Tucked away inside Rome you’ll find the Vatican – a small city state that is officially the home of the Pope. The Vatican is a must-see while you’re in Rome not just for impressive religious reasons, but because this is where you will find many of the world’s most diverse collections of artistic treasures. The various popes have been making their own collections of art over the centuries, and today the Vatican museums house these collections and are open to the public.
The Vatican Museums
Inside the Vatican you’ll find the museums as well as the Basilica of St. Peter. The size of two football fields, the Basilica is full of amazing art including some of the most famous frescoes in the world. With a typical wait of two to five hours, planning ahead for the Vatican Museums is absolutely essential. A guided tour will help you see more of the Vatican than just wandering about by yourself, and a tour can also help you find tickets and an easier way into the Vatican and museums than just showing up and expecting to get in. Coming to the Vatican at the right time of year and on the right day can help reduce the crowds as well.
If you were hoping to see or meet the pope while you are in the Vatican, you can do so on Wednesdays at 11 am. Reservations must be confirmed before you can meet with the Pope, and you can do this by letter or in person ahead of time at the Office of the Prefettura della Casa Ponteficia, which is located on the north side of the Piazza San Pietro. The actual meeting will occur inside the basilica or in the Hall of the Papal Audiences. During the warmer summer months, audiences are held in St. Peter’s Square or at the Pope’s summer residence away from the Vatican.
When you’re meeting with the Pope, Catholics should be sure to bring a letter of introduction from a parish priest. Also, dress for the meeting correctly. Just like you would inside St. Peter’s Basilica, women should wear dark or subdued colors with your arms and head covered. A large scarf will do this well. Men meeting with the Pope are asked to wear a tie and a dark jacket to maintain the propriety of the occasion.