We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Vatican City

Free Newsletter

Interested in Vatican City?

We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Vatican City each week.

More Lists
Lists you may be interested in:
We remove posts that do not follow our Trip Lists guidelines.
We reserve the right to remove any lists for any reason.
Trip List by DominiSumus

See the Vatican Like an Insider

May 6, 2006  My favorite sights and tips
4.5 of 5 stars based on 12 votes

What the guide books don't tell you

  • Category: Other
  • 1. Stay close to the Vatican

    Rezidenza Paolo VI and the Cardinal Cesi Hotel might be more expensive than staying on the other side of the city, but to me it is definately worth it.

    There is nothing like staying at Paolo VI and looking about the window and knowing you are across the street from St. Peter's Basilica. You can also enjoy sitting on the patio which overlooks the Basilica. In the evenings food and drinks are served on the patio.

    Cardinal Cesi also has a nice view of the Basilica, but it's best feature is the beautiful courtyard.

    American style breakfast is included at both hotels.

  • 2. Visit St. Peter's Basilica in the early morning

    Everyone entering the Basilica must pass through security. The checkpoint is on the right side of St. Peter's square and the lines get very long. Italian lines are not like American lines. They are disorganized and people push and try to squeeze to the front.
    The best time to get through the checkpoint is 8-9 in the morning. That is also the best time to visit the grottoes where the tombs of the Popes are located. (This is not the Scavi tour)
    The tomb of Pope John Paul II attracts many visitors and people are often rushed by. Early in the morning, there are less visitors, therofore people are not usually rushed by. It is usually possible to spend a few minutes in prayer at the tomb.

    The main part of the Basilica is also less crowded at that time. I think the morning is the best time to visit it.

  • 3. Book the Scavi tour months in advance

    The Scavi Tour takes you into the escavations under St. Peter's Basilica. You are brought to the tomb of St. Peter.
    The tour books quickly and there are a limited number of spaces. e-mail the Scavi office at scavi@fsp.va
    Make sure to include the following information:

    The exact number of visitors

    Their names (if it is a group, give the name of the group's leader and the address)

    Language desired for the visit

    The time period during which you desire the visit. (The time of the visit will be determined by the Excavations Office.).

    Where you are staying in Rome (Name and phone).

  • 4. Keep coins in your pocket

    The lights for most works of art in Roman churches are coin operated. St. Peter's Basilica is no exception. Remember to have coins to turn the lights on. It is worth it.

  • 5. Don't miss the Vatican Post Office

    When sending post cards and other items home, the Vatican Post Office is your best bet. The cards will arrive in the U.S. much faster than by Italian Mail.

    The post office is more than just for mail. There is also a nice gift shop.

  • 6. See the Vatican Museum

    While is it helpful to arrive eary, the lines do move quickly. The museum is so large it will take days to see everything. The only way to see the Sistine Chapel is through the museum ticket.
    The museum is closed on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of each month when admission is free. As you can imagine, it gets very crowded on that day.

  • 7. Don't miss the Papal Events

    In addition to the Wednesday Audience and the Sunday Angelus, there are also other events with the Pope. His schedule is posted on the Vatican Website.
    To request tickets to these events, contact your local bishop's office or contact Msgr. Roger Roensch at the U.S. Bishop's Center. Send your request by fax to 0113906.679.1448. His email is: nacvisoffrome.csm@ citiesonline.it

  • 8. Take time out to pray

    When visiting Peter's Basilica and the other Churches in Rome, remember to take time for prayer. It is easy to find a Mass at the Basilica and there is also a beautiful Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
    If you are Catholic, make sure to attend Mass, recieve the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and pray the the intentions of the Holy Father in order to recieve the plenary indulgence. There are priests hearing confessions in numerous languages, so it sould be easy to find an English speaking priest. The lines may be long.

  • 9. Visit Pope John XXIII

    Pope John XXIII is one of three popes whose bodies are on display in St. Peter's Basilica. The others are Pope St. Pius X and Pope Innocent XI. Their faces and hands are covered (Pope John XXIII is covered with wax) but it is their actual bodies.
    It really isn't as creepy as it sounds.

  • 10. Dress Appropriately

    There is nothing more dissapointing than to wait in line only to be turned away for not being dressed appropriately.
    For women:
    Shoulders and upper arms must be covered.
    Skirts must be below the knee
    No low cut blouses

    For men:
    No shorts
    No sleeveless shirts

    You WILL be turned away if this dress code is not followed.