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Vatican City (Citta del Vaticano), also known as the Holy See (Santa Sede) , is the last Papal state in existence and the seat of the Pope, head of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. Situated within the city of Rome in Italy, the Vatican is the world's smallest state. Outside the Vatican City, 13 buildings in Rome and Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence, also enjoy extraterritorial rights. On April 19, 2005, Josef Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI (http://www.pope-benedict-xvi.info)
The origin of the Papal States, which over the years have varied considerably in extent, may be traced back to the 8th century. 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 and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. On 11 February 1929, three treaties were signed with Italy which, among other things, recognized the full sovereignty of the Vatican and established its territorial extent.
In 1984, a concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion.
The pope is elected for life by the College of Cardinals. When the election was last held (Tuesday, April 19, 2005. Benedict XVI), it attracted large crowds. Pope BENEDICT XVI's predcessor's Pope JOHN PAUL II's Coronation Day of 22 October 1978 was also a major event.
Present concerns of the Holy See include interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, and the application of church doctrine in an era of rapid change and globalization. About 1 billion people worldwide profess the Catholic faith.
The Vatican has a unique, noncommercial economy that is supported financially by contributions (known as Peter's Pence) from Roman Catholics throughout the world. It also sells postage stamps, tourist mementos and publications. Fees for admission to museums also go into church coffers.
The Vatican sits on a low hill between 19 m and 75 m above sea level. With a boundary only 3.2 km around, the enclosed land area is smaller than some shopping malls. However the buildings are far more historic.
Like much of Southern Europe, the Vatican has temperate; mild, rainy winters (September to mid-May) with hot, dry summers (May to September).
Although 900 people live within the Vatican city, many dignitaries, priests, nuns, guards, and 3,000 lay workers live outside the Vatican.
Vatican City is accessed from the Italian capital city of Rome, by taxi, bus or by foot. Take the Metro line A to Cipro for the Museums (http:www.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?lat=41.9069&lon=12.4538&scale=10000&icon=x), or Ottaviano for St. Peter's (http://www.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?lat=41.9022&lon=12.4566&scale=10000&icon=x), or the tram to Piazza del Risogimento
To get into the Basilica, you will first go through a metal detector. Don't be put off if there is a long line in front of the detectors, the whole thing moves quite quickly and smoothly. Entry to the basilica is refused to anyone not appropriately attired (i.e. no uncovered legs or shoulders).
After you go through the detectors, you can chose to go straight into the Basilica (free) or climb to the very top for great views of the city. This costs ?4 and is definitely worth it. 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) nor the claustrophobic as the very last section of the ascent is through a litte more than shoulder-width spiral staircase. Photography is permitted inside St. Peter's, though flash photography is frowned upon. The lack of light will probably cause your pictures not to turn out too well, so you may want to buy a couple postcards to keep as souvenirs.
The Vatican Museums are open daily, except Sundays - but they are open (with free entry) on the last Sunday of every month. Entry is ?12 - which also gets you into the Sistine chapel. The museums open at 8am, and close at 1:30pm daily, and their reasonable restaurants (with good vegetarian options) stay open for another hour or so.
The museums are extensive, far more than you can see in a day. The Sistine chapel, with Michelangelo's famous ceiling fully deserves its excellent reputation. If you only see one classical art exhibition in Rome, this should be it. After all, it isn't going to go out on loan anywhere! If you're not convinced by the quality, just compare the work with the frescos in other rooms here.
On the way to the Sistine Chapel, you'll pass through the fascinating Map room, with huge 15th century maps of Italy painted on both walls.
Also well worth a visit is the Etruscan collection, for a view of life in the region before the emergence of Rome as a power. For more info, visit http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Home.html
Swiss Papal Guards are posted at entrances to the Vatican City to provide security and protect the Pope. They wear very colourful clothing, similar to the clothing of court jesters.
The Vatican Museums have a reasonable cafeteria style restaurant, a bar, and a pizzeria all of which are open during museum opening hours, and until about one hour after closing. See also Rome.
Unless you count the Pope as a good friend (and he concurs), see Rome
The Vatican uses the Italian Telephone system. It also operates AM, FM, and shortwave Radio broadcast stations as well as a Television broadcast stations.