Vatican City

Italy is made up of 20 regions, each with distinctive characteristics. In addition to that, there are two autonomous nations completely within Italy’s borders. Here, you’ll get an overview of Vatican City to get you started on planning a Vatican City trip.

Nearly every traveler headed to Italy has Vatican City on his or her must-see list, even if not everyone realizes that Vatican City is an independent nation entirely within the city of Rome. Not only that, it’s the smallest autonomous state in the world.

Vatican City location in Italy || creative commons image by TUBS

Vatican City location in Italy || creative commons image by TUBS

Vatican City Basics

  • The Italian name for Vatican City is Città del Vaticano, and it’s pronounced chee|TAH del vah|tee|KAH|noh.
  • There is no demonym for people or things from Vatican City, since no one is really “from” there.
  • The capital of Vatican City is… Well, it’s Vatican City. (I told you, it’s small.)
  • Vatican City is on the opposite side of the Tiber River from the Colosseum in Rome, entirely within the city limits of the Italian capital.
  • There is one UNESCO World Heritage Site in Vatican City, which takes up the entirety of the city-state.
  • Vatican City is a nation of superlatives. It’s the smallest country in the world at 0.17 square miles (0.44 square km), and simultaneously home to the largest church in Christendom (St. Peter’s Basilica).

Vatican City Travel Tips

The tiny independent state of Vatican City is surrounded by walls that date from the 9th century, but it wasn’t until the Lateran Treaty was signed in 1929 that it officially gained its independent status as a separate country from Italy. Visitors today will barely recognize that they’re technically leaving Italy and entering another country, however, as there’s no passport checkpoint or border control.

(There’s not even a place to buy a passport stamp in Vatican City, so your friends will just have to take your word for it that you were there.)

Vatican City map || public domain image

Vatican City map || public domain image

The main entrance to Vatican City is through St. Peter’s Square, from which you can’t really even see the Vatican walls. If you decide to walk around the perimeter of the entire country, it shouldn’t take you more than a half-hour. And yet within this miniscule spot on the map lie two of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions – the Vatican Museums (which include the Sistine Chapel) and St. Peter’s Basilica.

It’s highly recommended to go on a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, particularly in the high season. The lines outside the museum entrance can be hours long if you don’t have a reserved entry ticket, and the museums themselves are so vast that it’s easy to get overwhelmed without someone to point out the highlights. There are two Metro stations within a reasonable walking distance from Vatican City – Ottaviano-San Pietro and Cipro-Musei Vaticani – as well as several bus lines that stop nearby. It’s also easy to walk to Vatican City from, say, the Colosseum.

Note that although Vatican City uses the euro currency and Italian is the national language, it has its own post office – Poste Vaticane. The Vatican’s postal service is notoriously more reliable than Italy’s, so if you want to be more confident of postcards getting to their intended recipient (or you are or know a stamp collector), head to the Poste Vaticane offices to buy the stamps you need and send items on their way.

Guided Tours in Vatican City

These are affiliate links, which means I get a little something if you book one of these tours – but it won’t cost you anything extra.

Further Reading on Vatican City

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