Visiting the smallest country in the world
When you try and think about what the smallest country in the world might be, I am sure a few spring to mind… Monaco (2nd smallest) or even Liechtenstein (6th smallest) but how many of you know what the smallest country in the world actually is?
I’ll give you a few hints…
- It measures only 0.2 square miles (around 0.44 square km) – that is almost 120 times smaller than the island of Manhattan!
- It is home to the biggest church in the world
- The country sits within the Italian capital city of Rome
- The entire 2-mile border is landlocked to Italy
- It is also known as the Holy See
If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’ll tell you – It, of course, is the Vatican City! Vatican city is the centre and home of the Catholic Church and home to the biggest church in the world, St Peter’s Basilica.
Visiting the smallest country in the world -What to see
Basilica di San Pietro (St Peter’s Basilica)
It is one of the largest churches in the world which is pretty impressive. It was built in the 17th century and was in fact built on top of an existing church from the 4th century.
They were in no hurry to construct this beauty with it taking around 120 years to complete.
There is no entry fee to enter this stunning church but please ensure you follow the dress code! When you are inside, you will see three most celebrated masterpieces. They are of course the Sistine Chapel, Bernini’s 29m high baldachin which sits over the altar and Michelangelo’s Pieta.
St Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro)
Like St Peter’s Basilica, the Square was also designed in the 17th Century by Bernini and is the main entrance to the church and Vatican City.
The Royal staircase is probably the most popular spot and where you will see many tourists. It is roughly 60m high but the way the staircase is designed makes it look much longer.
St Peter’s Square is divided into two sections and there are 140 statues of saints along the balustrade, Michelangelo’s Pieta and two stunning fountains. All of this with an exceptionally wide promenade which leads you to the basilica and the statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
The Sistine Chapel was built and designed in the 15th Century and its purpose is to serve as the Pope’s private chapel and the location for where the cardinals elect new Pope’s.
As you probably guessed, it is the most popular and famous landmark in Vatican City and once again, Michelangelo gets to showcase his masterpieces on the ceiling and behind the altar.
If you look up at the ceiling when you’re inside, you will notice the Old Testament stories with the Last Judgement behind the altar.
St Peter’s Tomb
As I mentioned above, the church was built on top of an existing 4th-century church. What you may not already know is that excavations at this site have taken place and archaeologists believe they have uncovered the Tomb of Saint Peter who died around 64 – 67 AD.
This is due to the fact that bones of an older man, who appeared to be quite strong were found behind the wall, in a box back in 1942.
Although the Vatican has never made a statement as to whose bones they are, Pope Paul VI did say that the identification process was rather convincing!
Surprisingly, the Vatican Museum holds one of the largest art collections of any country. The museum was originally founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th Century.
This museum has it all… spanning a whopping 7km of corridors, guests will be able to see everything from Egyptian mummies, modern art to Renaissance masters. There is something to suit everyone here.
The Vatican Museums are actually located in two palaces – the Vatican Palace and the Belvedere Palace.
As you walk through, you will be able to get a glimpse of the courtyards which are beautiful.
Given the size, I’d advise you to pre-plan what it is you want to see and pre-purchase your tickets or jump with a tour guide. Otherwise, you run the risk of having to line up for a few hours to get in – what a waste of time!!
See the Pope!
Probably the biggest thing to try and do in Vatican City is to see the Pope! If you want to increase your chances, Wednesday is the Pope’s audience day. He makes his appearance in Saint Peter’s Square, so hang around the square and see if you can see him for yourself.
When he comes out, it usually starts with a welcome, says a prayer, blesses any religious artefacts that visitors have brought and the ends with a blessing.
I’d suggest arriving early if you want a good spot!
Tips for visiting Vatican City
If there is only one thing you take away from this post, it is to make sure you pre-book your tickets! We were part of a group tour so it was easy for us, but if you’re going on your own the last thing you want to be doing on your holiday is waiting for a half a day just to get inside of the Vatican. Our guide told us that people can wait up to 6 hours just to get in during the summer time – I can think of much better things to be doing with my time!
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca