Middle Ages, the bronze ball on top of the obelisk was believed to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar. When it was relocated, the present reliquary, the Chigi Star in honor of Pope Alexander VII, was added containing pieces of the True Cross. This is the only obelisk in Rome that never toppled since it was placed in ancient Rome and is the second largest Egyptian obelisk after the Lateran obelisk. This celebrated obelisk nearly shattered while it was being moved. Upon orders of the pope, no one was to speak a word otherwise he would be excommunicated. However, a sailor shouted to water the ropes to prevent them from burning. He was forgiven and in gratitude for saving the day, the palms for Palm Sunday still come from the sailor's home town of Bordighera. The moving of this obelisk was celebrated in engravings during its time to commemorate the Renaissance's recovery and mastery of ancient knowledge.

The Vatican Museum

Double Spiral Staircase, exit of Vatican Museum

[18] One of the greatest art galleries in the world, the museum is most famous for its spiral staircase, the Raphael Rooms and the exquisitely decorated Sistine Chapel famous for Michelangelo's frescos. It's organized so you follow a one-way route. Price: €13 for visitors, €8.00 for concessions. Open March to October Monday to Friday 8:45AM-4:45PM, Saturday 8:45AM-1:45PM, November to February Monday to Saturday 8:45AM-1:45PM, closed Sunday except last Sunday of the month, when its free, crowded, and open 8:45AM-1:45PM. Last entry 90 minutes before closing time, Sistine Chapel closes before rest of museum does. The museum is closed for holidays on: January 1 & 6, February 11, March 19, April 8 & 9, May 1 & 17, June 15 & 29, August 15 and either 14 or 16, November 1, and December 8, 25, & 26.

The Museum is usually the most hot & crowded Saturday, Monday, the last Sunday of the month, rainy days, and days before or after a holiday. Dress code: no short shorts or bare shoulders. Telephone: 06-6988-4947. There are often lengthy queues from the entrance that stretch around the block in the early morning. Non-guided visitors should join the queue that is to the left as you are facing the entrance; the queue on the right is intended for guided group visitors. Two hour English tours cost €21.50 and includes museum admission, and leave at 10:30AM, 12PM, & 2PM in summer, 10:30AM & 11:15AM in winter. To reserve, fax 06-6988-4019 up to 15 days in advance, include name, return fax number, names of those in your party, children's ages, language, and several date options. With a booking you skip the queue and enter through the exit, next to entry, to go to the guided tours desk. There are also audio-guides available from the top of the escalator/ramp for €6. Two people to share a single unit plugging in a standard set of earphones.

Accessing the Sistine Chapel requires walking through many other (spectacular) halls and buildings (including the Raphael's Rooms) and it takes about an hour.


The two main entrances to Vatican City for tourists are A) the Vatican Museums, accessible from Viale Vaticano on the North side of the city state and B) St. Peter's Basilica, on the Southeast side of the city and accessible from Via della Conciliazione. While St. Peter's Basilica is open all day long, the Vatican Museum entrance does close at 3:30PM on weekdays and 12:20PM on Saturdays, so it is a good idea to first visit the museums and then the church.

While guidebooks do their best to provide an aid for viewing the collections inside the Vatican, a guided tour is a far better way to make sure you get the most out of your visit.

Beware of a "sweet & kind" Australian woman advertising tours right at the top of the Vatican metro exit. Her company's tour is over priced (at 45 euro), the guide speaks incomprehensible English, and the audio equipment is very low quality. They do not offer refunds.

Vatican Tours

  • Official tours Guided tours are provided by the Vatican itself for the cost of 23.50 Euro. These must be requested in advance by fax from one month to one week before the requested tour date. The Vatican is notorious for failing to reply via fax, and repeat requests are often necessary. Full details on booking such tours are available at [19]
  • When In Rome Tours The Vatican Tours offered by When in Rome Tours are among the best in the city. Their guides are scholars with profound knowledge of art history and religion, and their tour to the Vatican is highly recommended. Vatican tours cost about 40 Euro per person, entrance fees not included [20].
  • - Vatican City Tour Officially licensed tour operator, authorized by the Vatican to skip waiting in the long line (which can last up to two hours!) to enter the Vatican Museums [21].

Orbis Catholicus Tours


The Vatican has a unique, noncommercial economy that is supported financially by contributions (known as Peter's Pence) from Roman Catholics throughout the world. It also sells postage stamps, tourist mementos, and publications. Fees for admission to museums also go into church coffers.

