The Vatican Rome - A Practical Visitors Guide
An Introduction For Those Planning On Visiting The Vatican
St Peter's Basilica From Saint Angelo Castle
For any first time visitor to Rome, a visit to the Vatican is a probably a must see prerequisite.
Vatican City is just to the north of the city centre of Rome and is easily reached independently by public transport plus of course all the Rome hop on hop off tourist buses stop here too.
The Vatican is a country and is tiny (the smallest in the world).
The Vatican City is home to approximately 920 full-time residents and approximately 3000 people who work at the Vatican City and commute into the country from the greater Rome metropolitan area.
For the visitor, the vast majority visit St Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square and couple this with a visit to the Vatican Museums.
Looking at the picture right shot from the top of Saint Angelo Castle by the River Tiber you are looking west with your back to the ancient centre of Rome. The long straight avenue leading up to St Peter's Basilica and St Peter's Square is called Via della Conciliazione. This is where all the hop on, hop off open top sightseeing buses stop.
The Vatican Museums are behind St Peter's Basilica to the right. To get to the Vatican Museums you have to walk around the Vatican walls from St Peter's Square, about 5 minutes. If you come by tour bus, you'll probably be dropped off by the Piazza Risorgimento mid-way along this walk from St Peter's Square to the Vatican Museums.
So, as you can see its a small area.
Most Visited Sights In Rome
Main Sights Rome
Getting to the Vatican
By the Rome Metro take Linea A (red line) and exit at Ottaviano-S. Pietro. Walk south on Via Ottaviano toward St. Peter's Square, about 5 minutes. If you are heading for the Vatican Museum turn right when you come to the Vatican Walls and follow the road, otherwise follow the crowds into St Peter's Square.
There are many Rome city buses that pass or terminate next to the Vatican. The number 40 and 64 bus shuttle very frequently between Termini and the Vatican via the City Centre including the Piazza Venezia for the Roman Forum/Colosseum.
40 (Limited stop express) - Termini - Piazza Venezia - Argentina - Piazza Pia (for St Peter's/Vatican)
64 - Termini - Piazza Venezia - Argentina - Vatican
62 - Repubblica - Spanish Steps - Piazza Venezia - Argentina - Vatican
81 - Vatican Museums - Piazza Imperatore (Spanish Steps) - Piazza Colonna (Trevi Fountain) - Piazza Venezia - Circo Massimo - Colosseum
19 (Tram) - Piazza Risorgimento (Vatican) - Villa Borghese
There are a myriad of Rome hop on, hop off tourist bus operators, all of which stop in front of St Peter's Square and visit all of the major sights in Rome.
All the operators use very similar double deck open top buses. Each passenger will get a disposable audio device for commentary along the way.
St Peter's also has a train station, St Pietro. Commuter style trains loop around Rome to Termini Station, but the station is of most practical use to those travelling from Civitavecchia, the cruise port for Rome. However, it is a 10 minute walk to St Peter's Square from the station.
Timing Your Visit To The Vatican
The Vatican is a must see for every visitor to Rome, so expect crowds and queues whenever you come. The queues for the Vatican Museums are legendary.
The Infamous Queues at The Vatican Museums Around 9 a.m.
If you are organising the trip, book tickets in advance either from the museum direct for which there is a delivery charge or from an agent for Vatican Museum tickets. If you turn up on the day and have to join the back of the queue for tickets you may not be popular with your travelling companions and be tempted by the many touts that will approach you.
If you can its well worth setting your alarm and getting to the Vatican Museums early or leaving it until afternoon.
The museum is closed most Sundays, so Saturdays and Mondays are especially busy.
Once a month the museum opens on a Sunday and entrance is free. If you're tempted, expect crowds that make the Rome Metro look spacious. You will probably be carried along by the crowd with little control over your movements at such times.
Again, if you can try and come off season when the crowds are less. During summer, Rome can be very. very hot too.
If you are really interested in the subject matter, get a good tour, if you can afford it,a private tour.
There will also be long, long queues in St Peter's Square to enter St Peter's itself. These queues tend to move along relatively swiftly so don't be put off by the masses in front of you.
Queueing To Go Through Security Outside St Peter's
If you want to see the pope, you can either see a usual blessing from his apartment at noon on Sunday, just show up (but in the summer he gives it from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, 25 miles from Rome) or you can go to the more formal Wednesday appearance. The pope arrives in the popemobile at 10:30AM to bless crowds from a balcony or platform, except in winter, when he speaks in the Aula Paola VI Auditorium next to the square. You can easily watch from a distance, or get a free ticket, which you must get on the Tuesday before.
Tours are the only way to see the Vatican Gardens, book at least a day in advance