Vatican City Vatican

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Description: Open source travel guide to Vatican, featuring up-to-date information on attractions, hotels, restaurants, nightlife, travel tips and more. Free and reliable advice written by Wikitravellers from around the globe.

Perhaps the Vatican needs no introduction. As the centre of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican City state - along with the surrounding Italian districts of Borgo. Prati and the area around the Monte Mario - is filled with more history and artwork than most cities in the world.

Vatican City (Italian. Stato della Città del Vaticano ) is an independent state, the temporal seat of the Pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church; entirely surrounded by the city of Rome, in Italy. the Vatican is also the world's smallest state. Outside Vatican City itself, thirteen buildings in Rome and one at Castel Gandolfo (the Pope's summer residence) also enjoy extraterritorial rights. On March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pontiff and thus ruler of the Vatican, taking the name Francis.

Borgo is the fourteenth rione (ward) of Rome and is also the closest neighbourhood to the Vatican. Despite its historical, cultural and artistical importance, parts of it were razed in the 1930s in order to build the grandiose - and, arguably, ugly - via della Conciliazione. What remains today of the district is located in the area between the Tiber river, via di Porta Cavalleggeri, Vatican City, Castel Sant'Angelo and piazza del Risorgimento. The ward itself can be divided as follows:

  • Borgo S. Spirito is the area between via di Porta Cavalleggeri, the Tiber river and via della Conciliazione;
  • Borgo Pio lies between said boulevard and the Leonine Walls;
  • Borgo Vittorio is located on the other side of the walls, while the adjacent Borgo Angelico borders with piazza del Risorgimento (in the Prati district);
  • Borgo Sant'Angelo lies between Castel Sant'Angelo to the West and via della Conciliazione to the South.

The main streets in the ward are also called borghi (and not vie as in the rest of the city); generally speaking, the further you get from St. Peter's, the less touristy the neighbourhood becomes. Of course, always keep in mind that often it's not possible to escape completely the touristy hustle-and-bustle of the city centre.

Prati is the twenty-second, and last, rione of the city. An elegant district laid out in the late 19th century, it was designed to house (along with the Esquilino neighbourhood and the area around piazza della Repubblica) the civil servants of the newly-established Kingdom of Italy. Unlike the Esquilino - which housed the less wealthy among the State employees - the district was home to the city's rising burgeoisie, and it showed in 1912 when Prati was the first neighbourhood in city to be provided with electricity. Its most important squares are the recently renovated piazza Cavour and piazza del Risorgimento (near the Vatican Museums) while the main boulevard is via Cola di Rienzo, also one of Rome's most famous shopping streets.

The neighbourhood was built during a time of tensions between the Pope and the Italian state and therefore, city planners designed its street layout in such a way to make impossible for anyone to see St. Peter's dome from its wide and carefully planned streets. The district hosts, among the other things, a Waldensian church (on piazza Cavour).

With its 139 metres, Monte Mario is the highest rise in Rome; however, it's not part of the historical seven hills. From its summit, locally known as the Zodiaco (meaning "zodiac"), you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city. Between the hill's foot and Vatican City, there are two districts - Trionfale and Della Vittoria ; both are relatively recent (early 1900s/1960s) and provide cheaper housing alternatives than Prati. The Trionfale neighbourhood is also home to a food market, located on via Andrea Doria.

The origin of the Papal States, which over the years have varied considerably in extent, may be traced back to AD 756 with the Donation of Pepin. However, the Popes were the de facto rulers of Rome and the surrounding province since the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent retreat of Byzantine power in Italy; the Popes, in their secular role, ruled parts of the central portion of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until 1860, when most of the Papal States were seized by the newly-formed Kingdom of Italy. On September 20, 1870, the Papal States ceased to exist when Rome itself was annexed.

Disputes between a series of "prisoner" Popes and the Kingdom of Italy were resolved in 1929 by three Lateran Treaties which established the independent state of Vatican City, established its territorial extent and, among other things, granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy.

In 1984, a concordat between the Holy See and the Italian Republic modified some of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion.

The Pope is elected for life by the College of Cardinals. When the election was last held (March 13, 2013 - Pope Francis I), it attracted large crowds.

Present concerns of the Holy See include interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, and the application of Church doctrine in an era of rapid change and globalization. About a billion people worldwide profess the Catholic faith.

It is widely believed that the Vatican City and the Holy See are one and the same, whereas in reality they are not. The Holy See dates back to early Christianity and is the main episcopal see of more than a billion Latin and Eastern Catholic adherents around the globe. Ordinances of Vatican City are published in Italian; official documents of the Holy See are issued mainly in Latin. The two entities have distinct passports: the Holy See, not being a country, issues only diplomatic and service passports whereas Vatican City State issues normal passports.

The Vatican sits on a low hill between 19 m and 75 m above sea level. With a boundary only 3.2 km around, the enclosed land area is smaller than some shopping malls; however, the buildings are far more historic and architecturally interesting. Note that, when talking about the country's terrain, most of it is part of the Vatican Gardens.

Although roughly 1,000 people live within Vatican City, many dignitaries, priests, nuns, guards, and 3,000 lay workers live outside the Vatican. Officially, there are about 800 citizens making it the smallest nation in demographic size on the globe. The Vatican even fields a soccer team composed of the Swiss Guard who hold dual citizenship.

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