I have this running debate with Mr Wandering Kiwi about how many countries I’ve been to – it’s 47 ok?! He has not been to 47 countries and even though it’s not a competition … One of the points of contention is Vatican City. By any dictionary (or wikipedia) definition a sovereign city state. So what if it’s only 44 hectares and has a population of around 800? It’s just the smallest independent state in the world and it’s not Italy. Which is why I include it in my list of countries visited. Because these things are important.
The problem comes down to how you define “countries visited”. In his book you must stay the night, or ideally at least 48 hours in a country before you can be said to have been there. It’s difficult to see how either of those requirements are ever going to be met for Vatican City.
The place of Vatican City in the history of western Europe and perhaps the world is unprecedented. There are some who would say that the wealth and influence of the Roman Catholic church is still significant. The Vatican is home to some of the world’s biggest, most famous and impacting art, including the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo and the School of Athens by Raphael. You can also expect long queues to get in to see the Vatican museums and pay a hefty Euro 15 to pass through the gates. It is busy but almost everyone is in the Sistine Chapel so the rest of the Vatican Museums are a pretty relaxed place.
And what do you see when you get inside?
Marble busts of a lot of grumpy looking Romans:
Quirky, and similarly lifelike sculpture. Look out for little details everywhere:
And stupendously decorated ceilings. Not just the Sistine Chapel, they’re everywhere:
I think my favourite part of the Vatican Museums is the map room. I love maps; the website is my attempt to “make the pages of the atlas real” after all. There are fascinating representations of Europe as it once was, particularly what is now Italy. We found a wonderful depiction of Orvieto, the historic hilltown in Umbria where we were married.
By Natasha von Geldern
What do you think? Can I include Vatican City in my list of countries visited?