This teeny-tiny country packs more punch than you can imagine. It has the smallest population in the world ,still among the most popular travel destinations globally - and it's perfect for families!
Nestled within the Eternal City, Rome lies another world entirely: Vatican City, the smallest country in the world yet one that bursts with history, art, and adventure.
Don't be fooled by its size; this pint-sized titan holds its own, ranking a staggering #3 in the 2023 Global Religious Destinations Index, surpassed only by Mecca and Jerusalem! That's right; this fascinating place attracts more travellers than the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, or even the Taj Mahal!
But how did this micro-nation come to be? In the 4th century AD, a basilica was built over Saint Peter's grave in Rome, becoming a popular pilgrimage site and eventually the heart of the Catholic Church. Over time, the surrounding lands fell under papal control, forming the Papal States, a powerful entity lasting over 1,000 years. However, in 1870, Italy unified, leading to a long and complex dispute between the Church and the new nation. Finally, in 1929, the Lateran Treaty established the Vatican City as an independent state, a haven for the Holy See and a symbol of faith.
Now, the Vatican isn't just about dusty history (though there's plenty of that!). Here are 10 must-sees and dos to make your Vatican adventure unforgettable:
St. Peter's Square
Feel the immensity of faith as you stand in this iconic square designed by the legendary Bernini. Witness the awe-inspiring facade of St. Peter's Basilica and spot the Swiss Guard in their colourful uniforms. Bonus points for reenacting an epic chariot race scene with your kids (minus the horses, of course!).
St. Peter's Basilica
Prepare to be humbled by Michelangelo's breathtaking Pieta and dome and marvel at the sheer scale of this architectural marvel. Whisper a secret wish at the Trevi Fountain (just a stone's throw away!), and let your imaginations soar as you climb the dome for panoramic views of Rome.
Brace yourself for the ultimate Renaissance smackdown as Michelangelo's iconic Last Judgment and scenes from the Creation adorn the ceiling. Imagine yourselves as Sistine Chapel choristers, belting out heavenly tunes (mouth closed, of course!).
Get lost in a labyrinth of over 70,000 artworks, from Egyptian mummies to Raphael's masterpieces. Play "I Spy" with ancient artefacts, and let your kids loose in the Raphael Rooms, where they can channel their inner artists.
Swiss Guard Museum
Witness the colourful history of the Pope's protectors through uniforms, weapons, and interactive exhibits. Dress up as a miniature guard (hats available!) and have your photo taken, becoming part of the Vatican's legacy for a day.
Descend beneath St. Peter's Basilica and uncover the ancient necropolis where the Apostle Peter is believed to be buried. Unearth hidden secrets and feel the weight of history in this unique archaeological adventure.
This ancient fortress-turned-museum offers breathtaking views and a fascinating glimpse into papal history. Imagine yourselves as daring escapees, reenacting Pope Clement VII's dramatic flight through a secret passageway.
Escape the crowds and find solace in these serene, meticulously landscaped gardens. Spot hidden grottoes, fountains, and even a small farm, and pretend you're on a secret mission, deciphering cryptic messages hidden amongst the greenery.
Witness the Pope deliver his weekly address in St. Peter's Square. Feel the energy and unity of thousands of pilgrims, and wave to the Holy Father with your self-made signs (in appropriate languages, of course!).
Remember, the Vatican is nestled within the Eternal City itself! Colosseum gladiator battles, Trevi Fountain coin tosses, Pantheon pizza feasts – the possibilities are endless. Let your Roman holiday unfold, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Practical Tips for Your Vatican Adventure:
Book online in advance, especially during peak season. Consider guided tours for skip-the-line access and insightful commentary.
Respect the sanctity of the Vatican by dressing modestly. Shoulders and knees should be covered.
Many tours and activities cater to families with children. Look for scavenger hunts, interactive exhibits, and kid-friendly guides.
Pack snacks and water, as food options within the Vatican walls can be limited and expensive.
Unleash your inner Indiana Jones and embark on a quest to find hidden gems within the Vatican. Look for the mysterious gargoyle spitting water near the Swiss Guard barracks or decipher the coded messages hidden in the Raphael Rooms. Let your imagination run wild and turn your Vatican adventure into a thrilling treasure hunt!