The Vatican, or the Holy See, is a landlocked sovereign state located within the city boundaries of Rome. It is the spiritual and administrative centre of the Roman Catholic Church, and is home to outstanding historical monuments which range from grand architecture to some of the world’s best art treasures. Any trip to the Italian Republic, specifically Rome, is incomplete without a visit to the Vatican, regardless of your religious beliefs!! The Basilica and Sistine Chapel house some of the most famous art in the world by artists such as Michelangelo, Botticelli and Bernini, whilst the museums house items of the highest historical, scientific and cultural importance.
The ‘State of the Vatican City’ is an enclave which is almost entirely surrounded by huge medieval walls and covers just over 40 hectares and contains St Peter’s Basilica and Square, the Apostolic Palace which is the Papal residence, administrative and residential buildings, museums, libraries, archives, a cemetery and gardens. The enclave is effectively a tiny country, being recognized by the U.N. as the smallest in the world, and as such is the only complete state which is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites!! There are only an estimated 800 to 900 people living within the walls of the Vatican, and these are composed of the Pope (who is also the Bishop of Rome), Cardinals and clergymen, nuns and the Swiss Guards. In addition there are approximately 3000 lay workers, who travel to the Vatican everyday to carry out duties for the day to day running of the city, being office staff, cleaners, gardeners etc.
If visiting the Vatican consider taking a guided tour. There are several advantages for this, for example it is possible to enter certain areas before the public and the information which is explained is priceless!! These tours cover the museums, Sistine Chapel, Tapestry Galleries, Cartography Gallery and gardens.
The Swiss Guards, provide personal security and protection for the Pope and the Apostolic Palace, and also for the mass of artifacts, paintings, tapestries, sculptures, books, maps and riches that the Church has accumulated over its centuries of existence, by protecting the access to the city. The Guards dress in traditional medieval style uniform and are actually recruited from Switzerland, and as such officially communicate in German!!
Visitors to the Vatican must dress conservatively as inappropriate dress will deny access. For example, men should not wear shorts, and women should not have bare midriffs, bare shoulders or wear mini-skirts. Be prepared for security checks and inspections as you enter the city.
Museum doors open to the public at 10 A.M., although guided tours can enter between 8 A.M. and 10 A.M.