Vatican City 1 of 3. Things You Must See. A Spasso Con Sara’s Guides

It is the smallest independent state in the world. The Vatican is the heart of the Christian church. Home of the Papacy, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, it is visited every year by millions of people.

3 special appointments with A Spasso con Sara to discover the Vatican. Things you must see, places to eat and accommodations to sleep in the shade of the most famous dome in Rome.

1) Things You Must See

St Peter’s Square and Apostolic Palace

Designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, master of Roman Baroque, St. Peter’s Square is the center of the Christian world. The elliptical square is bordered by an imposing colonnade. It symbolically represents the arms of the Church that stretch out to hold the entire Christian community. In it the faithful gather for the Sunday Angelus or for the liturgical celebrations presided over by the Pope (Palm Sunday, Easter, canonizations, general audiences, etc.). At the center of the square stands an obelisk brought to Rome from Caligula in 40 AD and then placed on the spine of the Circus of Nero. It is the only ancient obelisk in Rome that has never fallen.

On the right side, the square is surrounded by the Apostolic Palace, official residence of the pope in the Vatican. From one of the windows on the top floor, on Sunday at 12 noon, His Holiness faces to speak to the faithful gathered in the square for the traditional appointment of Angelus Domini.

St Peter’s Square by night. On the right the Apostolic Palace (the unlighted window is the Pope’s Studio) Credits:


St Peter’s Basilica

Built in the Constantine era (IV century AD) on the tomb of St. Peter, the first pope, it is the largest basilica in the world. However, it is not the cathedral church of the Roman diocese since this title belongs to the basilica of St. John Lateran.

The current basilica has nothing of the original churchIn the mid-fifteenth century the basilica fell into ruin and several popes (Nicholas V, Julius II, Paul V, Urban VIII) entrusted various architects (Bernardo Rossellino, Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno) with the task of designing and building a new church. The result is extraordinary and makes St. Peter’s a majestic achievement, a concentrate of treasures unique in the world.

Visiting, the Basilica will leave you speechless: the Lodge of Blessings on the facade from which the newly-elected pontiff overlooks to bless Rome and the whole world; the Holy Door, on the nartex, which is only opened once every twenty-five years; from Michelangelo’s Pieta to Bernini’s Baldachin and the Chair of St Peter.

Opening hours: 1st October – 31st March: from 7 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.; 1st April – 30th September: from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Price: free

The Pieta by Michelangelo. Jesus. Credits: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore

The Pietà by Michelangelo















The Bernini’s Baldachin. Credits:

The Chair of St Peter by Bernini. Credits:














The Dome

Only the genius of Michelangelo could conceive such an ambitious artistic achievement. Inspired by Brunelleschi‘s dome in Florence, Michelangelo, however, died before seeing his work completed. The project was completed by Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana who made small changes to the initial project. Today you can climb up to the dome and admire the basilica and then the entire city of Rome from a different point of view! 551 steps or lift to the first terrace and then 321 steps on foot. The choice is yours!

Opening Hours: 1st October – 31st March: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; 1st April – 30th September: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Price: lift + steps on foot: 10 €; whole walking route 8 €


The internal decoration of the Dome of St Peter. Credits:


The Dome of St Peter. Credits:


Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

The Museum of Museums. It is the largest art collection in the world. Born as a collection of ancient sculptures, their history started in 1506, when Pope Julius II exhibited a first group of sculptures in the courtyard octagon (the famous Laocoon was in this group). Very soon, the collection expanded to include all the other works of art accumulated by the Roman popes over the centuries. Not only sculptures, but also rooms and frescoes that bear the signature of two geniuses of Italian art, Michelangelo (Sistine Chapel) and Raphael (Raphael’s Rooms). Very important is also the collection of paintings (Vatican art gallery) where you can admire masterpieces of Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio.

Opening Hours: from 9 am to 4 pm (closed on Sunday, except the last Sunday of the month)
Price: € 17 (full price), € 8 (reduced ticket), free on last Sunday of the month
Web Site:

The Vatican Museums. Credits:


The School of Athen in the Raphael’s Rooms. Credits:


Sistine Chapel. View. Credits:


The creation of Adam. Detail of the decoration of the vault of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Credits:


The Last Judgment painted by Michelangelo. Back wall of the Sistine Chapel. Credits:


San Gerolamo by Leonard Da Vinci. Credits:


The Deposition by Caravaggio. Credits:

Vatican Gardens

The green lung of the Vatican. The gardens contain numerous botanical species from all over the world, as well as fountains, temples, farmhouses and some sections of the walls built by Leo IV in the mid-9th century AD to protect the Vatican Hill and St. Peter’s Basilica from the Saracens who sacked it. They are composed of various areas, Italian Garden, English Garden, Pope’s Garden, and are also home to some state offices, the Vatican railway station and the heliport.


Vatican Gardens. Credits:


Papal necropolis of St Peter’s Basilica

In the cavity between the current basilica and the ancient Constantine basilica. They are formed by a group of galleries, niches and chapels in which numerous pontiffs are buried but also other historical figures such as the emperor Otto II, who died in Rome and Queen Christine of Sweden, eager to be buried near the tomb of St. Peter, the first pope. In fact, the ideal heart of the Necropolis is the Chapel of St. Peter, to which corresponds, above the caves, the papal altar and Michelangelo’s dome and in the underground necropolis the tomb of the Apostle.
The Papal necropolis of St Peter’s Basilica, which resemble a sort of huge underground crypt, is also the place where you can admire, together with the successive medieval and Renaissance transformations, some few but significant remains of the first basilica of St. Peter built by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century AD.

The Papal Necropolis of St Peter’s. Credits:


The Tomb of Pius XI in the Necropolis of St Peter’s. Credits:



Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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