Anyone who travels to Rome should make time and space on even the busiest itinerary to visit the historical and religious icon, Citta del Vaticano – or, as you may know it, the Vatican City. While it is, of course, the base of the Roman Catholic Pope and the smallest recognised state in the world, the Vatican City is also home to 11 different museums and the exquisite Vatican Gardens. To fully explore would take longer than most people have to spare, but at the very least you should include a visit to the following three highlights of the Vatican City.
St Peter’s Basilica
The imposing silhouette of St Peter’s Basilica dominates the skyline of the Vatican City and you couldn’t miss it even if you tried. The main dome soars to a height of 136 metres with a diameter of 42 metres, which gives you some idea of the scale of the building. In fact it is the world’s largest Christian basilica, with an interior just as impressive as its exterior. Some of the most important names in art history worked on St Peter’s, including Raphael, Peruzzi, Bernini and, of course, Michelangelo. As well as some incredible frescos and artworks adorning the walls and 45 altars, there are over 10,000 square metres of mosaics.
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is every bit as magnificent as its reputation would have you believe. Discovered by Pope Julius II, in 1505 a gifted young sculptor named Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was commissioned to repair the vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Almost by accident, due to cracks found in the ceiling, Michelangelo ended up creating the artwork depicting scenes from the book of Genesis, named the Creation of Adam. Arguably the greatest artistic masterpiece ever produced, and the cause of many a cricked neck, it entices millions of visitors every year to gaze upon it in upside-down wonder.
A world away from the sometimes-hectic interiors of the Vatican Museums, these lovely manicured gardens offer a haven of tranquillity and quiet reflection. Encircled by stone walls and encompassing around 23 hectares, the 16th century gardens are dotted with gorgeous Renaissance and Baroque style sculptures, grottoes and fountains. You can do a guided tour on foot or by small bus, depending on how much you want to see and your level of fitness. It’s a wonderful place to simply immerse in the ambience and enjoy the natural beauty that abounds around every corner.
There’s plenty more to see amongst the many other museums of the Vatican (including the Raphael Rooms), but these three highlights will give you a good start.
How to Get to Rome
As one of Europe’s most-visited cities, Rome is highly accessible – all roads really do lead to Rome! If you’re coming by car from other parts of Italy, you can travel on the A1 from Naples or Florence and the A24 from anywhere on the east coast. The city has two airports: Rome Ciampino and Rome Fiumicino international. From either airport you can book one of our convenient, low cost Rome transfers to get you to your final accommodation in the city or surrounds. There are also excellent train links to Rome from other major Italian centres like Milan and Florence, as well as a host of regional and coastal destinations.
Where to Stay
Hotel Chicago – Located in a superbly central position just minutes on foot from the Termini train station, the Hotel Chicago offers affordable accommodation with excellent facilities. With classic décor, private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi and continental breakfast available, the Hotel Chicago has one of the most convenient positions in the city, close to a host of iconic landmarks.
Hotel San Carlo – With a fantastic location just 200 metres from the famous Piazza de Spagna, the friendly Hotel San Carlo is an excellent base for exploring the cultural attractions of Rome. With air-conditioned rooms, free Wi-Fi and private bathrooms, the hotel is located at just a two minutes’ walk from the Spanish Steps. There is a lovely breakfast terrace and plenty of restaurants located very close by.
Grand Hotel Plaza – For a luxurious stay right in the centre of Rome, the historic Grand Hotel Plaza offers rooms and suites with private terraces and spectacular views over the city. Located on Rome’s famous Via de Corso, the hotel has featured in a number of famous films. With a classic, elegant décor, marble bathrooms and free Wi-Fi, the hotel has a lovely terrace from which to enjoy views of the Spanish Steps, St Peter’s Basilica and Villa Borghese.