Here’s one for the county counters (me included!), the Vatican City, the World’s smallest state. The Vatican is a country, although with a population of only 800 and a land area of 0.44sq km I don’t quite know how it got its status.
The Vatican is home to the pope and it’s the undisputed centre of the Catholic faith so expect big crowds when you arrive.
I was staying at an awesome B&B in Rome (LINK TO ECO B&B) just outside the city centre, so I jumped on the metro and got out at Ottavaiano, just a few minutes walk from the Vatican.
Although the Vatican City is a sovereign state you don’t need your passport to enter, there’s no passport stamp and no ‘border’ per se. You do have to go through a few security checks though and you have to be appropriately dressed:
DRESS CODE FOR THE VATICAN:
No shoulders, cleavage or knees
No knee caps, long shorts are ok, no vest tops either
– flipflops are fine for dudes and chicks J
WHAT TO SEE AT THE VATICAN:
There are essentially 3 must-sees at the Vatican, I loved them all so be sure not to miss any, here they are:
1) St Peter’s Basilica:
This is THE church of the Vatican, it’s the biggest in Italy and after you’ve been here, you won’t feel the need to visit too many more churches in your lifetime. What’s more is that it’s FREE! Michelangelo’s (not the turtle) handy work is all over the place, I’d recommend you download some audio guides for your smart phone to distinguish the pieces.
2) St Peter’s ‘dome’:
If you’re dying to see the ‘key shape’ that the Pope’s balcony famously opens on to then you need to get up the dome. It’s 5 euro ($6) for the steps or 7 euro ($8.50) for the lift (which only takes you half way anyway). Once up the top the views of Rome are spectacular, and you get a proper look at the famous Vatican Courtyard, St Peter’s Square
3) The Sistine Chapel:
Wow, just wow. World famous and rightly so, no pics allowed unfortunately although I managed a sneaky one (no flash) on my iphone. This place will take your breath away. It’s located in the Vatican Museum and although the entire complex is full of interesting artwork, the big draw is clearly the Chapel. It costs 16 Euro/$20 to enter (half price for students), it may be steep but these guys no they’re holding on to a real winner. Enjoy Michelangelo at his finest.
A day trip to the Vatican is easily enough, it’s pretty central in Rome. If you want to avoid big queues try to get there before 10am, or after 3pm. Around lunchtime in peak season you’ll be waiting more than an hour to get through security and there’s very little shade, be warned! Oh, and bring a water bottle, there are fountains everywhere