Among the teeming crowd that evening on Roman squares, you can always see who spent the day at the Vatican . Simply locate the eyes illuminated by the angelic frescoes and trembling knees of those who approached the splendour of the priceless spiritual tranquillity. The Vatican is not just another part of Rome: it is a country full of miniature masterpieces. With these tips for visiting the state of the Holy site, you will have more resonance here in one day than in a month at the opera.
The Vatican Museums
With only 0.44 km2, the Vatican is the smallest state in the world but it’s a maze in which each wall is filled with treasures. In the Vatican Museums, you will cross about 2 km from collections of classic works from ancient Greece to the Renaissance, long before we reached the Sistine Chapel – with optional 3 km through the Etruscan and Egyptian collections . It would be wrong to rush to Michelangelo. The Raphael Rooms will stop you in your race to inspect the works of the Renaissance master, with striking realism.
The Sistine Chapel
As one of the greatest masterpieces in the world, the amazing frescoes of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel shows the creation of Adam by the divine finger. The panels require silence in the chapel, although you are authorised to sigh with wonder. Nothing can prepare you to see this gesture Almighty but to admire this wonder, you must arrive well in advance. Bring a copy of your pre-booking and your passport to enter the Vatican Palace before 12:30.
The lunch break
Before attempting the ascent to heaven admire the splendid panorama of Rome, listen to your stomach rumbling. Tip: the most convenient locations, from St. Peter’s Square, are not the best. For a cheap lunch that’s worth it, go to Mondo Arancina, specialists in the Sicilian risotto balls with mozzarella cheese and sips of a selection of meats, seasonal vegetables, ink squid or anchovies (particularly recommended). To get there, leave the Sistine Chapel, take the metro from the Vatican Museum station to the next stop, Lepanto, or walk down Via Germanico to Via Marcantonio Colonna.
The St. Peter’s Square
The best view of St. Peter’s Square and columns of Bernini, it is usually in the afternoon when the sun plays hide and seek through the four rows of Doric columns. To receive the blessing of the pope up close, you must arrive on the place long before his arrival at noon on Sunday.Free tickets are also available for papal speeches on Wednesday at 11 am from September to June Fill out an official application online (www.vatican.va), fax it (+39 (0) 6 6988 5863) and get your tickets in the Bernini colonnade on the right of St. Peter’s Square.
The St. Peter’s Basilica
No matter when you cross the threshold of St. Peter’s Basilica, the experience is magical. The sunlight, filtered through the windows of the dome light momentarily subdued the heads of visitors and the canopy of Bernini, before spreading across the floor of the nave adorned immense. The mystic throne of St. Peter dominates the apse crowned by the gilded Bernini and the luminous halo. Archaeologists have recently discovered what they believe are the remains of St. Peter in the crypt. You can visit the tomb of St. Peter by booking in advance for visitors aged 15 years, by sending an email to the Ufficio Scavi (Excavations Office, firstname.lastname@example.org, € 10 entry). Tough guys may think they can get out of St. Peter but without being moved near the door, there is the Pieta of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculpture of the Madonna cradling her lost son with a grief so intense that the Carrara marble appear to flicker in her tears.
The dome of St. Peter
Keep some energy and a last gasp for another masterpiece by Michelangelo in St. Peter, the dome, accessible from a side door to the right of the basilica, a squeaky elevator and slippery steps of 320 a narrow spiral staircase. As you exit, the panoramic view of the hills of Rome is flooded with golden light and pink and small groups of starlings you signal the imminent arrival of sunset (and the cocktail hour).
Back in Rome
To recover from an overflow of emotions the visit of the Vatican, go to Passaguai, an underground wine bar just outside the Vatican walls that offers you the Lazio wines, beer and house platters of cheese and cold cuts that could serve as a cardinal. While the sky is tinged with indigo blue, return to the secular world, crossing the Tiber by the Ponte Sant ‘Angelo, a former Roman pedestrian bridge with Bernini’s angels that seem to dance over the railings. After a day at the Vatican, you will understand this feeling.