The Vatican City is located in the very heart of Rome and represents the smallest country in the world. It is the pulse in the Catholic life. It attracts every year millions of pilgrims coming from all over the world to gather in prayer and seek for the blessing of the Pope.
A well-beloved destination for many visitors, attracted by the magnificent works of art collected in the Vatican Museums and the magnificent Basilica of St. Peter, the greatest church in the world, with its imposing dome standing over the rooftops of the Eternal City.
The Basilica overlooks St. Peter's Square, designed by Bernini in the seventeenth century, who realised the imposing lateral colonnades, consisting of 284 Doric-style columns, topped by 140 statues of saints 3.10 m high and 6 large coats of arms of Alexander VII Chigi.
Thanks to the genius of Bernini's architecture, the columns array perfectly one behind the other, being positioned on the porphyry disks, as if by magic you could see them moving. The square presents the longest diameter measuring 240 metres in lenght, while in the middle is the obelisk, which is more than 25 metres high.
Going up the front stairway, renovated by Bernini and consisting of three levels, the visitors enter the porch, with five gates arranged along its 71 metres in length. Each of them corresponds to one of the front portals of the Basilica. The porch and the facade were realised by Carlo Maderno.
While entering the Basilica, visitors get immediately astonished by the artistic profusion of the interior and the suggestion infused by this sacred place, but they do not immediately perceive the real grandeur of the work. At the end of the central nave is the statue of St. Peter giving people his blessing, with the foot worn by the caresses of the fold. In the nave located on the right side, there is the famous Piety by Michelangelo, a marble complex of sublime expression that was completed by the artist at the age of 23.
Symbol of the Catholic Church and of the city of Rome is the main dome, an impressive work designed by Michelangelo and completed after his death by Domenico Fontana and Giacomo della Porta.
The Vatican Grottoes, located under the Basilica's floor, guard the tomb of Saint Peter and the graves of other popes, including the one of Giovanni Paolo II.
Not very far from the Basilica, walking along the walls, visitors arrive at the entrance of the Vatican Museums, which house works of art of incomparable value. Among the various exhibition halls, the Museum of Egyptian art displays numerous examples of sculptures, sarcophagi and mummies, Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and seals. The Picture Gallery (Pinacoteca) contains works by Giotto, Caravaggio, Beato Angelico, Perugino, Leonardo, Titian and Raphael.
In the Vatican Palaces visitors are allowed to enter the Raffaello Rooms, which are decorated with beautiful frescoes realised by the artist between 1508 and 1524.
But the main attraction is represented by the Sistine Chapel, a wonderful masterpiece realised thanks to the contribution of many artists, such as Perugino, Botticelli, Rosselli and Ghirlandaio. Althought the most famous contribution was undoubtedly represented by Michelangelo's decoration of the ceiling and the realization of the Last Judgement behind the altar.