Few of us know that the Vatican City is not only the smallest country in the world, counting approximately 1,000 inhabitants, but also the most visited place in the Eternal City. The Vatican hosts around 10,000 visitors every day and is followed by the Colosseum in second position.
In case you ever asked yourself why that place in the north of Rome is so important, it is customary for our tour company to give some good advice before starting a visit at the Vatican.
– GET THE FACTS
The Vatican, no matter what is also a very busy place since it entertains diplomatic relationships with 140 countries worldwide; therefore an ambassador of the vatican is sent to represent the pope abroad and one is also accredited in the Italian country, although there are always good relationships between Italy and the vatican itself. Its 2,000 rooms host an enormous amount of treasures that span from Roman sarcophagi to an ample collection of religious modern art housed in the Borgia Apartments.
– WHERE DO MY VISIT FIT AT THE VATICAN
If you have planned to visit the Vatican alone, with your family or with a group of people, please bear in mind that your travel agent or your tour guide knows more about the logistics than you do. It is always recommended to follow your group and your tour guide patiently and listen proactively to the amount of information he is broadcasting. Remember also that a very good period to visit the Vatican and Rome is in the Spring and in the Fall, because of a better temperature and less people hanging around.
– SO WHERE DO I GET STARTED
Well, you should know that it is better to begin the visit from the Vatican Museum and finish the tour in Saint Peter’s square and not viceversa. The administration of the Vatican set up a sort of one way visit through its galleries so that from the Sistine Chapel visitors can continue to admire the masterpieces in Saint Peter’s. Since several years it is always better to make a reservation in advance booking the entrance at the vatican Museums since it is much easier to buy tickets before getting in. Ask your travel agent about making a reservation.
– THE VATICAN IS NOT ONLY THE SISTINE CHAPEL
Now that you know that almost everybody goes to the Vatican to admire the Sistine Chapel, there is something else that you should know and see before entering the chapel frescoed by Michelangelo. First and foremost, the Vatican contains the largest selection of Roman Art in the world. At the end of the Roman Empire, popes settled in the territories that once belonged to the almighty Romans and began embellishing their new palatial residences with statues that were found in the Roman Forum and in the Emperor Residence on the Palatine Hill. Many Roman artefacts were dissolved in order to make lime and new construction material, but other art works were preserved because they were (and they are still today) considered examples of perfect beauty and anatomical proportions. Artists of the Renaissance went to the Vatican to improve their studies of the human anatomy before transfering their knowledge into a frescoed wall. What also is staggering is the amount of inscriptions that come from the catacombs and that can help understand the shift of rome from a pagan into a monotheistic culture.
– ADMIRING THE SISITNE CHAPEL
Indeed the Sisitne chapel is the main attraction of the Vatican and is in this place that the new pope is elected. Before the arriving of Michelangelo in Rome, the chapel side walls were frescoed by talented Quattrocento artisits such as Botticelli and Perugino with episodes of the life of Jesus and Moses. Great plans were achieved under the papapcy of Julius II who asked Michelangelo to delay the construction of his tomb in order to undertake the fresco of the vault which took polace in five years, from 1506 to 1512. Michelangelo at that time was barely 30 years old and an already famed sculptor who had just finished the David in Florence. When the Sisitine Chapel hosts the election of the new pope visitors are not allowed to get in.
– THE MAGIC OF THE BAROQUE IN SAINT PETER’S AND THE ART OF BERNINI
Without Bernini Saint Pter’s would have been a mere puzzle of different styles that intertwined throught 120 years of construction. If it is true that Julius II envisioned a new majestic structure, the ensuing popes were only able to contribute at a slow pace to the new basilica. With Michelangelo, the works were able to speed up and the magnificent dome was designed. Unfortunately the great florentine was unable to see it put into place as the works of the dome ened officially for the Jubilee of the year 1600 sponsored by Clement VIII Aldobrandini. The facade was completed by Carlo Maderno at the beginning of the 1600s and Bernini added a scenographic ensemble by planning and implementing the square facing the basilica. Its unparalled colonnade provides still today a smooth entrance to the basilica of Saint Peter’s and reminds us the pillars of the catholic faith: each column is surmounted by a statue of a saint.
– IS NOW THE TOUR OVER?
Not really, as there is always so much to know about the vatican, its history and especially about how the day to day life of the people living there is organized.