The Euro is the official currency of the Vatican City. The Vatican Euro is the rarest in circulation among the European countries, so don't spend it! It is worth a lot more than its face value.

The Vatican is the only country in the world where ATM instructions are in Latin.

Orbis Catholicus Tours


The Vatican Museums have a reasonable cafeteria style restaurant, a bar, and a pizzeria, all of which are open during museum opening hours, and until about one hour after closing. See also Rome.


  • Siciliainbocca, Via E. Faa di Bruno 26 (Metro line A, Cipro.), 06 373 584 00, [1]. nice Sicilian restaurant in the quiet (and somewhat boring) part of northern Prati. Try the swordfish and the lemon sorbet! reasonable. Fish plate around €15, but do order some antipasti and pasta.
  • Insalata Ricca, Via Fulcieri Paulucci De' Calboli (Near piazza Manzoni), [2]. Part of a Rome-based chain, offers good salads and other food to both tourists and locals. Cheap.



Unless you count the Pope as a good friend (and he concurs), there are no lodging opportunities in the Vatican City itself. However, there are many hotels in the surrounding Vaticano neighborhood of Rome.


  • Colors Hostel, [22]. On the west side of the city, a few blocks north of the Vatican (take the metro from Termini train station). Guests can make use of kitchen facilities on each floor.
  • Hotel Vatican Garden Inn Rome , Via Germanico 201, +39 06 32 17 559, [23]. 2 star hotel, as the name suggests, just a few minutes from the Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica. Homely accommodation ideal for visitors to the holy city on a small budget, also a nice walk from the river and the rest of the city.
  • Papa Vista Relais – Via Tunisi 3, 0039 06 65420553, [24]. Luxury and convenient guest house located in the heart of the city centre and close the Metro station Cipro in front of the entrance to the Vatican Museums and the Holy City.

Apartments Short Lets

  • Rome Sweet Home Vatican Via della Vite 32 Tel. +390669924833 [25], [26] Fully furnished apartments in Rome Vatican with booking on-line.
  • Piazza dei Quiriti 20, +39 06 9905199 +39 06 99329392 [email protected] . . More than 150 apartments in Vatican Area. Short lets or long time rentals. Luxury or cheap apartments all in the centre of the city.

Bed and Breakfasts

  • AeS BB | Arte e Studio Bed And Breakfast, Via Santa Maria alle Fornaci, 18, +39 06 98183948 (), [3]. Bed and Breakfast in Rome near St Peter's square. Three rooms with private bathrooms and an air-conditioning system. From 50€ x person x night.
  • Babri Simin Taj B&B Rome City Center Bed and Breakfast [ B&B near Saint Paul Vatican city ,Trastevere , Viale Marconi via Gerolamo Cardano, 122 0039 065578784 mobile 0039 3283875550
  • B&B Filomena e Francesca, Via della Giuliana, 72, +39 06 37513625 (), [4]. Bed and Breakfast in Rome near Vatican. Tree rooms with private bathrooms and an air-conditioning system. Price from 40€ x person x night.
  • B&B L'Incanto di San Pietro – Via Vespasiano 48 - Cap: 00192, Rome, Italy. [29]. Telephone +39 3397401820 • Fax +39 06 4743444. This B&B is located in the elegant area of Rome, called Prati. Very close to the Basilica of Saint Peter and the Vatican Museums, even well connected by the Metro. The stop Ottaviano is just a few steps away from the B&B, which offers three large bedrooms with TV colour and mini bar.
  • B&B RomanHolidays - near Vatican Museum, Via Bu Meliana 12, +39 6 39746683 [30].

  • Best Vatican B&B, Via degli Scipioni, 135, +39 3358714840 (), [5]. new charming B&B in the centre of Rome. Few steps from the St Peter's Basilica and 50 metres from the metro station. Euro 60/120 for a double standard/superior room.
  • Domus Betti B&B, Via Germanico, 85, [31]. Great budget B&B just a stone’s throw away from the Vatican City and St Peter’s. Comfortable, spacious and stylish, the Domus Betti offer excellent value for money.

