The home of the Pope and the world’s smallest independent state, the Vatican City is one of the highlights of any trip to Rome. Including world-famous paintings and sculptures, fantastic history and friendly tour guides, the Vatican is a hotspot for tourists and a unique, memorable experience.
However, before you embark on your journey, there are a few key things that you should be aware of, which will help you get the most from your trip. From picking a tour to choosing which attractions to see, to being aware of the various rules and guidelines for visitors, we’ve listed some of the main things to know before you visit the Vatican City.
#1. Dress Code:
Planning a visit to the Vatican City needs to begin as you are packing your suitcase ready for your trip. If you’re visiting Italy during the summer months then you can be sure of warmth and sunshine. However, make sure that you don’t just pack vest tops and shorts if you are planning to see the Vatican City, as you may be left sorely disappointed.
Although there is no given dress code for areas such as the Vatican Museum and the galleries, if you want your tour to extend to holy sites such as the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, you will need to ensure that your clothing is in accordance with the rules. For both men and women, the rules state that shoulders and knees should be covered when visiting these areas. If it’s too hot to wear long sleeves and jeans, you can find stalls selling scarves just outside of the Vatican walls; these will suffice for covering you up when you enter the restricted areas.
#2. Taking Photographs:
Of course, one of the main things that you and other tourists to the site will want to do during your visit is take a bunch of awesome photographs that you can look back over with happy memories in the future. However, before you start snapping, it’s good to be aware of the various rules surrounding taking photographs in the Vatican City.
Whilst the Vatican museum, courtyard, and even St. Pauls Basilica are fine for photography, you should ensure that your flash is turned off since flash photography is not allowed in many areas. In addition, you should also be aware that photography is strictly not allowed in any area within the Sistine Chapel; guests are expected to put their cameras or phones away in this holy area and quietly respect it.
If you are spotted taking photographs in the Sistine Chapel, you will be asked to stop by a guard, who may even ask you to leave if you don’t heed the warning. Whilst it may be disappointing to be unable to take photos, bear in mind that the beautiful artwork in the chapel simply isn’t done justice when you’re looking at it through a camera lens.
#3. Booking a Tour:
When you visit the Vatican City, there are many options that you can choose from when it comes to booking a guided tour of this independent state. Tours range in length and price; some will cover every corner of the Vatican; bear in mind that it’s a good idea to plan a whole day for longer tours, since there is a lot to see! Or, you can book a short Vatican tour for just a couple of hours; this will allow you to see all the main highlights with a tour guide who can explain the history of the area and provide more information on all the world-famous attractions found within.
The best way to book your tour of the Vatican City is either online before your trip, or at the official tour booking shops located at the site. Be careful of scammers; if you are visiting in the high season you may find ‘ticket sellers’ offering tours at the entrance, however, these are not always genuine and could result in you losing money. Once you have booked your tour, be sure to keep your ticket safe and with you at all times as you will need to show this to the guards when you go through security.
#4. Security and Entrance:
The Vatican City is an independent state; therefore, you will find airport-like security at the entrance. Be aware that certain items, for example drinks, cannot be taken in with you – although once you have passed through security, you can find vending machines selling bottles of water and other drinks for visitors.
It’s a good idea to take some spare change along with you for this since most of the tours will involve a lot of walking and you’ll quickly get thirsty and dehydrated, especially if the weather is hot. When you go through security, yourself and any bags that you have with you will need to pass through metal detectors before you will be allowed entrance. So, don’t take anything with you that could potentially set them off and delay your visit.
#5. Beating the Queues:
If you are visiting the Vatican City during the main tourist season, then you can expect to find large queues at the entrance. If you are happy to queue, then it’s highly recommended that you take a sun hat or other type of shade with you; the area for queues is facing south and gets a lot of sun; there is nothing there to shade guests either which could result in an unpleasant experience as you wait to enter.
However, there’s a better option – many pre-booked Vatican City tours will also include a ‘jump the queue’ ticket, allowing you to cut your queuing time down significantly. If you are visiting during the summer months, then it goes without saying that you should wear plenty of sunscreen, even if you are able to skip the queue. There will be some parts of the tour that allow you to venture outside, such as in the courtyards.
If you are visiting Rome, a tour of the Vatican City will be a memory that you’ll never forget!