An NCC (limousine service) driver at your complete disposal will be waiting for you at the place chosen as starting point. The Vatican City Tours generally have as welcome places the Rome-Fiumicino “Leonardo da Vinci” Airport, Rome Termini Railway Station or a hotel of your choice. During the journey, if you wish, there’ll be a stop in a bar for a coffee break. Your Transfers Rome driver will take you near St. Peter’s Square, the wonderful oval piazza designed by the architect Lorenzo Bernini during the Baroque era, where stands the massive building of St. Peter’s Basilica, the cathedral of the Eternal City. The dome goes up till it reaches 136 meters, while the arcade, on top of which are placed 140 three-meter-high statues of saints, is formed by 284 sixteen-meter-high travertine columns. It’s a religious building of exceptional greatness and charm. Here you’ll start your Vatican City Tour. It’s has been calculated that six million people coming from every part of the world pass across St. Peter’s Square every year. Going inside the Basilica, just on the right, in the Cappella della Pietà, there’s the homonymous sculpture by Michelangelo (1498-1500), considered as one of the highest works of art of human civilization. Going back to the central nave you’ll notice a large round red porphyry plate, around which sat the judges of Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota; on the plate the emperors waited to be sacred by the Pope: the first emperor was Charlemagne, the night of Christmas Day of 800, and the last Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor (1452). Carrying on the Tour of Vatican inside the cathedral you’ll find the tombs of popes and great historical figures, such as Christina, Queen of Sweden, who abdicated in 1655 to convert to Catholicism. In the central nave you’ll notice the engravings of the lengths of the most important temples of Christianity, among which Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London (158 m), Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence (149 m) and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. (139 m).
Once arrived in front of the main altar, you’ll be amazed by the splendor of the colossal Baroque gilded bronze baldaquin, 29 meters high, created by Bernini between 1623 and 1633. Under the papal altar you’ll find the Vatican Grottos, which you’ll be able to visit. In the Grottos there are the national chapels of six countries (Poland, Ireland, Lithuania, Mexico, Germany, Hungary), the tombs of illustrious figures and popes and above all the tomb of Saint Peter, placed exactly under the main altar. If you wish, you’ll be able to go up the dome of the Basilica, where it’s possible to admire a wonderful panorama: from the gardens of Villa Borghese to the Alban and Sabine Hills till the glittering horizon of the Mediterranean Sea. When the tours are on Sunday, the participants have the opportunity to see the Pope out of the window of the Apostolic Palace for the Angelus.
Certainly worth a visit is the Vatican Apostolic Palace, which hosts the Vatican Museums. The first core exhibition was prepared by Pope Julius II (1503-1513), who collected in the courtyard of the Belvedere Palace some masterpieces of classical sculpture, such as the famous Laocoon, a work from the 1st century BC, the Apollo Belvedere and the Aphrodite of Cnidus. Over the centuries the museum structure has been extended to include different collections, among which: the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, the Ethnological Missionary Museum, the Modern Religious Art Museum, wanted by Pope Paul VI, and the Carriage Pavilion, which preserves the “popemobiles”, the vehicles used by popes. For your tour you’ll be able to use audioguides or be guided by experts. You’ll find numerous shops for buying souvenirs, books and postcards. Inside the picture gallery you’ll be able to admire great Italian art paintings, among which “The Entombment of Christ” (1604) by Caravaggio, the “Coronation of the Virgin” (1503) and the “Transfiguration” (1520), both works by Raphael, and “St. Jerome” (1480) by Leonardo da Vinci.
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During the visit at the Vatican Museums, you’ll see what is considered the greatest painting masterpiece of all time: the Sistine Chapel. It was Pope Julius II in 1506 who commissioned to Michelangelo the monumental fresco. The work took four years from 1508 to 1512. On the ceiling of the vault, which covers 520 meters, are represented nine episodes of the Genesis. Very famous and of exceptional beauty is the episode of “The Creation of Adam”. The countless figures of prophets, sibyls and biblical characters on the pendentives and the frame cover another 500 square meters. From 1536 to 1541 Michelangelo painted “The Last Judgment”, a giant fresco over the altar of the Sistine Chapel. The work created on 226 square meters of wall, counts 314 characters, among which Michelangelo in the guise of Saint Bartholomew, next to Christ.
In front of a work of such greatness you’ll really remain without words.
Besides St. Peter’s Basilica and the Apostolic Palace, a Tour of Vatican City can include the visit to other buildings that belong to the Vatican City State (established on the 11th February 1929): the Renaissance church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, the Palazzo dei Convertendi, partially attributed to Bramante, the mannerist style church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, Palazzo Torlonia, seat of the British Embassy to the Holy See during the Renaissance. You’ll be able to buy the wonderful collectible coins of the Vatican City, with the effigy of the Pope, and see the changing of the Swiss Guards.
Other destinations during your Tour of Vatican
Fully visitable is Castel S.Angelo, that stands on the left bank of the Tiber and is connected to the right bank, where the center of Rome extends, by the admirable S.Angelo bridge, adorned with wonderful statues of angels designed by Bernini. Born in 139 as the mausoleum of the emperor Hadrian and his successors, the Castello was transformed in a fortress since 271 for a decision of Aurelian.
You’ll be able to conclude the Vatican City Tours accompanied by your chauffeur to the hotel, to carry on your visit in Rome, or to the airport to leave for other destinations.
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