Fun Facts about the Vatican Museums

By Go City Expert

The Vatican City is the home of the Pope and thus the Christian world and especially this year with the Jubilee of Mercy it holds even more significance. The magnitude of its importance means that often the smaller facts are overlooked.

Here are 10 facts about the Vatican so you can impress your friends as you walk around:

  1. With a total area of 0.44 kilometres (1/8th the size of central park) the Vatican is the smallest country in the world It is entirely landlocked by Italy and has no motorways or large roads, only streets
  2. The Vatican is governed by an absolute monarchy with the Pope as its head. It has its own passports, flag and national anthem.
  3. There is no tax within the Vatican. Sale of museum admission and souvenirs is the only way the government generates revenue.
  4. The Vatican doesn’t have an official language. People speak Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish.
  5. The Vatican has the smallest population of any country in the world- around 1000 people would call it their home.
  6. The Vatican has its own radio station that broadcasts in 20 different languages across the world.
  7. The Vatican City is a UNESCO Wold heritage site, and is the only site that encompasses an entire country.
  8. Vatican City is the only independent state that has not become a member of the United Nations.
  9. If you joined all the Vaticans museum rooms together they would extend for 9 miles.
  10. If you spent one minute looking at each painting in the museums it would take you 4 years to see them all.

If you want more, read about the top 10 things to see in the Vatican Museums and learn about these 20 fascinating facts about the Sistine Chapel.

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Our Guide to the Street Markets in Rome

When in Rome, do as the Romans and wander through one of the city's bustling Street Markets! There are many wonderful markets in Rome, you’ll find one practically in every rioni (or district). Some have been trading for more than 400 years - others are more recent pop-ups. But regardless of their longevity, we guarantee that visiting markets in Rome is an excellent way to soak up the city’s unique atmosphere. To help you make your selection, we've put together a short guide to a few of our favourites. Our top tips? Listen out for some gentle banter, and don’t be afraid to haggle! Porta Portese Market Rome’s largest and most famous market (ideal for souvenir-hunting) Porta Portese Market is about a mile long and spills over into neighbouring backstreets. Endless stalls and traders in carpets, fabric, antiques, clothes and even pets provide endless happy hours of bargain-hunting. If you’re not keen on shopping, just soak up the vibrant atmosphere, but watch out for pickpockets! Open: Sun 5am-2pm Borghetto Flaminio Market This weekly market in Rome is a must-see for anyone in the area surrounding the Piazza del Popolo. It’s an ideal place to pick up rare antiques and designer clothing, and you’ll find some real bargains thanks to Rome’s glamorous and fashionable locals. Armani sunglasses, Gucci handbags and fur coats are just a few of the treats in store for you. Open: Sun 10am-7pm Campo de Fiori Rome’s oldest market, the Campo de Fiori farmers’ market, has been around for over 400 years. Although the name means ‘field of flowers’, there is in fact a wide range of products to buy here, including beautiful flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables, Italian meats and cheese, and local delicacies such as truffles and homemade olive oils. Probably not for you if you’re on vacation, but you can also get hold of kitchen utensils and various bits and pieces for the home. Open: daily Fontanella Borghese Market If you’re an art or literature lover, a trip to the Fontanella Borghese Market is a great opportunity to find ancient etchings and prints, as well as bargain books. This market is the perfect place to pick up antique maps, vintage posters, used cameras, old magazines and newspapers and exquisite art. A nice change from the regular tourist souvenirs on offer in Rome. Open: Mon-Sat 9am-7pm La Soffitta Sotto I Portici Market This market is a favourite with Rome’s young and trendy, who come to browse bric-a-brac and vintage. You can rifle through second-hand jewelry or clothing, and grab a real bargain if you’re in the market for silk scarves, crystal beads or antique lace. Located between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, this market is in one of the most beautiful and historic parts of Rome. Open: 7am-7pm on the first and third Sundays of the month Campagna Amica Market This covered market is a good one for foodies. You’ll find the freshest fruit and vegetables in the city, locally sourced from Lazio farmers and the region surrounding Rome. Taste honey almost straight from the hive and olives practically just fallen off the trees! And support regional farmers and the local environment. Open: Sat-Sun 10.30am-7pm Piazza San Cosimato Market (in Trastevere) Known as the ‘Jewish Ghetto’, Trastevere is one of Rome’s most fascinating areas, with cobbled streets and peaceful hideaways. The origins of the market date back to the early 20th century and many of the vendors are descendants of the market’s very first traders. Regulars include a fishmonger, several butchers and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable stands. Open: Mon-Sat 6am-1.30pm No trip is complete without a visit to one of these markets in Rome. Whether you’re an avid bargain hunter, a fierce haggler or a relaxed browser, these markets will give you a taste of Rome past and present - a sensation not to be missed. Happy shopping!
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Know Before You Go

