The Vatican, by size and population, is the smallest country in the world, but it’s one of the most widely visited religious places. During peak season, 25,000 people make their way through the Vatican’s holy sites.
If you’re planning to visit Rome this year, here’s what you need to know before you go.
There’s a dress code for visiting the Vatican and other churches in Italy.
Modesty is the rule when it comes to visiting religious sites in Italy. At a minimum, men and women should wear clothing that covers both their shoulders and knees. In the hot summer months, this means, at a minimum, a T-shirt and long bermuda shorts that come to the knee.
That said, most people opt for long-sleeved shirts or blouses and long pants or skirts as a sign of respect. If you arrive unprepared, you can purchase a plastic cloak to cover the knees and shoulders, but it can be very hot and uncomfortable during the high summer temperatures.
It’s better to pack one outfit that works for both visits to churches and religious museums as well as upscale restaurants and bars, which often refuse guests not wearing long pants and an appropriate shirt.
Pay attention to photography rules.
Many areas in the Vatican allow photographs, including the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica, as long as the flash is turned off.
No photography is allowed in the Sistine Chapel, however, and you’ll be asked to put away your phone and camera. This rule is strictly enforced, so don’t try to snap a sneak picture, or you may be asked to leave.
Know when to go.
The Vatican is closed on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of the month, when admission is free. Saturdays and the last Sunday of the month are the busiest times, so try to choose a different day to avoid the crowds. Of course, if you book a guided tour, you’ll avoid the long lines.
Reserve your audience with the Pope.
Every Wednesday when he’s in Rome, the Pope gives a public audience. It’s not exactly a mass, but you have the opportunity to listen to a homily and receive a blessing from il Papa himself.
Tickets are free, but you need to reserve them well in advance. If that’s something you want to see on your trip to the Vatican, talk to your tour provider about reserving your spot.
Enjoy a picnic in the gardens afterward.
Although you can’t eat or drink while touring the museums, you can definitely pick up some cheese, bread, and fruit for a little picnic in the grassy courtyard outside. It’s a great way to enjoy some authentic Italian delicacies and drink in the fresh air and sunshine—and you’ll save money on lunch besides!
Ready to book your Vatican tour?
If your trip to Rome is already lined up, get in touch and we’ll help you book a VIP tour of the Vatican to skip the lines and see sights off-limits to the general public. And if you’re thinking of visiting Italy this year and aren’t sure what to see and do, sign up for our free email course to learn all the insider secrets to planning the ultimate vacation to Italy.