It may be the world’s smallest state, but Vatican City is still one of the most remarkable attractions on the planet.
With a population of about 1,000, Citta del Vatican takes up 44 hectares of Rome. Italy.
But when you pass through the gates and enter the walled city, you are in a sovereign state whose borders are guarded by the traditional Swiss Guard – obvious in their distinctive striped uniforms and berets.
We were unsure what to expect – and asked ourselves whether it was likely to be something that would appeal only to active Christians.
However, we soon realised the error of that thinking.
A visit to the Apostolic Palace, or Palazzo Apostolic, broadens the mind – and allows you to see truly astonishing sights.
Seeing these masterpieces of human endeavour was always an aim of ours – and the experience was even more fulfilling than we’d anticipated.
The domed ceiling of St Peter’s Basilica – designed by Michelangelo – is unforgettable; double columns, gabled windows, striking colours and a double calotte soaring 136.57 metres from its base to the tip of the crowning cross.
Visitors are able to climb to the top of the dome, although we’ve never tried.
There are 11 museums that feature some of the most magnificent frescos imaginable.
The wonderful Sistine Chapel
And, of course there is the famous Sistine Chapel that packs in the crowds, but will leave you shaking your head at the amazing painting of both Michelangelo and Botticelli.
The blue ceiling of the chapel is surely one of the world’s greatest sights.
Outside, the emptiness of St Peter’s Square is softened by a series of Vatican gardens, complete with fountain, fish pond and an enclosure for rabbits.
Every now and then, we saw glimpses of everyday life in this city within a city.
Apparently, the Vatican radio station broadcasts all over the world in 29 languages; there is a city television station; a daily newspaper; shops; offices; and a post office with Vatican stamps.
A passport is not required for visitors entering Vatican City from the surrounding Italian territory.
It’s free to enter St Peter’s Square and Basilica and the entrance fee to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel is well worth the cost.
If you have the opportunity, find the time to visit Vatican City.
Regardless of whether you are a spiritual person or not, this experience is something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.