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Summary: At just 44 hectares, the Vatican City, or the Holy See, is the smallest independent and sovereign state in the world. It was formally created in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Pact, and is the seat of power of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican City stands on the resting place of Saint Peter, one of Jesus' Apostles, and has an economy officially supported by Catholic dioceses and tourist revenues.

Capital: Vatican City
Time Zone: DST +0200 UTC
Population: 921
Languages: Italian, Latin, French
Power: 230 V, 50 Hz
Currency: Euro - Currently 1 EUR € = 1.4607 USD $
Climate: Vatican City is located in Rome, so it has central Italy's temperate, mediterranean climate, mild winters and hot, dry summers.

St. Peter's Square: An open oval-shaped piazza in front of the Basilica of Saint Peter, the square was designed by Bernini and completed in 1667. In the center is a granite Roman obelisk brought from Egypt by Caligula, and is usually surrounded by packs of tourists ? look for the nearby dark stones set in the piazza from which point you can line up all the pillars on one side directly behind each other for a neat effect.

Vatican Museums: The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected in the early 1500s. They include the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, the Gregorian Etruscan Museum, the Sistine Chapel, Raphael's Rooms, the Pinacoteca, and the Ethnological Missionary Museum, collectively showing the works of artists like Raphael, Botticelli, da Vinci and Michelangelo. More than three million travellers a year visit these museums.

Sistine Chapel: Near the Basilica on its northern side, and with over three hundred figures, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has been considered one of Michelangelo's greatest masterpieces ? the Creation. Frescos by Michelangelo, Botticelli and Pinturiccio cover every wall of this art lover's Mecca, which also serves as the Pope's private chapel and home to the conclave in the choosing of the next Pope.


Proper Dress: Make sure to respect the local dress code, your shoulders and thighs need to be covered if you want to get into the Vatican.

Papal Audience: The Pope will normally receive guests in an audience opened to invitation on Wednesdays - 11am in the winter and 5pm in the summer. Either get permission from the Prefect's Office in the Vatican City, or from your local Bishop, although this may take more time.

When To Visit: The museums, although closed on Sundays, are open all year round. The best times to visit are during the Roman Catholic holiday times of Christmas, in late December and Easter, and in late March or early April.

Food: Restaurants close to the Vatican City tend to be very expensive, so consider going a bit further out, or plan to eat before or after your visit.

Phrases: Yes - Si, No - No, Good morning - Buongiorno, Please - Per favore, Thank you - grazie, Excuse me - Mi scusi.

Tipping: There are very few places to eat within the Vatican City (other than a museum restaurant and a cafe on the roof of St Peter's Basilica), so you are more likely to spend your money in Rome, where most tips are included in your bill, but tipping an extra few Euros for good service is appreciated.

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