Updated December 7, 2018
ST. PETER’S SQUARE
The square where the basilica is located. Large and oval, is surrounded by two passages of doric-style colonnades. It was designed by Bernini and built between 1656 and 1667. There are two fountains, one in each focus of the ellipse, and an Egyptian obelisk 25 meters high (41 including pedestal) in the center.
You can see the soldiers of Vatican’s army, the Swiss Guard. They are only 100, making it the world’s smallest army.
ST. PETER’S BASILICA
The largest basilica in Italy and one of the largest in the world, or the largest, depending on the sources you check. Open daily from 7 to 19:00, free admission. The highlights of the interior are:
- Michelangelo’s Pietà, one of his masterpieces. It is near the entrance on the right hand side.
- In the center, Bernini’s baldachin, from where the Pope usually officiate religious ceremonies.
- Above this, Michelangelo’s dome. You can go up and look closely the inside and admire the view of Rome from the outside. There are 551 steps, or 320 for those using the elevator.
- Vatican Grottoes. Here are buried almost all the Popes, it is believed that even St. Peter, but not all archaeologists agree with the authenticity of the remains. The tomb of John Paul II is easily recognized because it is the most visited.
- And yes, for those who want to see him, if the Pope is here, you can easily see him. Personally I have gone twice and have seen two Popes. He will be in a balcony overlooking the square before Sunday’s morning Mass, but it is so far that certainly, you cannot distinguish who is actually there. He can also be seen celebrating the Mass, although it is crowded with devotees and tourists alike.