Unique Places in Vatican City

  • Castel Sant'Angelo
    Castel Sant'Angelo
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  • The lovely bridge
    The lovely bridge
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  • Full view of Castel Sant'Angelo
    Full view of Castel Sant'Angelo
    by hopang

Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Vatican City

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    The Vatican Gardens

    by traveldave Updated Jan 29, 2013

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    The grounds of Vatican City contain extensive parks called the Vatican Gardens. Covering 57 acres (23 hectares), they take up about one half of the territory of Vatican City. The gardens date from medieval times when orchards and vinyards were planted to the north of the Apostolic Palace.

    In 1279, the gardens were enclosed within walls by order of Pope Nicholas II after he moved his residence from the Lateran Palace in Rome to Vatican City. At that time, the gardens consisted of lawns, an orchard, a vinyard, and gardens. Later, Pope Nicholas V had the orchard and vinyard replaced by a series of formal gardens that could be used in ceremonies of the Papal court, and for the Pope's personal enjoyment.

    Today's gardens are smaller than those constructed by Pope Nicholas V, but they retain the same general design. Features include lawns, extensive flower beds, a topiary, a seven-acre (three-hectare) forest, fountains, sculptures, and artificial grottoes dedicated to the Madonna.

    Although the Vatican Gardens are closed to the public, they can be viewed and photographed from the Vatican Museums.

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    Egyptian Mummy in the Vatican Museum?

    by icunme Updated Aug 31, 2009

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    Yep - right there in the Egyptian Room of the Vatican Museum. The Egyptian Museum, inaugurated by Pope Gregory XVI, contains objects and works of art that came from monuments and ancient collections located mainly in the area of Rome and its environment (Villa Adriana). You can find basalt statues of the priests of the seventeenth Dynasty and the big fragment of the seated statue of Ramsee II, the Pharaoh who persecuted the Hebrews.

    The mummies in their sarcophagus are the real attacation of this Museum, especially that of a princess of the 21st Dynasty - skin turned a dark blue - her hair coloured with red henné - her left eye filled with fabric, as her brain was removed through this eye.

    VT friend, Phil, and I had lunch today and talked about what can be found in this Museum - we agreed that people seem to rush on to the Sistine Chapel and bypass so much that is there to be seen - behold, Egyptian mummy cases and one mummy.

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    • Archeology
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    Castel Sant'Angelo

    by hopang Updated Aug 4, 2009

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    We placed Castel Sant'Angelo under our "off the beaten path" tip for Vatican City simply because the castle has a history which linked very closely with Vatican City even though it is located just outside the Vatican City. In fact St. Peter's Basilica is connected to Castel Sant'Angelo by a wall and was once influenced by the Pope.

    Castel Sant'Angelo is located just opposite St. Peter's Basilica. It is undoubtedly one of the most famous landmarks in the city of Rome and a very popular tourist attraction. The castle is located along the bank of Tiber River. A lovely bridge was constructed across the river just opposite the castle. The history of the castle and the bridge is closely related to that of the Vatican city.

    Castel Sant'Angelo was constructed between 123 AD and 139 AD under the reign of Emperor Hadrian to serve as a mausoleum. Today it is home to the National Museum of Castel Sant' Angelo. The statue of Archangel St. Michael was erected high up on top of the castle.

    Opening hours to the museum and the castle are between 9.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. daily except Monday which is closed..

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    • Castles and Palaces

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    St. Peter's Square at dusk

    by fairy_dust Written Aug 18, 2007

    OK so St. Peter's Square is not exactly off the beaten path, but most people don't think to visit it in the evening. Everyone comes during the day when the basilica and other places in the area are open, but it's worth a visit in the evening too. The weather is cooler, there are barely any crowds at all, and it is sooo beautiful while it's getting dark out! Even if nothing is open at that time of day, it's totally worth it to just walk around and admire the beauty.

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    Visiting the dome of St. Peter's Basilica

    by Diana75 Updated Feb 12, 2007

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    At first sight, climbing the dome of St. Peter's Basilica could be a tiring experience, but I wouldn't miss for anything the occasion to enjoy an exceptional view of the cupola and all Rome.

    For EUR 7- you can take the elevator up to the roof of the Basilica, and continue on the stairs that climb to the very top of the dome or spare EUR 3- and do some exercises up to the top.

