It’s quite a thrilling thought that you get to enter an entire sovereign state when you walk into Vatican City. It just feels weird that you’re no longer in Italy, but you’re not quite in a full-blown country either. Also, and I’m putting this out there upfront, I was incredibly disappointed that we didn’t get a Vatican passport stamp. Apparently that’s something that doesn’t happen, and was probably 50% of the reason I visited.
Ok maybe not 50%, but I was still sad.
The Vatican is quite confusing actually. Yes, it’s small, but we battled to find the entrance to the museum and were super panicked that we’d lost our pre-booked spot when we saw the queue around the block. It didn’t matter that we were a little bit late, luckily the guards still let us through and we got to skip the enormous line.
Once you’ve gone through some intensive security scans and submitted your personal details at the front of the museum, a friendly guide will be waiting to hand you a radio unit and ear piece for the grand tour. And grand it is! Systematically, we made our way through the maze of levels and rooms of the Vatican, grabbing just slices of history that the guide offered up. The reality is, there is just so much going on here that it would literally be impossible to cover it all and find out about every single piece of art, sculpture, tapestry, mosaic, ceiling, carpet, sarcophagus, vase.. ok you get my point.
There is so much historical and cultural value jammed into the Vatican that I felt like I was suddenly thrown into the premise of the Da Vinci Code. What I also thought was incredible was how accessible this all seemed here. Sure, velvet ropes prevented us from getting too close, but the majority of rooms were open for visitors to wander around and really take their time exploring each and every corner of the place.
What was also really interesting was just how much variety there was in the pieces inside the Vatican Museum. There were items from all over the world scattered across the last few centuries and right at the end of the tour, there were even some contemporary pieces. Of course, the religious theme flows throw most of the work here and you’d be hard pressed to find something with no catholic connotation of sorts, yet still it was fascinating. Our guide explained which pieces had been acquired under which pope too, detailing their particular artistic interests and giving an idea of their personality in turn.
The only photos I wish I had were from the Sistine Chapel. Cameras are not allowed inside the Sistine and there are plenty of beefy Vatican guards making sure this rule is enforced. One of the first things that struck me is how small the chapel is. That, and the fact that it’s still used as a council venue for the Catholic church. I would’ve been pissed to go all the way there and not be able to see the chapel. Although gorgeous to stare at, my neck got really sore doing so and it’s so busy that after 15 minutes you kinda get fed up and are ready to get out of there.
I feel like I need to impart some tips for Visiting the Vatican, so here we go:
- Book your entrance ticket online, it is slightly cheaper and oh so worth it
- Wear comfy shoes, there is a lot of walking involved here
- Pack some water! Even though you can’t drink inside the museum, water inside costs a bomb
- Make sure your batteries are fully charged, I took about 7 million photos
- If you’re wondering whether or not to do a guided tour, I suggest you do, otherwise you’ll get lost and die of hunger inside that maze
- Book an early slot to go, afterwards you can enjoy the shops and restaurants just outside. Culture and shopping = balance