Cycle Route EuroVelo: Via Romea Francigena - Part Rome-Brindisi
No. of cycle route EV5
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Added on 25 Nov 2019,
on 25 Nov 2019
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Rome, Lazio, IT (30 m NHN)
Brindisi, Apulia, IT (17 m NHN)
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In Rome EuroVelo 5: Via Romea Francigena - part Canterbury-Rom
The route described here is compiled based on the route as published by EuroVelo (as of Nov. 2019). The route runs mainly on secondary roads and to a much lesser extent on farm roads or former railway lines.
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The Vatican City (Italian: Città del Vaticano; Latin: Civitas Vaticana) is the world center of Catholicism. As a district of Rome, it encompasses the Vatican City State (Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano; Latin: Status Civitatis Vaticanae), as well as the surrounding Roman neighborhoods of Borgo and Prati. This small slice of the city is packed with more history and artwork than most cities in the world, and indeed many countries.
The Vatican City is the temporal seat of the Pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church. Situated within the city of Rome the Vatican is the world's smallest state. You may also hear the term Holy See (Italian: Santa Sede; Latin: Sancta Sedes), which is used to refer to the Diocese of Rome—that is, the ecclesiastical and administrative authority of the Pope, rather than the sovereign governmental entity that is the Vatican City State.
Vatican City is all that remains of the Papal States, the former temporal land holdings of the Pope. Over the years, this territory varied considerably in extent, and may be traced back to AD 756 with the "Donation of Pepin". However the popes had been the de facto rulers of Rome and the surrounding province since the fall of the Roman Empire and the retreat of Byzantine power in Italy. Popes in their secular role ruled portions of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until the mid 19th century, when many of the Papal States were seized by the newly united Kingdom of Italy. In 1870, the pope's holdings were further circumscribed when Rome itself was annexed.
Disputes between a series of "prisoner" popes and Italy were resolved in 1929 by three Lateran Treaties, which established the independent state of Vatican City, granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy, recognized the full sovereignty of the Vatican and established its territorial extent. In 1984, the agreement was revised to eliminate Catholicism's position as the only state religion of Italy, but the essential features of the agreement remain in force today.
The Holy See — the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church which are housed in Vatican City — has diplomatic recognition from the overwhelming majority of countries in the world and has permanent observer status in numerous international organizations, including the United Nations General Assembly. However, though there are Papal nuncios (equivalent to ambassadors) in many foreign capitals, the Vatican does not house any diplomatic missions; instead, foreign embassies to Italy that are in other parts of Rome double as missions to the Vatican.
The Vatican is between 19 m (62 ft) and 75 m (246 ft) above sea level. With a circumference of only 3.2 km (2 mi), the Vatican City itself is smaller than some shopping malls. Most of the area consists of the Vatican Gardens.
Although 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 by population on the globe. The Vatican even fields a soccer team composed of the Swiss Guard, who hold dual citizenship.
St. Peter's Basilica
⊙St. Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro). The basilica is open Apr-Sep: daily 07:00-19:00 and Oct-Mar: daily 07:00-18:00. It is closed Wednesday mornings for papal audiences. The centre of the Catholic world, this magnificent basilica with its Michelangelo-designed dome has an awe-inspiring interior. This place is huge, but everything is in such proportion that the scale escapes you. Construction of the basilica began in 1506 and it was not completed until the end of 1626. Thus it spans two architectural periods. The overall design by Bramante and Michelangelo is Late Renaissance but the façade designed by Maderno and the interior, which owes much to Bernini, are both Baroque in style. The interior is lavishly decorated and contains a large number of tombs of popes and others. There are also several sculptures in side chapels, including Michelangelo's Pietà.
To get in, you will first go through a metal detector (after all, this is an important building). Don't be put off if there is a long line in front of the detectors; the whole thing moves quickly. The line is usually shorter in the morning and during mid week. A strict dress code is enforced, so have shoulders covered, wear trousers or a not-too-short dress, and take your hats off. Women must wear scarves or something to cover their heads. You might be required to check your bags at the entrance. Photos are allowed to be taken inside, but not with a flash. Visits to the basilica are still possible while Mass is in progress. Free admission.
