What Would You Do With Budget Coupons?
So we got a Budget weekend car rental promo code and decided to take advantage of it. But where to go? Sicily? Montenegro? There are so many places within a car trip of Rome that we had trouble choosing. The winner? We ended up going to the Vatican City….
Visiting the World’s Smallest Country
A trip to Vatican City is not only a journey into the heart and soul of the Catholic faith but also to one of the world’s most secretive, mysterious, and heavily protected places. You also have the distinction of visiting the world’s smallest country. Vatican City, or Holy See as it is also known, was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, as a remnant of the former Papal states that existed throughout Italy at the time.
Today the Vatican, surrounded by the city of Rome, is still a sovereign state with its own currency, stamps, police force and radio station. It also has the Swiss Guards, the oldest and smallest army in the world. Michelangelo is believed to have designed the army’s distinctive and colorful uniforms.
For a small country which covers just over 100 acres, the Vatican has plenty to see and do. The first thing that most visitors will see is St. Peter’s Square, which is the only public entrance to Vatican City. The piazza is enclosed by a majestic colonnade, from the top of which the sculptures of 140 saints look upon the thousands of people below.
Most people have seen pictures of St. Peter’s Cathedral, which is the largest church in the world, but nothing can compare you for the real thing. The statistics alone at St. Peter’s are staggering; the huge dome rises to a height of 450 feet, and the church itself covers over 6 acres and can easily hold 60,000 worshippers.
St. Peter’s boasts many treasures, including the treasury with its priceless religious artifacts and the massive dome which you can climb for a spectacular view of Rome. Not to be missed are the Vatican grottoes with the tombs of many popes, including the tomb of St. Peter himself. One of the most impressive sculptures in the church is the famous Baldacchino (a type of canopy) designed by the sculptor Bernini, which rises above the altar.
After St. Peter’s, the biggest attraction is probably the Vatican museums. The Vatican owns one of the world’s largest and greatest art collections, all housed in a sprawling collection of galleries. The museum helpfully offers visitors several different itineraries to see the highlights, depending on how much time they have.
The collection boasts everything from religious paintings, to Greek and Roman artifacts, and modern masterpieces. Of course, one of the must see attractions is the spectacular roof of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo over a period of four years, a job so arduous that it damaged his eyesight.
Parts of the Vatican Are Off-Limits
The Vatican contains many more treasures inside its relatively small area, although unfortunately many of these are off limits to the public. The Vatican secret archives include many priceless religious manuscripts, letters, and books, some of which date back to the 8th century and there has been plenty of speculation over what might be in there.
Those in the Vatican observe traditions as they have been for many centuries. One of the most enduring rituals is that of electing the next Pope. The Cardinals are locked inside the Sistine Chapel and signal their decision to the outside world by emitting smoke; black smoke means no decision, while white smoke means the Cardinals have chosen a Pope.
Apart from its magnificent art collections and treasures, the Vatican is still a place where about 3,000 people live and work. Those numbers swell when there are visiting tourists, pilgrims, researchers and religious dignitaries. And the Vatican may be the only place in the world where the instructions on the ATMs are written in Latin which is still the official language of Vatican City.
A visit to Vatican City is a memorable experience at any time. But if you can time your trip for one of the regular occasions when the Pope addresses the enormous crowd in St. Peter’s Square, your journey will truly be unforgettable.