A Day In Vatican City

What an honor to be able to visit Vatican City. Did you know that Vatican City is the smallest country in the world? Which means when you visit Rome and head into Vatican City, you, in fact, were in two countries in one day. As cheesy as this line sounds, while in Rome, visiting the Vatican was a must. Here is what I learned.

Booking a tour is the best way to get the most out of your trip. The tour I took was through Viator, and the tour guide was a roaming guide. As long as I stayed within thirty yards of the guide, I could hear everything she said while exploring on my own terms. The tour also allowed for me to be in places you cannot go on your own, which is a bonus. If it weren't for the tour guide, I wouldn't have been given the history of the statue garden and why they existed, the story behind the hall of maps, or the insight to know that if I waited 45 minutes in the Sistine Chapel, I'd be the first in the Basilica without having to stand back in line (another 2 hour wait) once the pope left.

I hadn’t planned on it, but plan on spending anywhere from two to four hours at the Vatican and be prepared. There are a couple of places toward the end that you can get water, but I highly recommend packing water and a protein bar for a snack. You’ll be walking a lot, and once you are done with your tour (or if you are on your own) you’ll want to wander a bit.

The Sistine Chapel is one of the shining jewels of Vatican City, and seeing the ceiling that Michelangelo painted in the 1500’s was nothing short of breathtaking. What you may not have known is the pressures he faced while painting this masterpiece that is now one of the most iconic paintings in the world. Michelangelo originally did not want to paint it, but was forced to do so. He had worn his paint boots without taking them off until he was finished as a sign of protest. The painting was also completed laying flat. Most recently, the ceiling went through a refurbishment to take off all of the black marks caused by candles burning inside for hundreds of years. The before and after photo is jaw dropping.

I feel that it is important to bring up one major con of visiting the Vatican, the tourists without respect for culture or human beings. These places are more than just historical sites for you to see, a lot of people worship in these churches and areas of sacred ground. I watched tourist after tourist pull out selfie sticks while trying to maneuver around people’s heads, they moved ropes and leaned on statues, spoke loudly in the chapel and tried to take photos of the Sistine Chapel ceiling which there are clear signs and people saying to not do.

Please, while on your adventure, try to live in the moment.

One last random thing, the one piece of advice I was given before I went to Vatican City was to watch the movie Angels and Demons. I thought it was silly, but it really helped me feel more connected to the history during my visit because I was able to see a lot of the things they showed. You can of course do research and read books, but I’m a visual learner, so the movie helped.