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Vatican City

Curious what backpackers do in Vatican City? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Vatican City is it's own country, the smallest in the world, and entirely within the city of Rome! I have a separate entry to add it to the country count. The country itself has only about 850 residents and they all work at the Vatican - essentially Catholic clergy or Swiss Guards.

    The rest of the Vatican comets are in the Rome posting.

  • Today we drove from Caserta to Rome. Quite the experience. Drivers in Rome are no doubt the rudest in the world.

    After driving round and round we eventually found the Avis drop off, very cunningly disguised as a multi storey carpark. Very glad to be rid of the thing and looking forward to exploring Rome!

  • Breaking this up into a separate post because there was lots to see!
    After getting through the security check and the clothes-etiquette check (slightly worrying because I had shorts on, instead of pants as recommended) we made it in and decided to go inside the Basilica before climbing the dome.

    Again, wow, what a gigantic impressive building!
    Very pretty though not as ornate as some other churches I've been to - probably because detail would get lost in this huge expanse. Again it doesn't feel as vast and imposing as it really is - Rick Steves explains that many features inside help it feel a bit more intimate, like the statues further up columns actually being larger than the closer ones and the altar canopy (#4, with nice God-rays behind) filling some of the vertical space.

    Among the many amazing sculptures was Michelangelo's Pietà (#5), and one I took a really terrible photo of, that turned out to be the Tomb of Pope Alexander VII (http://www.wga.hu/art/b/bernini/gianlore/sculptur/1670/alex.jpg) - I love the way the stone looks so much like cloth.

    And I took a pretty sweet photo sphere that is now viewable only on my phone because Google removed the web viewer, grrr :{
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  • We tried to book a tour for Vatican City but shortly later got an email saying that it wasn't available. But we'd learnt that we'd probably be able to get a decent tour if we just went to the entrance as there were so many guides asking if we wanted to go on a tour the day before. On arrival a nice enough looking man, english wasn't flash, asked if we'd like to go on a tour, then he pulled out his brochure and showed us the route/prices. He turned around for a second and Nick says "Seems legit, he's got a brochure." and with that the decision was made to go. He should've told us "I'm just going to take you to the tour group at our office.". Instead he just said "You come with me." and started walking. It got a bit weird for a minute as we followed him away from the entrance for about a block but we were relieved when we met up with a tour group and a well spoken lady giving the tour. Again, another amazing tourist site with so much to look at. The highlight was the Sistine Chapel, I found it interesting that Michael Angelo almost went blind painting it due to his stance and the paint falling into his eyes. No wonder he depicted himself as an elderly man skinned alive!

    Afterwards we drove to our next destination in Tuscany, San Gimignano. Nick is really getting in to Italian driving!
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  • As with the Louvre, the artwork is so beautiful and there is so much of it it's overwhelming. I took so many pictures that it would take forever to post them all here. It's hard to select just a few. There was beauty on every square inch of ceiling, wall and floor.

  • The Sistine Chapel absolutely took our breath away! The beauty of it was beyond words. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures, but I did get a couple from the doorway right before we stepped inside.

  • The last big things to see in Rome were in Vatican City (with impressive walls, #1). First, we went to see the Vatican Museum (including the Sistine Chapel).

    The museum is half about the items on display, and half about the rooms themselves, with their beautifully painted ceilings and walls (#2,3) (by famous names like Raphael and Michaelangelo but not quite on the level of Versailles IMO).

    At some point, the crowd all begins moving in one direction, and you're trapped in a human mass conveying you along a winding route to the Sistine Chapel. I was a bit disappointed by this: I'm sure many people just want to see the Chapel and could take a more direct route, while those that actually want to stop and admire the rooms get pushed along (if you're afraid of crowds just don't bother).

    The Chapel itself was impressively painted, and made appreciable with Rick Steves again, pointing out and explaining the features. The quiet hum in the sardine-packed Chapel was frequently interrupted by a jarring man on a loudspeaker booming "SHHHHHHHHHH. SILENCIO. SILENCE. NO PHOTOS. NO VIDEOS". Kinda ironic.
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  • After seeing the inside of the Basilica we went to go up the dome, only to find it had just closed (being Italy, there were no signs saying when it would close). Damn, we should have gone up first! However, we had an extra day with nothing planned so we came back the next day to walk up the 550 steps to the top.

    About halfway up you're standing on the roof of the main nave area so you get an up-close view of the church structure, and then go inside for a view down and around the inside of the dome (#2). Up close you can see all the "paintings" are actually mosaics made of thousands of tiny pieces of coloured glass. Many paintings here were copied using this technique and replaced, for longevity.

    Next the really neat part, walking up the dome itself, in passageways that are clearly forced to fit around the shape of the dome (#3,4).

    Finally you're standing in a caged-in area with spectacular 360 degree views of the city and the ant-people below. That viewing area is visible in #5, which might give a better sense of scale to the photo of the whole basilica from 2 posts ago.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

State of the Vatican City, Staat der Vatikanstadt, Vatican City, Vatikaan, Vatican Man, ቫቲካን, الفاتيكان, Vatikan, Ватыкан, Ватикана, Vatikaŋ, ভ্যাটিকান সিটি, ཝེ་ཊི་ཀན།, Ciutat del Vaticà, Vatikán, Y Fatican, Pavestolen (Vatikanstaten), Vatikandu nutome, Βατικανό, Vatikano, Ciudad del Vaticano, Vatikano Hiria, واتیکان, Dowla Waticaan, Vatikaanivaltio, Vatican, An Vatacáin, Cidade do Vaticano, વેટિકન, Batikan, עיר הותיקן, वेटिकन सिटि, Grad Vatikan, Վատիկան, Kota Vatikan, Páfagarður, Vaticano, ローマ法王庁 (バチカン市国), ვატიკანი, Vatikani, វ៉ាទីកង់, ವ್ಯಾಟಿಕನ್, 바티칸시티, ڤاتیکان, Vatikaani, Vatiká, ວາຕິກັນ, Vatikano miestas, Nvatika, Vatikāns, Firenen'i Vatikana, Ватикан, വത്തിക്കാന്‍, व्हॅटिकन, ဗာတီကန်, Vatikanet, Vatican State, भेटिकन, Heilige stoel (Vaticaanstad), Vatikanstaten, ଭାଟିକାନ୍, Stolica Apostolska (Watykan), Citad dal Vatican, Umurwa wa Vatikani, Orașul Vatican, Vatikána, Letëe tî Vatikäan, Faatikaan, Vatikanen, வாடிகன், వేటికెన్, นครรัฐวาติกัน, Місто Ватикан, واٹیکن سٹی, Thành phố Vatican, Orílẹ́ède Fatikani, 圣座(梵蒂冈), i-Vatican City