Most of us know that when we get to the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, we need to look up to see the masterpiece that is Michelangelo’s ceiling. There’s another Michelangelo in the chapel, however, that’s equally important – his enormous Last Judgment painting behind the altar.
The Vatican Museums are one of the most visited attractions in Rome, but they are so vast that you would never see the whole thing in one visit. With a good guided tour, you’ll be sure to catch all the highlights of the museum’s collection, but you’d still miss some of the lesser-known galleries – unless, that is, you’re taking an extended art tour.
When you walk through St. Peter’s Basilica and notice all the fine mosaic work – from the floors to the artwork on the walls, intricately recreating paintings in tiny pieces of glass – you’ll no doubt gain a deeper appreciation for the detail involved in creating mosaics. Take that appreciation a step further with a tour of the Vatican Mosaic Studio.
Vatican City may be an independent nation, but visitors know it’s as easy to reach from Rome as crossing the street. Most people get to the Vatican by walking from Rome, or by taking a bus or the subway to get close and then walking from there. But Vatican City is also home to the world’s shortest national railways system – consisting of one station and one line.
Ask any Roman about the Quirinal Palace and you’re likely to hear that it’s the home of the Italian President. This is true. But this historic palace on one of Rome’s famous seven hills has actually been home to more popes than presidents since it was built.
The Vatican is a country within a city, and the home to one of the largest religions on earth. Being such an important place it’s no wonder that this site sees over 20,000 people every day during the summer. Gates open at 9:00am, but it’s not uncommon to see people lined up as early as 7:00am to avoid the crowds. That’s one way to do it, or better yet take the early morning breakfast at the Vatican tour like we did.
You might know that Vatican City is an independent state entirely enclosed within Rome, and that St. Peter’s Basilica is effectively the church headquarters for the Catholic church. But there are other Vatican churches in Rome, and the most important of these is arguably the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.
It really is difficult to describe the sheer majesty of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, which puts me in a bit of a predicament. Still, with the aid of some pictures and your imagination, I can try.
We’ve all seen the idealized nude statues and figures in the art displayed in Rome and elsewhere in Italy, dating back hundreds of years to when nudity wasn’t something to be hidden. On a trip to Vatican City, however, you’ll no doubt see some nude statues and some that have a fig leaf placed over their genitals. Those fig leaves aren’t original – they were added later.
Easter is one of the busiest and most interesting times to be in Vatican City – but this year, the bustle and pomp of Easter Sunday was followed a week later by an equally big event that’s far more rare. Two popes were canonized on April 27, 2014, including Pope John Paul II.