Visiting the Vatican is a dream-come-true for many, and if you yourself are going on a trip to the Vatican - the seat of the pope and the world’s smallest state - it will definitely be worth your time to research on how you can get the best experience out of your trip.
- Plan around the events that you want to see. If you want to visit the St. Peter’s Basilica, for example, make sure that you go to the Vatican on days other than a Wednesday, because it is closed at that day. If you want to see the pope, the best day to go to the Vatican is a Sunday, noontime; or on Wednesday, 10:30 am, as he blesses crowds from a balcony (except on winter). To see the pope, you’d have to buy a ticket from St. Peter’s on Tuesday afternoon. Do be sure to check if the pope will be away on a state visit, however.
- Know the sites to visit. Because the entire Vatican City is very small - as its area is less than half a square kilometer - you would realistically be able to traverse through the entire area by foot in about a day. Be sure that you check out these tourist must-sees: the Teatro Adriano, the Palazzo di Giustizia (or the Palace of Justice), St. Peter’s Piazza and the Castel Sant’Angelo. Make sure that you also go to the Monte Mario, which is the largest hill in Rome. Getting up there will score you a magnificent view of the Vatican and Rome. Of course, most of your time will probably spent at the St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum, the two most important structures in the Vatican City (see number 3).
- Visit the St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican museum. The Basilica is open everyday from April to September, from 9 am to 7 pm, and from 9 am to 6 pm from October to March. It is, however, closed on Wednesday mornings. It’s best to visit the Basilica in the morning and during the middle of the week to avoid long lines. Free tours to the Basilica leave from the Vatican Tourist Information at 2:15 pm or at 3pm. Tours to the Vatican museum, on the other hand, cost 31 Euros and leave at 10:30 am, 12 noon and 2 pm (10:30 am and 11:15 am in the winter).
- Know what to wear. Because the Vatican is the seat of the head of the Catholic Church, remember that it’s one of the most traditional and conservative places in the world. You might be refused entry to some buildings if you are not wearing the proper attire. For women, it’s best that you wear trousers or pants. If you really have to wear a dress, make sure that it is below or at least skimming the knee. You should also bring along a shawl to cover your shoulders if you are wearing a sleeveless dress. For men, it’s best to wear trousers or pants and closed shoes.
Here’s another tip: you might want to read the book, “Angels and Demons” if only so you could get another perspective of the Vatican City. The book extensively deals with the different tourist spots of this state, and you would get a certain thrill of standing at spots that you only previously read about in the book. Enjoy!