1 Day In Vatican City: The Perfect Vatican City Itinerary

Looking for the perfect Vatican City itinerary? Vatican, Vatican City, or Vatican City State (in Latin, Vaticanus, Civitas Vaticana, or Status Civitatis Vaticanae; and in Italian, Vatican, Città del Vaticano, or Stato della Città del Vaticano) is a sovereign city-state situated in Rome. Besides, it’s the smallest country in the world, with around 44 hectares of territory!

Although Vatican City only declared its independence on February 11th, 1929, its foundation dates back to the Roman Empire, when the Apostle Saint Peter was crucified on Vatican Hill. And, since then, this place became the biggest and most important sanctuary of the Catholic Church!

Nowadays, the perfect Vatican City itinerary includes visiting one of the most complete and valuable art collections in history, strolling through a square that is one of the world’s main pilgrimage centers, and entering one of the most famous religious temples of all!

So, do you want to know more about 1 Day In Vatican City: The Perfect Vatican City Itinerary? Keep reading!

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Vatican City Itinerary
Vatican City Itinerary

Brief History of Vatican City

As I mentioned in the introduction, the origins of Vatican City are directly related to the creation of a sanctuary dedicated to Saint Peter on Vatican Hill, whose construction began in the 4th century under the orders of Emperor Constantine I. And it was on the foundations of this paleo-Christian temple that Saint Peter’s Basilica was built.

Cortile della Pigna (Musei Vaticani)

Vatican City State was the first country in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety, after its inscription in 1984. For that reason, it’s predictable that the best things to do in Vatican City be of a historical, cultural, and artistic nature!

World Heritage

Did you know that Vatican City was part of Vatican City’s second set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 8th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Buenos Aires (Argentina), between October 29th and November 2nd, 1984.

Nowadays, Vatican City is the fortieth country in Europe and the one-hundred-seventh country in the world with the most UNESCO sites, tied with other twenty-five countries. It has two cultural heritage assets inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization!

Visiting Vatican City

The vast majority of tourists visit Vatican City when they’re in Rome. And depending on the location of your accommodation in the Italian capital, you may be able to reach the small enclave on foot. Nevertheless, there are several options when it comes to public transportation:

  • Metro – line A (Ottaviano or Cipro stations)
  • Bus – numbers 19NAV (Risorgimento/San Pietro stop); 32, 81, or 590 (Risorgimento stop); 49 (Viale Vaticano/Musei Vaticani stop); 64 (Piazza Stazione di San Pietro stop)
  • Tram – number 19 (Risorgimento/San Pietro stop)
  • Train – regional services operated by Trenitalia (Roma San Pietro station)

In my opinion, you need 3-5 days to explore Rome. Therefore, it’s ideal to combine a day trip to Vatican City during your stay in the Italian capital. If you don’t have a full day available, I recommend that you dedicate a morning to the Vatican Museums and the early afternoon to Saint Peter’s Square and Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Vatican City Itinerary

Musei Vaticani

The perfect Vatican City itinerary has to start with a visit to the Vatican Museums (in Latin, Musea Vaticana; in Italian, Musei Vaticani). This is because the Vatican Museums are the fifth largest museum in the world and the third-largest museum in Europe, with 43,000 m2 of exhibition space! On top of that, they’re also the eighth-most visited museum in the world and the sixth-most visited museum in Europe!

And did you know that the Vatican Museums are the second oldest museum in the world? Its origins date back to 1506 when Pope Julius II decided to expose a collection of classical sculptures to the public! With so many impressive facts, it’s normal for the Vatican Museums to be mandatory on a Vatican City itinerary!

Read my complete guide to the Vatican Museums, a must-see tourist attraction on any Vatican City itinerary!

Stanze di Raffaello

The Raphael Rooms (in Latin, Cubicula Raphaelis; and in Italian, Stanze di Raffaello) are among the most famous masterpieces in the Vatican Museums. Situated in the Palazzo Apostolico – the official residence of the Pope – this set of rooms is decorated with frescoes painted by Raffaello Sanzio, one of the greatest masters of the High Renaissance!

The four Stanze di Raffaello are called Sala di Costantino (or Hall of Constantine), Stanza di Eliodoro (or Room of Heliodorus), Stanza della Segnatura (or Room of the Signatura) and Stanza dell’Incendio del Borgo (Room of the Fire in the Borgo). Originally, these chambers were part of the apartments of Pope Julius II.

