One of the weirdest things when it comes to traveling to foreign countries has to be visiting the super micro-state nation of Vatican City which is actually within the city limits of Rome itself. Yes, the Vatican is within the city of Rome! And yes, the Vatican is considered to be its own country. It’s even smaller than the small countries of Luxembourg, Andorra, and Monaco that I’ve visited! Even the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is bigger and it’s not that big either!
In the past, the Vatican was not just the Vatican but rather it was the epicenter of the Papal States, a country on its own which basically consisted of a mix of northern and central Italy. These territories were actually ruled and given administration from the Pope and his officials. However, due to the constant wars that Europe was enduring, the Papal States became smaller and smaller until Italy (which became a Kingdom at the time of the Italian reunification) started to annex the Pope’s lands due to the extreme fervor of the country’s desire to be whole again. In later years, negotiations came to a proper agreement and compensation to where the Pope and the Holy See would be established as an independent, sovereign nation, apart from Italy even though it would confined within the city limits of Rome. There’s a lot of history within the Vatican due to all the things that have gone on over the years starting from the 1st century AD when Christianity was finally established within the Roman Empire by setting up in Rome, the capital, to today after all the wars and developments that happened to the Papal States, most especially the Vatican. So again, the Roman Empire helped spread Christianity throughout Europe and eventually to the rest of the world. The legacy is obvious by seeing some of the churches, cathedrals, and memorials out there such as the Cologne Cathedral, Christ the Redeemer, Seville Cathedral, Sagrada Familia, Hill of Crosses, and many more sites out in there, particularly in Latin America.
Just note that even getting into the Vatican is quite a long process due to all the long lines and protocol. You have to understand that visiting the Vatican is not just a stroll in the park. Instead, you are visiting another country. It almost feels like going through airport security as you look up at the tall walls, metal detectors, security guards, etc. So, don’t forget that despite the Vatican being really small and its borders within the city limits of Rome – it’s technically another country. Yes, even though it’s that tiny compared to the most countries out there in the world.
Be sure to walk around as some of the halls are just well-made and well-decorated. It almost reminds me of Versailles Palace where the hallways are decorated completely from top to bottom.
And in this small, pint-sized country, it’s jam-packed with a lot to see because of the high status that it holds upon Christianity, most specifically with Catholics as it is the holy seat of power due to the power of the church and the Pope. Also, many of the Papal’s treasures obtained over a long period of time are on display as the Vatican understands the necessity to be open to the tourist in advertising its power, reputation, force, money, riches, etc. That’s how it retains its followers and might even gain followers as well. But to me, I think opening up this tiny country is a way to generate some easy income thanks to its embrace of tourism. I mean, why have those great treasures and works of art just sit in some warehouse collecting dust when they can instead be showcased to the open public and earn some coin that way?
Tip: Don’t mess with the Swiss Guards. They’re the ones wearing the tri-color (red, blue, yellow) uniforms that look goofy and out of place. They are real soldiers who act as the Pope’s bodyguard who can and will harm you if they are threatened in any way. It’s the same thing with the Queens Guard in the UK – they will beat you and then have the police arrest and haul you away to jail. The uniforms are not just for show unless of course, they are wearing modernized and/or upgraded clothing. I’ve heard that even some of the Swiss Guards will go undercover so don’t do anything funky there in the Vatican. Another good idea is NOT to take photographs of these guys because they just confiscate your camera!
Tip: Pay for a tour guide to take you to the Vatican. Tour guides generally have special passes that allow you to avoid the huge, long crowds waiting to buy a ticket and then wait some more just to get into the Vatican. To me, it’s far worth it to pay a bit extra in order to avoid waiting and do some more waiting.