How to Make the Most of Visiting the Vatican City
The smallest country in the world is packed full of sights and experiences. Many people only give themselves one day to see everything, so here the first three in the list can easily be done in one day. The last two are a little special, so maybe give yourself more time, or save it for your next visit to this fascinating country.
The best ancient artwork: Laocoon
Praised by Pliny the Elder: Rome’s esteemed art writer, Laocoon is a wonder to behold. It is located in the Pius-Clementine Museum, in the Octagonal Court. The statue’s date is much debated, but between 27BC and 68AD generally accepted.
The statue is an emotional one to behold: Lacoon and his sons writhe in agony as they are attacked by sea serpents. There are various versions of the story, but the popular one is of the Trojan horse, and how Laocoon discovered the Greeks hidden inside it. To avoid discovery the Greeks had him and his sons killed by sea serpents.
The best of the highlights: Sistine Chapel
The absolute must-see of the Vatican is the masterpiece the Sistine Chapel. Named for Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere (1471 to 1484), who had the chapel restored. The stories abound on the walls of the chapel: Moses, Christ, portraits of the popes.
The ceiling was painted by Michelangelo Buonarroti, who modified parts of it in 1508. The nine central panels show the Stories of Genesis: the Creation, the Fall of Man, the Flood and rebirth of mankind with Noah.
The best in St Peter’s Cathedral: Michelangelo
If you haven’t got enough of him in the Sistine Chapel, there is more Michelangelo to be marvelled at in St. Peter’s Cathedral. The soaring dome was begun in 1547 and finally completed in 1590, after Michelangelo’s death.
Michelangelo’s other masterpiece is the pieta: possibly the most beautiful statue in the world. It made Michelangelo famous aged only 24. It shows Mary holding the body of her son Jesus, the sadness in her face is heartbreaking.
The best off the beaten track: Vatican Gardens
The private urban gardens and parks cover more than half of the country, approximately 23 hectares. It is only possible to see most of these by booking a Garden Tour, as there is no public access. Book in advance as numbers are limited.
The gardens contain many fortifications, buildings and monuments from 9th century to present day. Vibrant flower beds, green lawns and forest areas cover the rest, dotted with fountains, sculptures, grottos and an olive tree donated by the government of Israel.
The best experience: The Pope’s weekly address
Book a tour to see the Pope in action as he and his cardinals deliver the weekly address. Guides will take you through the crowds to a prime position. Headsets will allow you to hear the guide’s commentary. The address takes 4 hours, including learning papal traditions, praying, and hearing the Pope’s weekly message and blessing.