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In Italy, within the city of Rome, lies Vatican City, the smallest sovereign state in the world. West of the Tiber River, you will see the Vatican at the top of Vatican hill. Only a white line separates Rome and Vatican City, Rome on one side and St. Peter’s Square on the other. The large square is your first step into Vatican City and if first impressions mean anything, Vatican City makes a good one. Even aside from its religious affiliation, the buildings in Vatican City are intricate and overly impressive making the Vatican one of the top attractions in Rome even aside from the Catholic travelers who pilgrimage to the city.
Vatican City is the capital of the Catholic world and made up of St Peter's Square, St Peter's Basilica, the Pope’s residences, the Vatican Palace (where you’ll find the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel) and the offices of the Catholic Church.
St. Peter’s Square is the large, semi-circular area at the entrance to Vatican City. It is also the Vatican security checkpoint. Before you arrive to the Vatican security checkpoint make sure you are dressed appropriately. For example, no bare shoulders are allowed. Those who attempt to break dress code will be sent away, or more likely to a nearby t-shirt stand where they can purchase a cover-up to wear inside the Vatican. Outside in St. Peter’s Square there are also great photo opportunities to take advantage of before you begin your tour of the Vatican.
Once you exit St. Peter’s Square and are inside the Vatican you will have much to see. St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the main attractions inside Vatican City. St. Peter’s Basilica is the center of Vatican City and, considered by some, the center of the Catholic Church. Here visitors can climb, or take an elevator for an additional fee, to the top of the Vatican and take in magnificent views of Rome. Take note of the cathedral’s Renaissance architecture, which can be credited to some of the most famous architects of Italy, Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante.
Inside what is known as the Vatican Palace, you will find the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museums are made up of a group of smaller museums, each with individually beautiful galleries and extensive collections of art. It is recommended to take a guided tour of the Vatican because of its size alone and specifically to help navigate travelers through the many people of art within the Vatican Museums. Included with the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel, which is famous throughout the world for its elaborately detailed ceilings painted by Michelangelo. The Catholic appreciation for the Sistine Chapel runs even deeper, as it also hosts the Papal Conclave, where the cardinals elect a new pope.
For its historical, cultural and religious significance, the Vatican remains today as one of the top destinations in Rome. Don’t miss out on this top attraction while traveling in Italy.