- The dome, which dominates Rome, has a total height of 136.57 metres (448 ft) from the floor of the basilica to the top of the external cross. It is the tallest dome in the world. Its internal diameter is 41.47 metres (136 ft), slightly smaller than the Pantheon and the cathedral at Florence. Most of the final design was by Michelangelo, building on earlier designs by Bramante and Sangallo and taking much of his inspiration from the cathedral of Florence. After Michelangelo's death in 1564 the work was completed by Giacomo della Porta. You can take an elevator up to the roof and then make a long climb up 323 steps to the top of the dome for a spectacular view. Taking the elevator costs €7 (€5 to climb the stairs) and you should allow an hour to go up and down. During the climb and before reaching the very top, you will find yourself standing on the inside of the dome, looking down into the basilica itself. Be warned that there are a lot of stairs so it is not for the faint at heart (literally or figuratively) nor those suffering from claustrophobia as the very last section of the ascent is through little more than a shoulder-width spiral staircase. The dome opens one hour after the basilica and closes one hour before the basilica.
- In the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica is a Pietà, the first of four works on the same theme by Michelangelo depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. The sculpture, in Carrara marble, was made for the funeral monument of the French Cardinal Jean de Billheres and was moved to its current location in the eighteenth century. It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed. In 1972 the Pietà was attacked by a mentally disturbed person using a geologist's hammer, which is why it now appears behind a bullet-proof glass wall. Reconstruction was not helped by the fact that some onlookers helped themselves to fragments after the attack.
- Underneath the altar in the second chapel on the right are the remains of Pope John Paul II.
- The first chapel in the south aisle, on the left as you enter, is the baptistry. The font is a fourth-century sarcophagus but its lid comes from another sarcophagus, which held the remains of the Emperor Hadrian. This lid was dropped by workmen, broke into ten pieces, and was subject to expert restoration, with the gilt-bronze figure of the "Lamb of God" being added at that time. The tomb of Pope Alexander VII, towards the end of the aisle, is by Bernini and is considered a masterpiece of Baroque art. The tomb is supported by four female figures. The two at the front represent Charity and Truth. The foot of Truth rests upon a globe of the world, her toe being pierced by the thorn of Protestant England. The Baroque period coincided with the Reformation and St. Peter's was seen as an affirmation of Catholicism.
- The central internal feature is the Bernini-designed baldachin, or canopy, built over the Papal Altar underneath the dome. The baldachin had to be enormous to avoid being overwhelmed by the size of the basilica. To obtain the quantity of bronze required, Bernini was given permission by Pope Urban VIII to strip it from the portico of the Pantheon. It is considered to be one of the great works of the Baroque period and remains the largest bronze sculpture in the world.
- Against the north east wall of the dome is a statue of St. Peter. One foot of the statue has been largely worn away by pilgrims kissing it over the centuries. Set in niches under the dome are four statues associated with holy relics held in the basilica including one of St. Longinus holding the spear that pierced the side of Jesus, by Bernini.
- In the apse, at the far end of the basilica, is a large bronze throne, also by Bernini. Known as the "Cathedra Petri" or throne of St. Peter the throne houses a chair which was claimed to have been used by Saint Peter, but is more likely to date from the twelfth century.
Free 90-minute tours leave daily from the Tourist Information at 2:15PM, many days also at 3PM. ☎ +39 0669 881662. €5 audio-guides can be rented from the checkroom.
If you want to see the pope, you can either see a usual blessing from his apartment at noon on Sunday, just show up (but in the summer he gives it from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, 25 km from Rome) or you can go to the more formal Wednesday appearance. The pope arrives in the popemobile at 10:30AM to bless crowds from a balcony or platform, except in winter, when he speaks in the Aula Paolo VI Auditorium next to the square. You can easily watch from a distance, or get a free ticket, which you must get on the Tuesday before. There are a number of ways:
- Your hotelier may be able to book one for you
- You could wait in a long line at St. Peter's on Tuesday where the Swiss Guards hand out tickets at their post to the right of the basilica, after 12:00 on Tuesday
- You could contact the Santa Susanna Church to get you a ticket (online or call ☎ +39 0642 014554, which you pick up there on Tuesday between 5PM & 6:45PM, on Via XX Settembre, Metro stop: Repubblica.
- Finally, to book a free spot in the square or auditorium, call ☎ +39 0669 884631
The pope may occasionally be away on a state visit, however.
St. Peter's Square
Most of the Piazza di San Pietro is actually an oval. There is a small, almost rectangular section immediately in front of the St Peter's and an opening to the Via della Conciliazione opposite the basilica. There are two stones (one on each side of the square) between the obelisk and the fountains. If you stand by either of these stones, the four columns on the colonnades merge into one. In total there are 284 columns. When Bernini came to design the piazza he had to incorporate the obelisk and a fountain designed by Maderno, both of which were already there. The symmetry of the square was enhanced by the addition of another fountain, designed by Bernini.