    I've tried both options and all I can say is that the view looks even more fantastic when you don’t use the elevator…

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    Electing a new Pope: the Holy Smoke

    by Diana75 Updated Feb 12, 2007

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    The Holy Smoke it is the sign used during the election of a new Pope in order to inform the people gathered in St. Peter's Square about its result.

    The Conclave is held in the Sistine Chapel and the roof of the chapel can be seen from St. Peter’s Square.

    In case of negative result of the election the smoke is dark, but lately chemicals have been added to the ballots burnt at the end of the vote in order to produce the dark smoke.

    The white smoke indications that a new Pope was chosen, but since 2005 there is also a bell ringing in order to mark a successful election, in case of smoke vaguely white.

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    Passetto

    by Diana75 Updated Feb 12, 2007

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    "Passetto" is the name given to the special passage built along the long wall linking the Vatican to Castel Sant'Angelo.

    Alexander VI Borgia was the one who wanted to walk discreetly from one building to the other and, if you wish, you can follow his steps with a guide, at certain times of the day.

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    Vatican Gardens

    by Diana75 Updated Feb 12, 2007

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    I only had the opportunity to admire the view of these beautiful gardens from St. Peter's dome, as the visit is allowed only based on special request.

    The gardens are decorated with sculptures and monuments offered by various countries and one of the interesting buildings around is Pius IV's "casina" dating from the 16 century, adorned with stuccoes and paintings.

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    Volunteer for the Great Jubilee in 2000

    by Diana75 Updated Feb 12, 2007

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    Off the beaten path indeed...

    The Jubilees are celebrated every 50 or 25 years and in the twentieth century were held in 1925, 1933 (in commemoration of Jesus' death), 1950, 1975, 1983 (Holy Year of the Redemption) and 2000.

    Thus participating to the Great Jubilee in 2000 not only as simple pilgrim but also as volunteer was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

    I have spent almost three weeks in Rome working 6-8 hours per day in different locations, doing everything it was necessary: arranging the seats in St Peter's Square for the Mass, offering information to the pilgrims visiting the Papal Basilicas, organizing the visits to the main attractions, even walking on the streets in order to see if everything went as it was planned.

    I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, who, just like me, wanted to bring their small contribution to this special event.

    To see more pictures taken during my service as volunteer, click here.

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    Vatican CITY Tour

    by icunme Written Nov 4, 2006

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    It is ironic that Vatican City itself is off the beaten path. Few people realize that it is possible to tour the City - it is separate from the Basilica, Museum, Gardens, and Scavi (and new Necropolis) Tours.
    The Leonine city occupies 108.7 acres with a population of just over 1000. Several thousand additional employees, officials and workmen do not live there.
    You will see:
    *Arco delle Campane - a marble disk marks the spot where the oblisk originally stood.
    *Paul VI Auditorium - 12,000 capacity used for Papal audicences. Unusual architectural style with impressive interior - grandiose bronze and copper sculpture of the Ressurection.
    *Piazza di Santa Marta - largest square in Vatican City with great view of Basilica apse.
    *Vatican law courts
    *House of the Archpriest of the Vatican
    *School of Mosaics - responsible for maintaining the vast mosaic works.
    Church of Santo Stefan of the Abyssinians
    Palace of the Governorship
    *Casina Pio IV - small house of Pius IV
    Access is permitted by guided visits organized by the information office in St. Peter's Square - left wing of the parvis.

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    A freebie with your Vatican Tour ticket!

    by icunme Written Nov 3, 2006

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    THE LATERAN PALACE MUSEUM

    It is not really publicized but your Vatican Museum Tour ticket provides you free entry to the Lateran Palace Museum as well - across town Basilica San Giovanni at Piazza San Giovanni Laterano

    A unique and small museum that includes the old residence of the popes at St. John Lateran. The present exhibit in the apartment explains the history and tradition of the papal court of Pope Pius IX.. A splendid and rare museum open only on Weekends.

    Open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:45 AM to 1 PM.
    Enter the portico of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran (take a look through this 1st seat of the Pope while you're there) and go to the RIGHT to the doors of the Papal Apartment. Entrance is free to this museum WITH any Vatican Museum or Vatican Tour ticket stub that you have used within a very recent time - check for your dates and try to go within 3 days of your Vatican Tour.

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    Vatican Gardens

    by icunme Updated Nov 3, 2006

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    If you hot-foot it through the Museum you could easily miss the many vistas available from the many Museum windows. Hoping that you enter the Museum with time to spare so you can fully enjoy the views along with the all the art works.