Most tourists want that ‘off the beaten track’ experience when visiting a new place; they might pour over articles, travel blogs or speak to people who have been to get a feel for what to expect before visiting. We’ve spoken to the locals to get some recommendations and top tips to share to make your trip to Rome seamless. 1. Ciao Most locals in Rome will understand basic English, however, it’s always courteous to learn a few useful Italian phrases before you go to make communicating a bit easier. Buy a pocket book of key phrases, such as how to say hello and goodbye, how to order in a restaurant and how to ask for directions, as a start. Even if you get something wrong, just by showing the effort will be more than most people! 2. Local dishes It’s common assumption that dishes in Italy consist only of pizza and pasta, and variations of – but don’t rule out other delicacies that dominate menus across Rome. The Italians are known for their fresh ingredients and locally sourced produce that make their food so healthy so you can forget lashings of butter and processed snacks. From imaginative aperitivi, to anything fritti, another one of the best things to try in Rome is arancini, tomato rice balls with mozzarella, or Bucatini, spaghetti with a hole through the middle. 3. Hidden Gems Veer off the tourist track and look down the cobbled side streets for hidden gems when looking for places to eat. Often you’ll find great family run tavernas that serve traditional Roman food at a snip of the price of a touristy restaurant on the main street. The menus will be understated but delicious all the same and you’ll always be served with a smile! It’s also where your key phrases will come in handy... 4. Queuing Many cultures are respectable queue-formers and will wait patiently and in an orderly fashion before getting into a busy attraction. Not the Italians. You can forget all rules when it comes to waiting in line – it’s each to their own in this dog-eat-dog queuing system. One of the great things about the OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card is that you can dodge the queues at some of the busiest attractions, such as the Vatican Museums (which can save you up to 4 hours in the busy months) and the Coliseum, too. 5. Drinking Drinking in Italy is a civilised affair and you’ll often find most Italians drinking conservatively at both lunch and dinner. Producing some of the best wine in the world, Moscato, Chianti, Amarone and Prosecco all herald from this country so you’ll be sure to find some of the best wine bars suitably stocked around the city. Spend a day tasting the different varieties, from red, to white, sparking and maybe even some limoncello, too, a zesty liqueur usually taken after dinner as a palette cleanser. Cheers! 6. Walking Rome is a relatively small city and most of it can be explored on foot. Although the Metro system is easy to use and cheap, we would always recommend bringing good walking shoes and exploring on foot. This way you’ll see more of the city and get a real off-the-beaten-track experience. Don’t be afraid to get lost and interact with the locals to really see the Rome not in the guidebooks. And whatever you do – avoid the taxis, they can spot a tourist a mile off and you’ll leave with considerably lighter pockets! 7. Green spaces For a city so full of ancient ruins, you might be surprised to learn that there are a considerable number of green spaces in the city, too. The city boasts three huge parks – the favourite being Villa Borghese, not forgetting Villa Ada and Villa Doria Pamphili, as well as hidden gardens which offer secluded spots for picnicking, people watching or gazing over the cityscape. The Rose Garden up on the Aventine Hill is a particular favourite, as well as the Orange Garden which offers a stunning panorama over Rome, too. 8. Street Art The street art scene is Rome isn’t one of its main features but the trend is certainly growing as the hipster population are becoming bolder at self-expression. Typically in the student area of San Lorenzo you can find vibrant murals along via degli Ausoni and via dei Sabelli. Or head out to Ostiense, an up and coming area for street artists and home to the Outdoor Festival and 999 Contemporary who invite big shot street artists to the city to create works of art legally. 9. Street Eats We don’t mean stalls and markets, we meet eating on the street. It’s very common in Rome to find the locals dining out with a taglio of pizza bought from an understated pizzeria and a cold bottle of Peroni. With rows and rows of rectangular pizza, you can pick how much you want and they’ll slice it up for you. Whether you fancy trying something a bit different, be it a white pizza without the tomato, or a truffle and vegetable inspired combo, take your pick and set to the street with your very own picnic. 10. Cinema Culture If you’re a movie buff, not only will you be able to recreate famous movie scenes at iconic locations across the city from the Spanish Steps, to the Coliseum, but a few miles out of central Rome you’ll find a whole district dedicated to filmmaking, Cinecittà (which literally means cinema city). These film studios have filmed over 3000 films, including the classic La Dolce Vita, so we’d recommend joining in a tour of the sets and exhibitions to learn about Italian movie culture.
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Vatican City attractions