The obelisk in the middle of the square was transported from Egypt to Rome in 37 A.D. by the Emperor Gaius Caligula to mark the spine of a circus eventually completed by the Emperor Nero. The so-called Circus of Nero was parallel to and to the south of the east-west axis of the current Basilica. It was here that Saint Peter was killed in the first official persecutions of Christians undertaken by Nero beginning in 64 A.D. and continuing until his death in 67 A.D. The original location of the obelisk is marked with a plaque located near the sacristy on the south side of the basilica, where it remained until it was moved in 1586 A.D. by Pope Sixtus V to its present location.
During the Middle Ages, the bronze ball on top of the obelisk was believed to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar. When it was relocated it was opened and found to be empty. The present reliquary, the Chigi Star in honor of Pope Alexander VII, was added containing pieces of the "True Cross". This is the only Egyptian obelisk in Rome that has never toppled since being erected in Ancient Rome and is the second largest Egyptian obelisk after the Lateran obelisk . The obelisk nearly shattered while it was being moved. Upon orders of the pope, no one was to speak a word while it was being moved otherwise they would be excommunicated. However, a sailor shouted to water the ropes to prevent them from burning. He was forgiven and in gratitude for saving the day, the palms for Palm Sunday still come from the sailor's home town of Bordighera in Portugal. The moving of this obelisk was celebrated in engravings during its time to commemorate the Renaissance's recovery and mastery of ancient knowledge.
Until the Fascist era visitors approached St. Peter's Square from the Tiber River by two narrow parallel streets that did not provide the same views as seen today. Mussolini dictated that a warren of poor houses be knocked down to make way for the Via della Conciliazione and the new buildings alongside it. The name of the street commemorates the Lateran Treaty of 1929, under which the Vatican was recognized as an independent state by the Italian government.
The Vatican Museum
⊙The Vatican Museum, Viale Vaticano. Mon-Sat 09:00-18:00 (ticket office closes at 16:00), Sun closed (except last Sunday of the month, when it is free, crowded, and open 09:00-14:00 with last admission at 12:30). The museum is closed for holidays on: Jan 1 & 6, Feb 11 & 22, Mar 19 & 28, Jun 29, Aug 15, Nov 1, and Dec 8 & 26. One of the greatest art galleries in the world, the museum is most famous for its spiral staircase, the Raphael Rooms and the exquisitely decorated Sistine Chapel famous for Michelangelo's frescoes. Much of the museum is organized so you follow a one-way route leading to Raphael's rooms and the Sistine Chapel but there is much more to see as well. If you are very short of time, it will take at least an hour to visit the Sistine Chapel.
The Museum is usually the most hot and crowded on Saturdays, Mondays, the last Sunday of the month, rainy days, and days before or after a holiday but, basically, it is crowded every day and if you want to see the gems that it contains you will have to tolerate the crowds or sign up to very expensive private tours after the museum is closed to everyone else . Dress code: no short shorts or bare shoulders. There are often lengthy queues from the entrance that stretch around the block in the early morning. Non-guided visitors should join the queue that is to the left as you are facing the entrance; the queue on the right is intended for guided group visitors. You can book online in advance and with a booking you can skip the queue. Audio-guides are available from the top of the escalator/ramp for €7. Two people to share a single unit plugging in a standard set of earphones. €16 adults, €8 concessions. Additional €4 booking fee per ticket if booked online in advance.
- The Sistine Chapel is a rectangular brick building with no exterior decoration. There is no exterior entrance, it being approached from within the Vatican buildings. Inside, the walls are divided into three levels. The lower is decorated with frescoed wall hangings. The middle of the walls has two cycles of paintings, "The Life of Moses" and "The Life of Christ", painted by Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Signorelli, Pinturicchio and Perugino, among others. The upper tier contains a Gallery of Popes. Around the tops of the windows are the "Ancestors of Christ", painted by Michelangelo as part of the ceiling. The ceiling proper contains nine paintings inspired by the Old Testament, showing God's Creation of the World, God's Relationship with Mankind, and Mankind's Fall from God's Grace. Michelangelo was reluctant to work on the ceiling but was unable to refuse an instruction by a pope, Julius II. He worked on it between May 1508 and October 1512, which included a one-year period when he did little work. Given that most of the painting was done by Michelangelo himself, rather than his pupils, completing it in such a short period was an amazing achievement. The ceiling had to be worked on piece by piece as frescoes require painting when the plaster is still damp and most of the time Michelangelo was lying on his back in considerable discomfort.
