When In Rome: The Vatican (and how you simply must see it to believe it)

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I’m not Catholic, but growing up in the Evangelical Christian church, I thought I knew plenty about Catholic history. As an adult, I’ve been a super fan of Pope Francis and all his radical ideas. So when I started thinking about all the things we’d see in Rome, I knew The Vatican would be a stop.

In no way was I prepared for the glory. I have never, in my entire life, seen anything as beautiful as the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani), the Sistine Chapel, or St. Peter’s Basilica.

We decided to spend the extra money and opt for a tour service. It was 46€. That included all of our entrance tickets and the knowledge of an English guide. At first I was skeptical, but I ended up being glad we went that route. Our guide made the experience 10x better, and I learned quite a bit.

pope francis at the vatican

Before the tour began, we had the unique honor of seeing the Pope! Pope Francis was in the Vatican that day and was mid-service as we came up. (Funny story: all morning I’d been telling Kyle “Hurry up, we have to get to the Vatican so the Pope can bless me.” I was kidding and had no idea the Pope would be there. After his service he gave specific blessings to different groups of people, one of which were English-speakers from the U.S. So, technically that includes me. I was right all along)  😉

The Vatican: Quick & Interesting Facts

  • The Vatican is actually an independent city-state, not another city in Italy. It’s 1/8 the size of Central Park in NYC – so it’s basically the smallest country I have ever been in. :) It has its own radio station and mail system.
  • The guards in the funny outfits that protect the Pope are not Italian, but Swiss. (Picture below)
  • St. Peter’s Basilica is over the grave of – you guessed it – St. Peter. Documentation has continued to agree with this oral history.
  • The Vatican population is around 800 people. But according to our lovely tour guide, about 30,000 people visit each day.
  • The entry price for the Vatican is about 16€ when you are not purchasing a tour.
  • To go inside the Vatican buildings, you must cover your shoulders and knees.

Musei Vaticani

vatican museum

We started in the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani). There was an immense amount of breathtaking ancient artwork that the popes have gathered through the years. I have been to The Met in NYC, which is impressive, but this was otherworldly. I think my jaw was dropped the entire time.

The one drawback through the museums and the entire experience in general is the immense crowd. If you go into it knowing there will be thousands of other people just like you eager to see the same exact thing you want to see, you might find some extra patience.

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Sistine Chapel

creation of adam in the vatican

The museums lead you into the Sistine Chapel. You are not allowed to speak or take photos, since it is considered a holy place. Seeing The Creation of Adam in person was spectacular. (P.S. I’m amazed how many full grown adults cannot follow the simple rules of being quiet and not taking pictures. I thought we were supposed to learn quiet skills in Kindergarten!)

St. Peter’s Basilica

Next, we opted to climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome. It’s over 500+ steps, most of which are incredibly narrow. You could take the elevator option that brings you up 250 of the stairs, or you could walk the whole way. Of course, with my boyfriend along for the ride, we did all of the 500+ steps. But when you are eating pasta and pizza for every meal, you take the exercise where you can get it! (Girlfriend still has to fit into her jeans!)

Half way up, you get to the upper part of the inside dome and can see the artwork closely, and you have a bird’s eye view of St. Peter’s. Once again, it was incredible. I started getting a little teary. It was just. so. beautiful.

the vatican

Then you continue to climb the very narrow stairs and eventually land outside with a 360* view of Rome. Breathtaking. Literally. After all those stairs, you have no breath 😉

st peters basilica

st peters basilica

We climbed our way back down and entered St. Peter’s in time to hear a service and listen to the chorus sing. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. No picture can capture the feeling, no words can describe the feeling – it’s something you simply must go do to fully understand. The Vatican is magical. Make sure you make it a priority if you’re ever in Rome!

st peters basilica

12 thoughts on “When In Rome: The Vatican (and how you simply must see it to believe it)

  • May 23, 2016 at 8:45 am
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    hehehe, I totally remember that breathtaking climb to the top, but it was worth it! So happy you were able to see the Pope too – it’s an unique experience and an added bonus to your day!

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    • May 24, 2016 at 3:18 am
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      Yes, totally worth it! One of the best experiences so far!

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  • May 23, 2016 at 11:17 am
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    I went to the Vatican in early December a few years ago. They were setting up the tree in the square. I also agree that I had no idea how beautiful it would be, or that I would be so lost in it’s beauty the whole time. Also, the sistine chapel is indeed obnoxious. It’s crowded, and people were so loud the guards were yelling, “QUIET!!!” and really took away from the experience.

    When I was there we also trekked to France, and went to Notre Dame Cathedral, and The Sacre Coeur. Both were also insanely gorgeous, and people were a lot more respectful. But, they weren’t the Vatican… so I’m sure that helped. I think people get really excited to be at church headquarters so they get all crazy.

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    • May 24, 2016 at 3:19 am
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      I definitely cannot wait to visit France and see those spots too! Sounds lovely.
      Isn’t it amazing how being in at a church causes people to lose their manners? Ha! Seems counterintuitive!

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  • May 23, 2016 at 12:18 pm
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    Living vicariously through you right now because it all sounds absolutely amazing and breathtaking. I’m loving all the photos, though I know they must not even come close to doing the sights justice (and yet, they’re still beautiful). I’m glad y’all are having such a wonderful time. Rome has always been one of my top travel destinations, and this makes me want to go all the more!

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    • May 24, 2016 at 3:20 am
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      If you can ever make it a possibility, I would tell you to make it a priority. You would absolutely love it!! xo

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  • May 23, 2016 at 12:57 pm
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    Wow! I visited Rome in January but didn’t make it to the Vatican. There is so much to see and I saved the Vatican until next time! Thankyou for the write up, makes me even more determined to go back and visit one day.

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    • May 24, 2016 at 3:20 am
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      There is SO much to see in Rome! It feels like every street you turn down has something new to look at!

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  • May 23, 2016 at 7:21 pm
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    I’ll be visiting Italy next summer as a friend is getting married there (so cool, right?!) so I am loving this post! I am going to have to make a stop at Rome! ah!

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    • May 24, 2016 at 3:21 am
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      Yay!!! What area will you be staying in?!

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  • May 23, 2016 at 7:39 pm
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    Agree with you 100% – I think the Vatican was my favorite thing to see when I was in Rome! The crush of tourists is incredible but with all of the amazing artwork and architecture and history, it’s so worth it. I didn’t go to the top of the dome though, the views look fantastic!! Oh man, now I can’t wait to go back….

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    • May 24, 2016 at 3:21 am
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      Isn’t it just so incredible? Top of the dome is definitely a must-do on your next adventure here :)

      Reply

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