    THE VATICAN GARDENS:

    A 90 minute bus and walking tour of the Vatican Gardens is possible through the Office of Information for Pilgrims and Tourists at the Vatican. This tour of the Gardens is offered everyday at 10 AM except Wednesdays and Sundays, and originates at the office. Plan to be present 15 minutes prior at 9:45 AM. The new office is located in Saint Peter's Square near the Post Office. Ask a guard for directions. Tickets must be purchased in advance. You can reach them by telephone at 011.3906.698.84466 or by telefax at 011.3906.698.85100.

    Note: The Vatican Gardens tour is separate from the Vatican Museum Tour.

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    A pleasant respite away from the crowd

    by icunme Written Nov 3, 2006

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    It was closing time in the Vatican Museum and I was surprised to note that I had been there for six hours. I'm sure I'll still find little nooks I missed on my next trip. Here in the Courtyard of the Pinecones you will enjoy a very pleasant respite from the sporadic wave of crowds inside the Museum. There was hardly anyone in the Courtyard as I rested my weary feet.
    Photo 2 - So, what's with the bronze ball there in the center? Its called Sphere Within Sphere (Sfera Con Sfera). It measures 4 meters in diameter and was created in 1990 by artist Arnaldo Pomodoro - noted for his casting of gigantic columns and globes. The fractured outer surface of the sphere reveals a complex inner sphere that represents the harsh difficulties of the modern world at the end of the second millennium. If one views this work from all the various angles, it will give many perspectives. People did jostle to have their pictures taken beside it so you may stand awhile to view it in solitude or get the photo you would like to keep.

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    Scavi - Excavations Tour Tomb of St Peter

    by icunme Written Aug 16, 2006

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    Is the Tomb of St. Peter beneath the Basilica?
    Catholic news reports now maintain that modern scientific archaeology has confirmed quite conclusively what tradition has maintained all along. For almost two thousand years all we had to get by on was merely oral tradition and the writings of the Fathers. Then, during the 40s of the last century, the first scientific archaeological excavations were carried out. The results revealed that St. Peter's tomb is indeed located below the Basilica. Further, the walls around the grave were engraved with various graffiti bearing the names: Jesus, Mary and Peter. One of these graffiti is composed of 7 Greek letters; it is inscribed on a red-coloured wall adjacent to the Tomb, and reads: Petr eni .
    It was customary in those days to leave out some letters from inscriptions. However, Dr. Margherita Guarducci, an internationally acknowledged expert on epigraphy, was able to fill in the gaps, and came up with the sentence Petros enesti , which means: Peter is within.
    We must not forget, however, that the greatest proof remains Constantine's stubbornness to build his Basilica on this spot.

    Does all this matter?
    While scholars puzzle over the nature of these remains, is it not enough that under the high altar of St. Peter's we have identified the remains of a monument marking a tomb that has drawn Christian worshippers continuously for over 1850 years? It is in that, one would think, that the enduring importance of this monument lies.

    We were fortunate to have had Father Erik as our guide and he indicated that he should be available upon request. He was knowledgable, affable, answered many questions glady (with a keen sense of humor). He will prepare you for what to expect with the changes in humidity and ordors.
    I recommend him highly.

    Excavations Office
    Fabbrica di San Pietro
    00120 Vatican City

    Tel. +39 06 6988.5318
    Fax +39 06 6987.3017
    Vatican Website: http://www.vatican.va/

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    The Dead!

    by crazyman2 Updated Aug 13, 2006

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    We all think of St.Peters etc. when the Vatican is mentioned...... but the Vatican also owns other parts of Rome.

    The catacombes under Paris, which contain millions of skeletons removed from graveyards, have always intrigued me. So when I was in Rome I decided to visit some of the Vatican's catacombes which had been used as tombs. There is a lot of history attached e.g. Christians v Romans. The site I explored took about an hour to view as part of a guided tour. It was interesting ---and the rather aged Irish priest who took us around had some great stories.
    Try it!

    Claustrophobic? Don't go down if you suffer!

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Vatican City Off The Beaten Path

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It's hard to say that anything is "off the beaten path" in Vatican City...because if it is, then the casual visitor can't get to it anyway!

Aside from St. Peter's Square and Basilica, the...

Map of Vatican City