It is not allowed to take pictures or talk loudly in the Sistine Chapel (although everybody flagrantly violates these rules). While one may agree with this policy or not, the visit would be a much more pleasant one without the guards having to yell out Shh! or No foto e no video!! every two minutes. The bottom line is: respect the rules and let every visitor enjoy the best of the experience, even if no one else does. If you try to sneak a picture (again, like everyone does), you'll get a bad photograph and a screaming guard as your reward.
- Raphael's papal apartments (Stanze) were begun in 1508 when the painter was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II. The first room on which he worked was the Stanza della Segnatura, the pope's library and office. The four walls have the themes of Theology, Poetry, Jurisprudence and Philosophy. The Poetry wall contains portraits of Greek and Ancient Roman poets, as well as of contemporaries of Raphael, such as Dante. The most impressive of the four walls is The School of Athens, representing philosophy. Well-known Greek philosophers are represented, often with the faces of famous Italians of the time. Plato, for example, is believed based on Leonardo da Vinci; Euclid appears to be like Bramante, the first architect for the rebuilt St. Peter's. In the Stanza d'Eliodoro one of the characters bears a likeness to Raphael himself. Pope Julius II is also introduced into the scenes.
- It would be a big mistake to just visit Raphael's rooms and the Sistine Chapel and then leave the museum. The Pinacoteca should not be missed. Among other works of art, it contains one of the relatively few paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, the unfinished St. Jerome in the Wilderness, three paintings by Raphael, a tryptich by Giotto, Caravaggio's Entombment and works by Perugino and Filippo Lippi.
- Swiss Papal Guards (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera). They are posted at entrances to the Vatican City to provide security and protect the Pope. They wear very colourful clothing, similar to the uniforms worn by Renaissance-era soldiers. The Pontifical Swiss Guards is also the smallest and oldest standing army in the world, founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II. The origins of the Swiss guards, however, go back much further as the popes had regularly imported Swiss mercenaries during the 1400s.
Borgo and Prati
- ⊙Castel Sant'Angelo, Lungotevere Castello 50, ☎ +39 0632 810. Daily 09:00-19:30 (last entry 1h before closing). Perhaps the most fascinating building in Rome. The core of the structure began life as the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian, built between 135 and 139 AD. Subsequent strongholds built on top of the mausoleum were in turn incorporated into a residence and castle by medieval Popes. The building was used as a prison until 1870, but now houses a museum. Opera buffs will be exhilarated to visit the balcony from which Tosca leaps to her death. Film buffs will recognise it as a setting from "Angels and Demons". €10, with reductions. Roma Pass accepted.
- Passetto di Borgo. Pope Nicholas III connected Castel Sant'Angelo to St. Peter's by a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. This proved useful for Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome (1527). You can still see much of the Passetto by walking along the Borgo Sant'Angelo, which runs parallel to, and north of, the Via della Conciliazione.
- ⊙Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice). Wandering around the shopping and residential district of Prati, close to the Vatican, you may notice rather a lot of lawyers' nameplates outside buildings. This is also Rome's legal district because of the proximity of the Palazzo di Giustizia or Palace of Justice. This massive monstrosity on the banks of the Tiber was built on alluvial soil, which necessitated a concrete platform to support the foundations. Despite this, later settlement of the building led to the need for restoration work in 1970 and it is said to be still sinking. There were many allegations of corruption during its construction, something not unknown in the Rome of today, and this, combined with its appearance, gave rise to its nickname of the Palazzaccio or Ugly Palace.
- ⊙Ponte Sant'Angelo. This is a footbridge connecting Castel Sant'Angelo with the other side of the Tiber. It is a Roman bridge completed in 134 AD by Hadrian, to give access to his newly constructed mausoleum. Pilgrims used this bridge to reach St Peter's Basilica, hence it was earlier known as the "bridge of Saint Peter". In the seventh century the castle and the bridge took on the name Sant'Angelo, when it is said that an angel appeared on the roof of the castle to announce the end of a plague. The statues of ten angels on the bridge reflect its name.
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Wikivoyage contributors, 'Rome/Vatican', Wikivoyage, The FREE worldwide travel guide that anyone can edit, 27 June 2016, 12:25 UTC, https://en.wikivoyage.org/w/index.php?title=Rome/Vatican&oldid=3016050 [accessed 3 September 2016]
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