Whether The Vatican City State is a real country or not is very much up for debate. While the TCC recognise it, FIFA, the UN and UEFA don’t. All that aside, most travellers to Rome will be keen to visit this unusual religious state out of curiosity. A country within a country. I’ve added its flag to my list of flags and given it a separate category on my blog and Where I’ve Been page. I’m a bit of a separatist, so I personally recognise it as a country but didn’t include it in my first 100 countries count as with places like Austenasia and Nagorno Karabakh. Forget about all that debate, what’s it like to go backpacking there?
I based myself in Italy’s capital Rome, near the main train station in the Hotel Papa Germano, I was able to organise it via cheap hotels in Rome. From there I was able to tour Rome as well as the Vatican City. To get a really in-depth tour of the Vatican City, I’d recommend booking a Vatican tour with Walks of Italy, as you get access to all the museums, a full 4 hour guided tour and you get a queue jump – highly important as you will see massive queues on arrival at the Vatican City State. Backpacking in the Vatican City State: Top 5 Sights in This Mini-Country.
1. St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square is the centrepiece of the Vatican City State and completely free to enter. It’s a massive square and courtyard with a concrete base. The Pope holds speeches here once a week and it’s the main focus of attention in this mini country. There is an Egyptian Obelisk in the centre of the square.
St. Peter’s Square is manned by Italian peelers (police) and pick-pocketing and camera theft has been known to occur so be aware of that. Grab a few selfies and take in the atmosphere, once you’ve crossed the Italy to Vatican border of course.
2. Vatican City Post Office
The novelty of buying official stamps and posting a postcard to my brother from new countries and cities will never wear off for me. The Vatican City actually has a few post offices in it, and they get busy.
I headed inside and posted my kid brother another postcard. As well as Vatican City stamps, you can also buy other souvenirs like coins, fridge magnets, postcards etc.
Unfortunately from a travelling perspective, no passport stamps were available at the time of my visit!
3. Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel speaks for itself through art. An elaborate roof painted by our most loved Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle, Michaelangelo himself. Photos inside are actually completely forbidden. This is one part of the Vatican City that is there for you to savour and enjoy but not an image to take away. The Japanese bought the rights to the walls and roof of the Sistine Chapel. I’ve been told to watch out for pickpockets as you’re busy staring at the ceiling, it’s free entry of course so thieves do lurk sadly.
4. St. Peter’s Basilica
Put simply, the fact that this is the largest church in the world should be enough reason for you to want to visit it. Enough said.
St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is also is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines in the world. It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christianity. Having been in Iran’s Imam Reza Shrine (one of the Holiest Mosques in the world), it was nice to finally see a shrine of this magnitude in the Christian part of the world, I grew up as a Presbyterian in Bangor, Northern Ireland.
5. Vatican City Museums
I’m putting all the Vatican City Museums together as one sight here – the main reason is they just lead into each other and are all included on the entry ticket. If you are on the guided walking tour with Walks of Italy, you will go from room to room and from museum to museum in a flash anyway.
I wrote a detailed overview of the various museums and parts of the Museums Tour already on the post I mentioned, so check that out. The best bits were the Museo Chiaramonti of sculptures, Galleria dei Candelabri and the Maps Gallery.
Those are just a quick top 5 to check out in the Vatican City state which is a mini-country with only one hotel and a border to Italy.
Here are 10 Cool Facts About the Vatican City
1. The Vatican City State has a population of merely 842.
2. The majority of the Vatican City State’s 842 citizens currently live abroad (“abroad” also including Italy of course).
3. In terms of area, The Vatican City State is the smallest internationally recognised independent state in the world.
4. In terms of population, The Vatican City State is the smallest internationally recognised independent state in the world.
5. To put the size into perspective, The Vatican City State is an eighth of the size of Central Park, New York City, USA.
6. The Residenzia Paolo VI is the only Hotel in the Vatican City State.
7. For a period of around 60 years during the 1800s and 1900s, Popes refused to leave the Vatican City State.
8. Alcohol is legal in the Vatican City State for over 18s but there are no known breweries or distilleries in the country (so we’re heading back into to Italy for a pint then!).
9. In 1929, it was Fascist leader Benito Mussolini who signed the treaty to bring the Vatican City State into official existence.
10. The Vatican City international football team is not recognised by FIFA or UEFA. The team drew their first ever match 0-0 with San Marino in 1994. The team have only ever scored 1 goal against a country which was in a 2-1 defeat to Monaco.
Here are some of my videos from backpacking through the Vatican City State:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 1:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 2:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 3:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 4:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 5:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 6:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 7:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 8:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 9:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 10:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 11:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 12:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 13:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 14:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 15:
Complete Vatican Tour with Walks of Italy Part 16: