on November 26, 2012
Vatican City is an independent state, therefore, it's a different country. You're not in Italy anymore when you cross the borders but you can visit St. Peter's Square, Basilica and the Vatican Museums easily. If you go anywhere else, though, you will have to go through passport and border control. The official State is less than 100 years old, established in 1929 but the Catholic Popes have been in residence here mostly since the early centuries of Christianity thought it's not the only place in Rome where they lived. There was also a period where the Popes lived in Avignon, France. The museums are a series of museums that exist to contain the collections of the Popes. They were founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th century. Currently there are 54 galleries and 17 km of corridors. It's a place you could spend all day browsing. You can buy the tickets and wander on your own, get an audio guide, or you can book a formal tour. The formal tours will basically take you from the entrance, down through one hallway of galleries to the Sistine Chapel and back to the entrance again. You can stay on and see the rest on your own. Entrance fees for an adult are currently 15 euro. We booked a 2-3 hour tour because we didn't feel up to spending all day there. Up a staircase from the entrance hall you can go out into the courtyard of the Acorn and yes, there's a large sculpture of an acorn on one side. (The bronze acorn used to be near the Pantheon, they think and think it was moved here to the courtyard in the early 1600s) In the middle is a large brass sphere sculpted by Arnaldo Pomodoro in 1990. Our guide was very good and spoke to us at length out in the courtyard of the Acorn that is set up with storyboards for the Sistine chapel. The guides use these to point out the highlights because you can't talk or make noise in the chapel itself. The guides take you down there, give you about 20 minutes to look around and up and then you move on. The chapel is guarded as well with eyes open for people taking sneaky photos as that's not allowed either. You can take photos in the rest of the museums without a flash. The Sistine Chapel was built in the end of the 15th century for Pope Sixtus (thus, "Sistine"). While it is famous now for being the location that the Enclave of cardinals goes to elect new Popes, it wasn't always used for that. Sometimes, yes, but often it was in any location where the Pope happened to be when he died. In the last hundred or so years, though, it's always done here.And yes, even though I wasn't supposed to, I took stealth photos in the Sistine Chapel without a flash. It's dim in there but with a little photoshop adjustment, they've brightened up well. By the end of the tour we were very tired and staggered around to St. Peter's to have a quick look inside. Also worth visiting but by the time the Vatican tour was over we only had about 20 minutes left to see it.
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