Vatican City is a walled enclave within the city of Rome with a population of about 842 inhabitants and an area of about 44 hectares. It is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world.
Vatican City serves as the spiritual center for millions of practicing Roman Catholics worldwide. But Vatican City is also a tourist magnet thanks to the presence of some of Rome’s most popular attractions, including the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.
The population of this tiny area is made up of priests, nuns, guards, high-ranking dignitaries and, of course, the pope, and is constantly changing.
Vatican City wasn’t always this small. In the mid-19th century, the Papal States covered approximately 44,000 square km. However, during the next decade and the struggle for Italian unification, the majority of these states officially became a part of the country of Italy.
The pope’s power was abolished and the papal territory was confined to the Vatican. In 1929, the Treaty of Lateran gave The Holy See autonomy, officially establishing this tiny area that attracts millions of visitors each year. The city state is protected by its own military, the strangely-clad Swiss Guards.
St. Peter’s Square
Guests enter Vatican City through expansive St. Peter’s Square. In the center of the square, you’ll find a 25.31-meter-tall Egyptian obelisk, brought to Rome by Caligula in 38 AD from Heliopolis, located on the Nile Delta. Fountains are situated on either side of the obelisk.
Vatican City is also home to the expansive Vatican Museums, which boasts one of the most impressive art collections in the world. Some of the most famous works of art on display here include the wall and ceiling paintings of the Sistine Chapel, the Stanze of Raphael, the Laocoön statue and the Apollo del Belvedere.
Location: Vatican City
Nearby hotels: Caesar Place, Vatican Charme, 121 Candia Guest House
Nearby sights: St. Peter’s Basilica, La Pieta, St. Peter’s Square