>> The Vatican & Renaissance Rome <<

The Vatican City is the world's smallest state and is nestled not far from the city across the river Tiber. The Vatican is home to the Pope of the Catholic church and is iconic to Catholics around the world. The Vatican has it's own currency, postal service and Swiss guards to protect the city.
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What to See

St Peter's Basilica
St Peters Basilica from a distance

St Peters Basilica Guards
St Peter's Basilica is actually the second church in this spot. The first was begun in the 4th century and expanded over time until Julius II decided to build another grand edifice in place of the dangerous and collapsing old basilica. Over the next century, several different architects designed what is now the biggest Church in the world. Enjoy.

The beauty and magnificence of St Peter's Basilica or San Pietro is overwhelming. It is situated at the top of St Peter's square and can be entered on either side. The interior is ordained with statues of saints, mosaics and marble. Just to the right of the entrance is Michelangelo's Pieta, the dead Christ on the Virgin Mary's lap, created by Michelangelo when he was only 25 years old. Further into the Basilica you will see the bronze statue of St Peter. It is said that if you rub his foot you will blessed. During the course of the day, there are several services held in the Basilica and if you are interested in attending a service, just stick around a bit.

On the right hand side of the entrance to St Peter's Basilica you can take a lift and stairs up to the dome of the Basilica. Although you need to climb around 320 steps your efforts will be rewarded by a panoramic view of the city of Rome, the Vatican Gardens and St Peters Square. This should definitely be added to your list of must-sees! The dome visit is however only available to those who visit the Vatican museums.

St Peter's Square
St Peter's Square
You will enter St Peter's Square by walking under columns on top of which you can admire statues of over 140 Saints. In the middle of St Peter's Square is the red obelisk brought from Egypt by Caligula. St Peter's Square was created by the Roman Architect Bernini and continues to serve as the venue for mass on Sundays where the Pope can be heard and seen from a distance.

Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel can only be reached via the Vatican Museums. Contrary to what you may read it is actually quite large and you will need a good half an hour or more to take it all in. Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling depict the Creation and the Flood while the altar wall is Michelangelo's impression of the Final Judgement. The paintings on the surrounding walls tell a story from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and are creations from the likes of Botticelli, Signorelli amongst others.

Vatican Gardens
A visit to the well kept Vatican garden can be arranged by booking a tour well in advance.

Vatican Museums
Part of the Egyptian Collection
The Vatican Museums are a good distance away from St Peter's square but don't be put off buy the seemingly endless queues, they do move quickly. There is a choice of itineraries to follow once you enter the museum and as there are about eight museums, five galleries, the Sistine Chapel and the Borgia Apartments to cover, you may want to be selective when you choose your route. Fans of Raphael will be treated to walls adorned with his works while the Egyptian Museum contains treasures from Egypt including a mummified woman in her sarcophagus. Further on, you can brush up on your knowledge of Italian geography when you walk through the gallery of maps of Italy as it was and, on the whole, still is. You can pick up a guide to talk you through the treasures or if you prefer you can be use your trusty tour book!

Museums and point of interest you can visit include:

Sistine Chapel
Raphael Rooms
Egyptian Museum
Etruscan Museum
Pio-Clementine Museum
Chapel of Nicolas V
Maps Room

You can find more on the Vatican at www.vatican.va

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