The Vatican Museums
Spotted: The Sphere within a Sphere bronze sculpture in the courtyard of the Vatican Museums.

No, this isn’t one of those “I know more than you and I shall now proceed to rub it in” posts. Come on, you know me better than that. You don’t? Well then. That’s awkward. Perhaps this post can help.

Like any serious traveller, I showed up to the Vatican knowing all of two things:

  1. That it was the smallest country in the world.
  2. That it housed the Sistine Chapel.

Just kidding. I said “serious traveller”, you guys. That means I did tons of research before visiting! So, among all the visual grandeur, intrigue and art, I also discovered some pretty cool trivia. And I figured it was about time I drew up a list to share it with you. Here goes:

1. The Vatican Has One Of The World’s Best Postal Services

Do you have any siblings who make it their sole mission in life to find out what cool stuff you can bring back for them when you travel? I do. Before I left, I was given strict instructions by my sister (who had conducted a detailed virtual investigation of all the places on my itinerary) to send her a postcard from the Vatican. Mainly so she could test out the ‘World’s Best Postal Service’ claim. As it happened, it rained the day I visited. Not the light drizzle kind. The crazy, thunderstorm kind.

However, I could not let that stop me. Unmet sibling demands can haunt you for the rest of your life, I have learned. So, having donned my so-called raincoat (it was more of a plastic bag than anything else), I convinced my friend to accompany me to the post office. Turned out to be a pretty fun experience, actually. The Vatican even has it’s own postage stamps!

The Vatican Post
Me attempting to write something worthy of a postcard and epically failing
The Vatican Post
Me documenting this moment as proof that I did send her the postcard in case she never got it! Excuse the dorky plastic bags.

She did get it though, in case you were wondering.

2. The Vatican Has Its Own Euro Coins

Although not a member of the European Union or Eurozone, the Euro is the Vatican’s official currency. It also mints its own Euro coins since 2002. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get my hands on any of these during my time there 🙁 But I did find it pretty fascinating.

the vatican coin
Source: Metro Vaartha

3. The Pope Has His Own Army

Bedecked in Renaissance attire, silently manning checkpoints, the members of the Swiss Guard might seem quite harmless but don’t let that fool you. Made up entirely of Swiss citizens (in case that wasn’t obvious from the name) they’re extensively trained and considered to be highly skilled marksmen. You’ll see them around but they won’t interact with you unless you attempt to grab the papal robes or something. I wouldn’t recommend it.

The vatican swiss guard
Look, there they are in the background, pretending they haven’t noticed me taking a photo with them.

4. You’re Not Allowed To Take Photos Of The Sistine Chapel

As a first time visitor, this came as a surprise to me. While some say that the no-photography rule is in place to prevent the flashes from cameras or camera phones from affecting the art, there’s another (more interesting) story behind it too. You can read that here, if you like.

The Vatican Museum
Here’s a picture of the beautiful ceiling from The Gallery of Maps at the Vatican Museums to compensate.

5. When It Rains At The Vatican You Get To See Umbrellas In All The Colours Imaginable

Yeah, this one isn’t really a thing. Just made it up. Seriously though, it could’ve been a scene from a musical. I almost thought some people would burst out into fancy dance moves any given second as we waited out the rain. Or maybe I was just starved for entertainment. Oh well.

the vatican
Colourful umbrellas as far as the eye can see!

Disclaimer: If you already knew some of this stuff, pliss don’t be throwin’ rotten tomatoes at me for attempting to mislead you. They were all new to me and I thought they might be for you as well. Kthxbye.

 

23 thoughts on “5 Things You May Not Know About The Vatican”

  1. I didn’t know they had euros (or that they had their special euros). I live only a couple hours away from Vatican, but I’ve never been there, I think I’ll have to go on an Italian road trip to Vatican very soon. 🙂

  2. I was there during my travels two years ago and I had no idea that they had their own euro coins! Ever as a seasoned traveler, it pays to research a place before you show up there. Definitely will be sharing this new found knowledge!

  3. Oh I didn’t use the post office, what a missed opportunity!!

    Do you ever find that cameras don’t quite capture how dramatic rain really is? Did you ponchos work? I find myself all sticky underneath anyway because of the plastic.

    I visited in 2008 and even then it was hard to stop photos. What’s it like now everyone has a good camera phone?

    1. Omg I was actually thinking that while posting the pictures – how the rain doesn’t even show! I totally agree.
      I’m sure quite a few people manage to sneakily take photos but I didn’t try because I felt like it was important to respect the rules in a place of religious significance 🙂

  4. Oh I didn’t use the post office, what a missed opportunity!!

    Do you ever find that cameras don’t quite capture how dramatic rain really is? Did you ponchos work? I find myself all sticky underneath anyway because of the plastic.

    I visited in 2008 and even then it was hard to stop photos. What’s it like now everyone has a good camera phone?

  5. No tomatoes from me 🙂 I think all I know about the Vatican I learned from watching movies haha (and that’s really sad). Looks like you had lots of fun!

  6. These are awesome fun facts! I knew the Vatican was a separate country, but I didn’t really think about it having its own postal service. Thanks for sharing this interesting look at the Vatican!

  7. haha love how you describe how your sister did a “detailed virtual investigation..” Such a cool idea to send a postcard from the Vatican – wish I read your post before I went! The postage stamps must be amazing!! Assuming they are all pretty pics of paintings found there?

  8. Hahaha, the last one had me in fits of laughter. Lovely and adorable post though! The trivia was cool and yes I have read about the Vatican army in Dan Brown’s novels and seen them in the movie too. Pretty vibrant uniforms (and somewhat funny for an army!shhh). Loved your depiction of sibling love too. 🙂

  9. I never knew they had such a great postal service!!! that’s awesome… I cannot wait to visit the Vatican soon. Way to keep a positive attitude even in the rain

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