Another bucket list destination to cross off our list. This truly was a dream come true. I have wanted to visit St. Peter’s Square, The Sistine Chapel and The Vatican since I was a young girl.
These particular sites were so important to me, we hired a personal guide and we are so happy we did. It was the best money and time spent. We were given information; information I had honestly forgotten about – the history and what to look for in the Sistine Chapel, and that you are not actually in the sovereign Vatican City State, until you walk out the door that is not accessible to the general public. St. Peter’s Square is actually in Rome, not in the sovereign Vatican City State.
We felt very honored to be able to stand on Vatican grounds. Our tour included a visit to the Vatican gardens. Both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict walk these gardens, but we did not run into them during our visit. I suspect they visit when the public is not allowed in, but we did walk within arms length of where Pope Benedict now resides and pet his cat. The gardens are large and beautiful. We were surprised how quiet it was inside the walls of the Vatican given how close the city streets of Rome are.
While we strolled the gardens, we witnessed an event being set up by the waterfall, this we were told is a big deal, must be somebody important visiting.
My husband saw both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict when we up top of the Duomo, getting out of a car – they were the size of ants, but still, he SAW them. My son and I were on the other side, by the time we made our way around, they were gone. I think he felt lucky!
Our tour guide was Sylvia Di Salvo and her email is email@example.com We secured her through our concierge at Rome Cavalieri, but she is available to hire by contacting her directly. We highly recommend her, she was friendly with humor and extremely knowledgeable. The requirements to be a Vatican tour guide are stringent, so you can be assured your time and money will be well spent by hiring her.
We walked and taxied by St. Peter’s Basilica a few times during our stay in Rome. Each time we would stop and take it all in. There is literally people there in the square around the clock. One night we grabbed some gelato and just hung out in the square, people watching and taking in the grandeur. We did not attend Mass; however, we did see all the chairs being taken down afterwards. If you want to attend Mass, the public Mass is on Wednesday mornings. We arrived on a Wednesday and left before the next Wednesday, so remember that when planning your trip.
Also, do dress appropriately. We did see a few people wearing shorts, but literally only a few (maybe 5 at best). It was hot, so my son and husband were not thrilled with wearing pants, but not only is it respectful to dress appropriately, you could be turned away after waiting literally hours in a queue – that would be such a waste of time. It is such a special place, that wearing pants for a few hours on a hot day is not a bad sacrifice to make. Ladies be sure your knees and shoulders are covered. I wore a maxi skirt and a t-shirt.
Tip: Do not rush this part of your trip. We took two half days to experience St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens and even came back just to sit in the square, people watch and eat gelato. Even though we split this on our itinerary you could get it all in one very full day. Be prepared for crowds and long queues (lines).
All the best,