Though there is no real ‘border’ between Vatican City and Italy, technically it is a different country, a city state. We learned a lot during our tour of the Vatican Museums, and not just about art. Vatican City has it’s own Euros, with the face of the Pope (sadly, they are quickly snatched up by collectors) and rumor has it there’s an ATM in Latin, the official language of the country. The famed Swiss guards of the Vatican are indeed Swiss, and must be unmarried men between 19 and 30 trained by the Swiss army.
Almost all the residents are Swiss guards or clergy members, only around 30 of the 800 or so are women! They have their own mail system and stamps, so we mailed postcards to our families from Vatican City!
We booked a guided tour of the Vatican through the Vatican, and it was definitely the way to go. Definitely book a tour ahead of time, the lines are terrible, and I enjoyed having someone explain the significant pieces of art. Photographs are allowed throughout the Vatican museum except in the Sistine Chapel (though that doesn’t stop everyone). The collection of art is amazing, there’s a managerie of animals carved from stone, a hall filled with maps and many statues of Roman gods and emperors. The Raphael rooms are even more impressive, but the highlight is the Sistine Chapel at the end. They’ve restored the paintings in recent years, but they’re amazing to see in person.
Once you’re done craning your neck, you can exit right (rather than left) to go to St Peters Basilica without waiting in line again. The basilica is enormous. We didn’t make the hike to the dome but thoroughly enjoyed looking up.
After leaving the cathedral, we were ready for a late lunch, which we found at L’Insalata Ricca and some craft beers, handily found next door at Be.Re, a craft beer bar a short walk away. Bonus, we managed to escape the crowds a bit! We continued our wandering, sampling beer, wine, gelato and cheese to and then through Travestere. I couldn’t list all the places we tried, but it was good fun wandering the streets and trying lots of food and drink.