Free things to do in Vatican City

What are some of the interesting yet free things to do in the Vatican?

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20 free things you can do during your visit to the Vatican:

1. Visit St Peter's Square

St Peter's Square is the centre of the Vatican, and is located right in front of St Peter's Basilica. This is a wonderful place to sit and people watch before moving on to the next attraction. Of particular interest are the Bernini fountains, the Obelisk, and the Papal apartment.

2. Visit St Peter's Basilica

St Peter's Basilica is built over the tomb of St Peter, and it is one of the largest and most beautiful churches in the world. Like the museum, the Basilica contains many important and famous works of art, and there are Catholic services held every day of the week.

3. See the Pope

The Vatican is the centre of Catholicism, and if you visit on a Wednesday, you can attend the General Audience where the Pope addresses thousands of people. Get here early to be a part of the crowd, and be a part of the Papal address and blessings.

4. Attend a mass in the Basilica

There are masses held every single day in St Peter's Basilica that are open to the public. Sundays are generally the most crowded so go during the week.

5. See La Pieta

Inside the Basilica is the famous 'La Pieta' statue depicting grieving Mary holding Jesus. This is one of Michelangelo's well-known works and is a beautiful and significant example of Renaissance work, and it is the only work he ever signed.

6. Sit by the Bernini Fountain

This famous fountain was commissioned by Pope Clement X. It was created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1667 and 1677. This is among the most beautiful fountains in Rome, and there are attendants who can tell you about the history as you enjoy sitting by the water

7. See the Maderno fountain

This fountain was commissioned by Pope Paul V, and is designed in such a way that it only uses gravity to move the water around and not pumps.

8. Attend the Sunday Angelus

At 12 noon on Sundays the Pope appears over the square to deliver a short speech, followed by reciting the Angelus. This is one of the two times that the general public can see the pope, and the whole address will last from around 15-20 minutes.

9. Walk across Ponte Sant'Angelo

Translated as the Bridge of the Holy Angel, you can cross the Tiber River on the bridge that was originally built to be a grand entrance to Hadrian's mausoleum. You can see the Basilica from this bridge, and see the ten angels that stand guard, each holding a symbol of Jesus' crucifixion.

10. Find members of the Swiss Guard

These bizarrely dressed members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard are responsible for the safety of the Pope. You should not be distracted by their attire- they all have military training, and are trained in both modern and Renaissance-time weapons.

11. Find the world's shortest railway

The tiny state of Vatican City has the shortest railway in the world- a track that is only 300 metres long. This train is not used for passengers, but rather for importing goods and largely symbolic reasons.

12. Stand in two countries at once

Vatican City is the smallest state in the world, and although you cannot get your passport stamped, you are technically entering into another country where citizenship is only by invitation.If you go to the Piazza San Pietro, there is only a white line that goes from one end of the colonnade to the other, so technically you can straddle this line and be in two countries at once.

13. Touch the statue of St Peter

The bronze "St Peter Enthroned" is a statue of significance for people who have made a pilgrimage to the Basilica. His right foot has been worn down over many years of people touching the bronze statue depicting the saint preaching and giving blessings.

14. Send a letter from the Vatican postal service

If you are planning on sending any postcards home from your trip to Rome, then the Vatican is the best place to do it. The Vatican City postal service is apparently among the world's best.

15. Discover Ancient Egypt in the middle of Italy

In the middle of St Peter's Square there is an enormous Egyptian obelisk. Gaius Caligula had the monument brought to Rome in 37 A.D., and although not much is known about its origins, it provides a stark contrast to the surrounding Renaissance history in the Vatican.

16. See the Complesso Monumentale Santo Spirito in Sassia

This is an enormous building that used to be lodgings for Saxon pilgrims in the 8th century, and then a hospital established by Pope Innocent III in the 12th century.

17. Stand under Bernini's enormous baldacchino

Inside St Peter's Basilica is the bronze canopy above the main altar called the baldacchino. This structure might seem small underneath the enormous dome above it, but it is actually nearly 10 storeys high and is made out of 100,000 pounds of bronze.

18. Admire the Bernini Colonnade in St Peter's Square

When you are admiring the Basilica from the outside, make sure you check out Bernini' work in his symmetrical colonnade that was intended to represent the open arms of the Holy Mother Church. If you look above this, you will see statues of 140 saints that have a militant air to them, representing the church’s earthly battle

19. Check the time in the Square

If you have found the obelisk (which you would struggle not to), then you can use this ancient Egyptian artefact to tell the time. Look for a thin marble line on the ground that will indicate where the obelisk will point to midday.

20. Walk down Via della Conciliazione at night

If you go to Via della Conciliazione at dusk, you can capture the Basilica in all of its glory as the sun is setting and the lamps are turning on. This was originally supposed to be a maze of winding streets opening up to the main piazza, but that idea was destroyed and instead there is glorious approach up this street which leads you straight to the Basilica.

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