Whether you are an ardent Roman Catholic, an athiest or somewhere in between, if you are visiting Rome, I highly recommend a visit to the Vatican.
Here you can witness first hand all that pertains to the quirky and unique Vatican City, long the peak authority of the Catholic Church and home to the Pope. Moreover, if you are a religious sceptic or athiest, you can gain additional insight into the wealth and historical power base of the Catholic Church and finally, if you love art, or historical antiquities, the Vatican's collection is immense and much of its artistic and antiquities collection has no religious base.
The latter, is what drew me to the Vatican and I booked a five hour 'Treasures of the Vatican', including the Brumante staircase tour. This took me into areas and galleries of the Vatican, (like the antiquities collection), as well as the Brumante staircase, not normally open to the public.
Advice for those intending to visit the Vatican.
The Treasures of the Vatican and Brumante Staircase Tour (Now Hidden Museums Tour).
I highly recommend this tour if you are a lover of art and antiquities.
The tour is at least five hours long. You are taken through a big slice of the Vatican art collection, in chronological order of execution. Expect to see masterpieces by Rubens, Da Vinci, Fra Angelico, Bottecini, Titan and more.
The Brumante staircase was amazing, with extraordinary views over Rome to be had from their top.
Next came a break in a courtyard that leads onto the Sistine Chapel, itself resplendant with fabulous sculptures.
Afterwards we continued on to the extraordinary collection of antiquities, which included some of the best Hittite artefacts ever unearthed. Next was a walk past and glimpses of the Vatican's modern masterpieces. I managed to checkout magnificent Cezanne and Bacon paintings and only wished we had spent at least a little time in this section of galleries.
Finally, we were taken through an incredible corridor bedecked with frescos of ancient maps, to the Sistine Chapel.
My enjoyment and appreciation of the Sistine Chapel was marred by the experience of being herded through the space, by officious security guards. We could not stand in a place to gaze at 'The Last Supper', or marvel at the ceilings. It was in and out, with invasive "no photography" announcements at the rate of ten or more a minute.
St Peters was much more enjoyable, by comparison, as it was free of such invasive proceedures and announcements. Our tour concluded here and we were given as much time as we wished to explore its interior.
Beyond St Peters, you will see the Vatican guards as you leave Vatican City.
As you head out, there is a Vatican City post office from where you can purchase post cards and post them to be marked with the Vatican post mark. There is also a plethora of religious souvenirs available from specialist shops in the immediate vicinity, as well as throughout Rome's toursit precincts.
Architecture, Sculpture and Decorative Arts
Inside St Peter's Bassilica
Fiona Ludbrook was born in Ballarat but spent much of her adult life as an educator in Melbourne.