Save on Vatican City attractions with the Vatican Omnia Card A visit to Rome would be wasted if you didn’t take time out to see the awe-inspiring Vatican City attractions. As the heart of the Catholic faith, many have endured pilgrimages to reach this holy place starting with the ancient Romans and persisting all the way to the present day. As home to some of the most famous landmarks and attractions in the world, you can see the best of them for free with the Rome and Vatican pass package and learn more from our guide to the Vatican city below.   St Peter's Basilica  One of the most important sites of pilgrimage in the world, St Peter’s Basilica is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and justifies the Vatican City tickets price for the millions of tourists who flock to its doors. Enjoy a free audio guide and skip the long lines at St Peter’s Basilica to fast-track your way into one of the Catholic faith’s most important sites. Dating back to the 16th century, it is an impressive building and perhaps one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in the world. With names like Bramante, Michelangelo, Maderno, and Bernini involved in its construction, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most impressive attractions in the city. From the huge square to its iconic dome, the true treasures of the Basilica lie within its walls: gleaming gold décor, mosaics, statues, and sculptures galore. See if you can spot Bramante’s bronze Baldacchino, which takes prime position at the head of the church. Underground, you can also explore the crypts which house the tombs of the former Popes. For unparalleled views over the city, climb up to the top of the Dome to really appreciate the vast expanse of this amazing site.   Vatican Gardens  Many popes have found peace of mind and solitude at the Vatican Gardens, an oasis of calm amidst the city with an unbeatable view of St Peter’s Basilica wherever you tread. In recent years, savvy tourists have been allowed beyond its walls to explore its numerous green pockets which include exotic plants, miniature succulent plots and no end of breathtaking sculptural fountains poised making for a picturesque experience. Not just anybody can wander in, however, as only a select number of visitors are permitted a day. You’ll need to make a reservation on a Vatican Gardens tour or on an inclusive Vatican tours package to see the site.   Sistine Chapel  The Sistine Chapel is considered one of the finest works of High Renaissance art for the sheer scale and the skill of the frescoes, predominantly painted by Michelangelo in the early 16th century. The chapel itself dates back to the late 1400s which was built by Pope Sixtus IV. The later decorations were commissioned by Pope Julius II. Perhaps the most famous of the frescoes is The Last Judgement, but central to the ceiling are the nine scenes from the Book of Genesis. It wasn’t just Michelangelo that deserves all the credit, other leading painters and contemporaries such as Botticelli and Ghirlandaio also contributed to the painting of this impressive chapel. The building measures an impressive 40.9 meters long so it puts it into perspective – if you want to be awed then visit the Sistine Chapel to appreciate the magnitude of one of Rome’s most impressive works of art.   Vatican Museums  The Vatican Museums are home to over 9 miles of art, sculpture, tapestries and more. The estimated worth of the art in the Vatican Museums is over €15 billion so you’re promised a wide range of world class collections. The collections were built up over the centuries by the Popes who lived in the city and date back to Ancient Egyptian pieces, to the 20th century – most notably some of the finest masterpieces from the Renaissance years. There are 54 rooms, from the Gallery of Statues, the Gallery of the Busts, to the Rotonda, and finally, the Sistine Chapel which is at the end of the tour. These Museums are not to be rushed and a thorough visit can take over 4 hours. Join one of the many Vatican tours and learn about Papal history along the way, not to mention the history behind some of the most famous works on display.   Garden of Eden Painting - Vatican This stunning painting is one of the Vatican’s most iconic, barring of course Michelangelo’s frescoes stretching across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Lovingly crafted by Wenzel Peter, this masterpiece named Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden has to be seen to be believed as both its gigantic size and attention to naturalistic detail make it one of the most exciting pieces in the Vatican Museums’ collection. Situated in the Pinacoteca Art Gallery in Room XVI, it takes up an entire wall and awes everyone who passes.   St John in the Lateran and the Cloister  St John in the Lateran and Cloister is in fact the official seat of the Pope. It’s older and – officially – more important than St Peter’s Basilica and is one of the oldest churches in Western Europe. It’s hugely significant in religious history and dating back to 324 AD has a wealth of history to tell. Within, the building is a fine example of Cosmatesque and Baroque architecture and design, with grand gold decorations and sculptures down its long nave. St John in the Lateran is also famous for its peaceful Cloister, which was built in the 13th century and is now a site of meditative prayer for many locals and visitors. Many pilgrims also flock to the Holy Steps, the Scala Sancta, which can be found in an early Papal chapel named the Lateran Palace.
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