In my opinion, the perfect Vatican City itinerary has to include a stop to admire Raphael’s iconic “The School of Athens”!

Cappella Sistina

The Sistine Chapel (in Latin, Sacellum Sixtinum; and in Italian, Cappella Sistina) is one of the main reasons thousands of tourists visit the Vatican Museums every day. Also located in the Palazzo Apostolico, the Sistine Chapel owes its name to Pope Sixtus IV, responsible for the restoration work of the old Cappella Magna.

Considered Michelangelo Buonarotti’s greatest masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is decorated with frescoes depicting episodes from the Book of Genesis, as well as figures of Prophets and Sibyls. The best-known frescoes are “The Creation of Adam” (the central panel) and “The Last Judgment” (the monumental painting on the altar wall).

WARNING: Don’t forget that it’s forbidden to film and/or photograph inside the Sistine Chapel (with or without flash)!

Piazza San Pietro

After spending the morning visiting the Vatican Museums (in particular the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel), you can stop for lunch nearby, or continue your Vatican City itinerary in Saint Peter’s Square (in Latin, Forum Sancti Petri; and in Italian, Piazza San Pietro).

Now, Saint Peter’s Square was designed in the 17th century by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the most renowned Baroque architects and sculptors. Here, don’t forget to walk through the monumental Doric colonnade, which surrounds the square and which inspired the Colonnade of the Sanctuary of Fátima, in Portugal. And to contemplate the 140 statues of saints, popes, and other religious figures, which greet the pilgrims from the balustrade!

As I mentioned earlier, Saint Peter’s Square is one of the main centers of world pilgrimage, hosting hundreds of thousands of people on the most important religious holidays (such as Easter or Christmas). If you have the opportunity, attend a liturgical celebration in this elliptical square, in order to make your Vatican City itinerary even more perfect, special, and memorable!

I may not be the most religious person in the world, but seeing Pope Francis live at Palm Sunday Mass was one of the most rewarding experiences of my second visit to Rome and Vatican City!

Obelisco Vaticano

Did you know that Rome is the city with more obelisks in the world? In addition to eight obelisks from Ancient Egypt, the Italian capital inherited five obelisks from Ancient Rome and received five modern obelisks, which can still be found today!

The Vatican Obelisk (in Latin, Obeliscus Vaticanus; and in Italian, Vatican Obelisk) is 40 meters high and was brought from Alexandria by Emperor Caligula in 40 AD. It originally decorated the center of the Circus of Nero (or Circus of Caligula), the place where Saint Peter was crucified.

Made of red granite from Aswan, the Vatican Obelisk is the second tallest obelisk in Rome. However, it doesn’t have traces of hieroglyphics, unlike the other Egyptian obelisks in the city!

Rosa dei Venti

The Wind Rose (in Latin, Rosa Ventorum; in Italian, Rosa dei Venti) that surrounds the Vatican Obelisk in Saint Peter’s Square is the only “hidden gem” on this Vatican City itinerary. As the name suggests, it’s a diagram inspired by the compass points, which indicate the different directions of the wind. In all, there are sixteen markers made of white marble and labeled with the cardinal, collateral, and sub-collateral points.

Southeast Wind (or Vento Scirocco, in Italian)

Although it’s located in Saint Peter’s Square designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, this Wind Rose was only installed in 1852. At that time, the then Pope Pius IX also ordered the four seven-branched candelabra (which you see in the center of the square), as well as the sixty-eight granite pillars (which limit traffic in this circle) to be placed.

Basilica di San Pietro

Saint Peter’s Basilica (in Latin, Basilica Sancti Petri; in Italian, Basilica di San Pietro) was built between the 16th and 17th centuries and had the collaboration of some of the best artists of the Renaissance and Baroque: Donato Bramante, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raffaello Sanzio, Carlo Maderno, Gian Lorenzo Bernini…

The entrance to Saint Peter’s Basilica is free, but it’s important that you respect the strict dress code. For example, it’s forbidden to enter the temple with bare shoulders, cleavages, or above-the-knee clothing (shorts, skirts, dresses, etc.). These rules apply to both men and women, regardless of the time of year!

Read my complete guide to Saint Peter’s Basilica, a must-see tourist attraction on any Vatican City itinerary!

Map of the Vatican City Itinerary

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