I’m non-Catholic, non-religious but I’ve always been curious about Vatican City. We all know that it’s the smallest country in the world and is located entirely within a city. It’s also the official residence of the Pope and home to the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes. So on our first day in Italy, we decided to explore tiny city-state starting with the Vatican Museums.
We arrived a little before noon and thought we needed to eat lunch first because going to a museum on an empty stomach is not a good idea. It’s Italy so we had already made up our mind on what to eat: pizza or pasta. As we were exiting the Ottaviano metro station, we saw this ad with a picture of my country’s flag. It was an ad for a Filipino restaurant nearby! So obviously, we ditched our Italian food plan and loaded up on sisig and lechong paksiw instead.
It’s room after room of an immense art collection built up by the Popes. It’s pretty overwhelming but unlike the Louvre, it’s possible to visit everything in 2 hours. Also, we had no choice because we entered at 2PM and the museum closes at 4. There’s a set route that allows time-poor visitors see everything in a breeze.
‘Sfera con sfera’ or Sphere Within Sphere, a giant fractured orb at the Vatican Museeums courtyard, is part of a series of bronze sculptures by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro
‘Fontana della Pigna’ or The Pine Cone – and big peacocks
Busts and butts in Museo Chiaramonti
Ceiling frescoes in the Hall of the Muses, Pio Clementino Museum
Laocoön and His Sons in the Octagonal Court
Perseus triumphant holding Medusa’s head and two couture posing dudes
The lavish Gallery of Maps
Biga or Chariot Room
This famous fresco of Rafael, The School of Athens in the ‘Stanze di Raffaello’ (Rafael Rooms)
The ticket includes entrance to the Sistine Chapel as well, which is the last sala of the tour. I was filming as I was entering the room and I was yelled at by a security guard: “Turn off your camera!” HAHA. The room was full of tourists ogling at the eye-popping ceiling and trying hard to resist taking a photo. Some daredevils were doing it and so did I haha. Don’t report me.
Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement. Well, a part of it.
When you see it…
It was really impressive, no doubt, (and kinda looks 3-D) but without context, all we could do was stand under an exquisite masterpiece. Then I bought a guidebook later.
TIP: Buy the tickets online in advance to avoid long queues. Regular price is 16€, reduced is 8€ + obligatory online pre-sales fee 4€ and optional audio guide fee of 7€. Tickets are time and date specific so double-check them and allot time to get lost (though the museum isn’t so hard to miss). Go to their Online Ticket Office for more info.
The Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
We didn’t plan on climbing the cupola (dome) of St. Peter’s Basilica but the exit of the Vatican Museums led directly to the queue and we were in a hurry to get in because it closes at 6PM (October to March). You can pay 7€ to take the lift, saving you 320 steps but you can do it all the way by foot, saving you 2€. I’m glad we didn’t cheap out on this one and took the lift to skip the first part because the rest of the climb was EXHAUSTING. I’m not a fan of anything involving going against gravity. And the last portion was mainly climbing a narrow spiral staircase that got me all dizzy and my legs go wobbly. The reward though is quite worth it, a 360˚ view of Vatican City and Rome.
St. Peter’s Square symmetry on fleek
The Vatican Museums shot from the Cupola
St. Peter’s Basilica
Although I was tired from the climb, we couldn’t waste any time because the church closes at 6. We’re not at all religious but we can’t say no to spectacular works of art and architecture. I couldn’t help though but feel kind of disturbed about how wealthy the Roman Catholic Church is.
St. Peter’s Square
Facing the St. Peter’s Basilica is this massive, obsessively-symmetrical plaza. It’s best seen from the top of the dome but it’s also a lovely place to walk through. I can’t say I felt #blessed but there’s just so much beauty to absorb- huge fountains, huge pillars and life-size statues that adorn them. And lots of flying birds to make your photos extra dramatic.
Vatican City might be small in terms of total land area but it’s packed with history, art and architecture – sometimes a bit too much you feel that you can’t take all in at once.