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During business trips I always try to get a bit of leisure time to explore something new. This trip which brought me in 5 days to 5 capitals in Europe was not different. My journey started on Friday from my home in the Netherlands to Berlin, Rome, Vatican, Madrid and back to Amsterdam on the Tuesday. It was on the Sunday that I had the day off to explore the Vatican, a country which I did not visit before and everyone should visit if they are in Rome for a day or two. The trip had some travel magic involved too which saved me a lot of money. This, and great restaurants, I will cover in another post. Now first about the drizzle in Vatican City.
A rainy Sunday in Vatican City
After a great night sleep it turned out to be not so great outside: rain! The day before I had some bubbles in the sunshine on the roof terrace of my suite at the Intercontinental Hotel de la Villa, where I stayed but more on that later.
The rain had me change my plans. The original plan was to explore the Vatican except the museums and the Sistine Chapel which are closed on Sundays. I decided to only see the St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square and nothing more due to the rain. To see the Vatican you need more as a day so to come back one day I must anyway. I slept a bit more, took a great large breakfast, changed hotel directly instead of in the evening. The Uber taxi drove me in about 20 minutes to the Vatican with special thanks to the driver for the great chat. Around 2PM I had set my first steps on Vatican soil. The Vatican is the most tiny country in the world in respect to size and population. It is located in the city of Rome and the home of the Pope of the Catholic church. The most important sites are the gardens, the Sistine Chapel, the Museums and the St. Peter’s Basilica of which the latter was on my agenda for today.
St. Peter’s Square
The main entrance to the Vatican is the St. Peter’s Square. The square is designed by Bernini in the 17th century. You will find colonnades on both sides, two matching fountains and an Egyptian obelisk. The obelisk is not put there by Bernini but was erected before after it was moved from Egypt. The square is huge and made so that all the people on the square can see the Pope when he gives his blessing.
The Vatican is known for its long lines of people waiting to get in. The museums and Sistine Chapel do have fast track tickets (buy here) but the St. Peter’s Basilica is free of charge so the only line is the security line and the only way to skip it is with a guide for a fee. Due to the rain the line was not that long and I decided to photograph first the outside and see how long it took the people to move forward in the line. This seemed to be only 30 minutes so I decided just to start at the end of the line. Before I did that I bought from the sellers on the square an umbrella for 3 euro after negotiating it down from 20 euro. Funny is that I gave it back to the sellers when I got my Uber ride back to the hotel as I would throw it away otherwise. So, 30 minutes later I passed the security and could enter the St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica
The St. Peter’s Basilica is enormous and one of the biggest churches in the world. Its name is derived from the apostle’s name St. Peter who is buried on the site. The Basilica is designed by Bernini, Michelangelo but also Bramante and Maderno did their job. Constructed in late 16th century and finished early 17th century it dominates Rome’s skyline still today. If you stand in front of it the size does not directly look huge and more like other bigger churches I have seen. Once you enter the church you actually realize how big it is. Through the main nave you can walk towards the center under the dome. On both sides are various chapels, artwork, statues and so much more beauty to see. Also around the dome are chapels of which parts are only accessible for mass. There is too much to see to cover each piece in this article but every single piece is a masterwork.
Once you have reached the far left side of the Basilica you can enter there the grottoes where many popes are buried. No photos are allowed there and please respect that. The grottoes will not take more than 15 minutes and once outside continue to buy a ticket to climb the dome. This is really worth the few euros! I arrived just before they would close so I took the elevator up. Once inside the dome you will find it fenced quite high making photos difficult. A small photo tip: take a zoom lens and zoom through the fence and you will see that wires of the fence disappear. A wide angle lens will not get you great photos here.
Then continue the stairs to walk the last part up to the top outside. Here you will have a magnificent view over the Vatican and Rome. You can see the Vatican gardens, the museums, St. Peter’s Square and on a clear day the full skyline of Rome. After the view descent down and you will end again inside the church from where you walk back to the square.
When I got out it was already 6 PM and it started to get dark. I fired up my Uber app and had the car get in front of the square to take me back to my hotel. My leisure time for this trip was finished but I’m happy I had the chance to visit the Vatican. Everyone visiting Rome should plan a day or two for the Vatican. So beautiful!
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Gallery of the Vatican
Click an image for a full screen gallery of more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.