Vatican without hassle
Crossing the border of one state to another can take as little as a leisurely stroll.
That is what we did today.
Entering the walled enclave that is Vatican City, standing proud right in the middle of Rome.
Huge columns forming a colonnade around St Peter’s square leads all visitors towards St Peter’s Basilica.
St Peter’s Basilica. And the Egyptian obelisk that witnessed the crucifixion of Peter, a Christian martyr who died in Rome in the year 64 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero.
The Basilica was actually erected on the burial site of Saint Peter, hence the name.
Imposing arches with intricate carvings.
The Vatican walls.
The smallest country in the world but one of the wealthiest, most powerful and probably strangest. The home of important people closest to god, optimistically assuming the latter exists, houses only about 800 chosen inhabitants.
I counted roughly 20 street names, that is how tiny the state is.
I also spotted a mosaic work from the Space Invader artist on Viale Vaticano. That is, if it is not a copy cat version.
The city of religious splendour was created by Italy’s most repressive dictator and is ruled by one absolute monarch, the pope.
The Roman Catholic Church has always been a powerful institution in Italy.
In 1929 Mussolini came to realize this. To gain the pope’s support for his political actions, the church was given 44 hectares in Rome and a substantial amount of money to create a papal state, the Vatican. Mussolini’s popularity among the public grew rapidly after that.
What is there to do at the Vatican?
Marvel at the architecture of the Vatican, look at the massive art collection and meet the pope.
The pope makes a regular appearance every Sunday at 12 blessing the crowds from his library window at St Peter’s Square.
On Wednesdays he shows up for the papal mass at around 11 inside the Basilica or in the Hall of the Papal Audiences (Aula Paolo VI). In the summer, he also drives around the cheery crowds in his papamobile.
You need tickets to attend a papal mass but these are free and can be collected from the Swiss Guards at the Bronze Gate. Simply approach them.
Catholic or not, many seem to get a thrill out of seeing the pope in person. For that purpose St Peter’s Square can hold up to 80 000 spectators.
You also need to be dressed appropriately. Covered shoulders, no shorts, no mini skirts.
Wear crosses on your leggings and you can skip the queue. Make sure they are not upside down though.
Generally, mass or no mass, there is a lot of hustle bustle made up of pilgrim groups, nuns, priests, believers, tourists, families, vendors, homeless people, beggars, security guards and street sellers.
Everybody tries to make a living. Near the Bronze Gate.
If there is one holy place in the world, I am not sure, if it is the Vatican.
We came with no expectations very late in the afternoon and it wasn’t that crowded. It was nice to just walk and look around, not bothering with museums or going after major sights, nor being pushed along with the long line of crowds, through various security checkpoints.
Renaissance architecture. Maderno’s fountain.
Bernini’s colonnade. Only the barriers are indications of the madness that was going on earlier that day.
The queue for the security check to get into St Peter’s Basilica is incredibly long and it is a good idea to bring an umbrella, as there is no shade.
We were lucky to bump into a pretty parade of an arriving pilgrimage from Peru.
The Vatican costs a grotesque amount of money. From St Peter’s dome to the Museum and the Sistine Chapel you have to pay entrance and judging by the crowds, one might be herded through with no time to really take anything in.
For now we just picked up some free photo souvenirs.
Vatican City is not only highly walled but guarded by some weirdly cute looking watchmen in funny outfits. The Swiss Guard. The smallest and oldest army in the world. Catholic unmarried man with Swiss citizenship. Peculiar males in stripes are tradition.
The Swiss Guards make for a colourful contrast amidst a fine stone-beige-white domination of the buildings.
It is fun to visit the small post office trailer of the Vatican, where you can send postcards with stamps from Vatican City. The postal system is said to be way more efficient here, than a few corners away at any Italian post office.
The Vatican’s economy largely depends on the sale of postage stamps (and tourism and donations).
The postcards are a great hit.
Not so bad for them, the Vatican doesn’t pay any taxes.
It may not be paradise city but it sure is tax heaven.
There is lots to buy.
Watch out for sticky stuff on the ceilings. Splat balls! A popular souvenir at the Vatican.
I think we will be back for some more – this time inspecting the inner secrets of the Vatican. Michelangelo left his mark here with that famous painting with the two fingers touching (Adam’s creation) and his Pieta masterpiece lures me to see the Sistine Chapel.
Peace and more beautiful souvenirs to all of you!