  • Hotel Atlante B & B Rome, Via Vitelleschi 34, [32]. Luxury Bed and Breakfast in the Vatican area and the shadow of Saint Peter.
  • L'Elefantino BB', Via Gregorio VII, 278, ph.+39 392 1434256 (), [7]. Bed and Breakfast in Rome near the Vatican City. Three rooms with private bathrooms and an air-conditioning system. Price from 50€ x person x night.
  • Leone B&B, Via Leone IV, nr. 109, +39 338 6112656 (, fax: +00 39 6 3203663), [8]. Located 1 block from the entrance to Vatican City, this independent bed and breakfast is clean, cozy, and feels very safe. While it doesn't offer the amenities of an expensive hotel, it's ideal for the independent traveler, offering a great location a less than 2 blocks from the metro station, free breakfast daily, and a comfortable place to rest at the end of a long day of touring. €70/90.
  • Prati BB, Via degli Scipioni, 135, ph.+39 06 3211329 (), [9]. Bed and Breakfast in Rome near Vatican. Two rooms with private bathrooms and an air-conditioning system. Price from 45€ x person x night.
  • Rome City Center Bed and Breakfast [33] B&B near Vatican city , Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori, Trastevere and Spanish steps
  • Tibullo B&B (Tibullo Bed And Breakfast), Via Tibullo, 20, +39 06 6868420 (), [10]. Bed and Breakfast near St Peter. Four rooms with private bathrooms and an air-conditioning system. From 45€ x person x night.

  • Vatican Vacation B & B -- Via Caracciolo,6 - 00192 Roma Tel:06 39732382 [34] The Vatican Vacation is an elegant B&B with a splendid view of the dome of St. Peter; located just 100 meters from the nearest metro line A, Cyprus - Vatican Museums, giving easy access to foot the entry of the Vatican Museums ( about 100 meters). Ideal for shopping in our Bed and Breakfast is located in the immediate vicinity of Via Candia, Via Ottaviano and Via Cola di Rienzo.


  • Hotel / Hostel Papa Germano, Rome hotels hotel roma centro Hôtel tel: +39 06486919 fax: +39 0647825202. Popular 2 star hotel / hostel near the central station, few minutes from the main cultural and artistic sites. Recently renewed and well served by public transport. Highly recommended by international travel guides.
  • Hotel Spring House, Via Mocenigo, 7, +39 06 39720948 (, fax: +39 06 39721047), [12]. The Spring House Hotel Rome, located in the heart of Rome's historical center, offers international standards of quality combined with Italian hospitality.
  • Hotel Franklin, Via Rodi, 29, +39 06.39030165 (, fax: +39 06.39751652), [13]. Hotel in Rome, Italy, near the Vatican Museums and the Vatican. The Franklin is also near S. Peter's Cathedral, city center and its monuments.
  • Hotel Domus Aurelia], via Aurelia, 218, +39 (, fax: +39, [14]. The two star Hotel Domus Aurelia opens its doors to offer you a comfortable atmosphere on all of its six floors; from the Bar on the ground floor to the Chapel on the sixth floor.
  • Angel Hotel Via M. Dionigi, 45 00193, Ph. + Fax + The Angel is a very central hotel placed between Spanish Steps and and the Vatican City and a few minutes walking distance from the Rome main interest sites as the Ara Pacis, Navona's Square, Trevi Fountain, Corso street, the Pantheon and Venice Square. Sited in an ancient building of the ‘900, the hotel, thanks to its strategic position, is a perfect place both for holidays or business staying. Its cosy and renovated rooms will offer you an unforgettable stay.
  • Hotel Isa, Via Cicerone, 39 ph +39 06.321.26.10. The recently renewed Hotel Isa offers a well decorated ambient between the Vatican and the Spanish steps, just a short walk from Castel Sant'Angelo and many other historical monuments. Here it is easy to feel at home in the elegant yet intimate atmosphere. The personnel and friendly service help to satisfy guests' every need.
  • Vatican Holiday, Via Andrea Doria 36, 00182 Rzym Tel +390639736126 - Fax +390639887071.
  • Park Hotel dei Massimi, Largo V. Ambrosio, 9, +39 06.35347200 (, fax: +39 06.35452855), [15]. 4 star Hotel in Rome, Italy, near the Vatican Museums with a park around. Park Hotel dei Massimi offers free wifi Internet and shuttle service to Vatican.
  • Hotel Farnese, Via Alessandro Farnese, 30, +39 06.3212553 (, fax: +39 06.3215129), [16]. checkin: ""checkout=""price="".


Mail a letter - Since Vatican City is a separate country, it also has its own postal system, which is generally considered to be a bit more reliable than that of Italy. Send a postcard to your friends and it will be postmarked from Vatican City.


Since Vatican City is a Papal state, such respect and reverence to the Roman Catholic Church and its practices and doctrine is encouraged.

Sleeveless shirts and short pants or skirts are not permitted within the border of the Vatican.

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