The City of Popes
From St Peter's to the Sistine Chapel: the treasures of the Vatican city
Enclosing them in a loving embrace, Gian Lorenzo Bernini's colonnade welcomes both tourists and faithful alike to St Peter's Basilica. This is the true heart of Christianity where, on occasions of great religious importance, thousands of people gather.
The colonnade and the Vatican obelisk
Realised between 1656 and 1667 for Pope Alessandro VII Chigi, the colonnade measures 240 meters in length, sustained by 284 columns and topped by 140 statues.
Standing at the center of the piazza, the Vatican obelisk was brought to Rome by Caligula so as to stand in the central spina of the Circus Gai et Neronis. It was Pope Sixtus V who had the obelisk moved and placed in the center of the piazza.
Visitors wishing to enter the Basilica should remember to observe the regulations of appropriate dress (both arms and legs should be covered)
Saint Peter's factory
Legend has it that St Peter's Basilica, was built on the site of the tomb of the apostle, crucified in 60 A.D. Although the basilica's origins date back to 315 A.D, it was not until the 16th and 17th century that St Peter's assumed the appearance which can still be admired today.
An incredible feat of Italian architecture, for over a hundred years, "Saint Peter's Factory" was the workplace for a great number of artists including Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bernini.
Home to many of the world's most valued artworks, such as Michelangelo's "Pietà" and Bernini's "Baldacchino", St Peter's has a capacity for 20 thousand people
The dome, or "Cupolone", as the citizens of Rome fondly call it, is symbol of the majesty of St Peter's, and dominates the Italian capital's skyline. Designed by Michelangelo, who supervised its construction right up until his death, the dome was completed by Giacomo della Porta.
An entire day is needed to admire all the works of art contained within the Vatican Museums. Treasures of ancient Egypt and Rome, medieval tapestries, maps and manuscripts, the Pinacoteca, the Sala dell'Immacolata and the Borgia apartment with frescoes by Perugino.
Then there are the rooms which tourists are prepared to queue for hours to see: the Stanze di Raffaello and the unforgettable Sistine Chapel, in which to admire Michelangelo's monolithic "Universal Judgement".
From the Vatican City we head towards the Tiber river, along the Via della Conciliazione, an immense road built by Mussolini so as to unite Rome's most important houses of worship with those of government. From the river banks, a splendid view of St Peter's can be seen, all the more magnificent at sunset.
Saint Angelo's Bridge and Castle
Adorned with statues of angels and saints, Sant'Angelo's Bridge is, itself, a quite magnificent spectacle. The bridge leads to Castel Sant'Angelo. The Castle was once connected to the Vatican by way of a not-so-secret passageway known as the "passetto".
The passetto, which served as escape route for the Pope's in case of attack, can be visited by reservation only
The National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo is located within the castle walls and offers visitors access a great number of frescoed rooms.