Vatican City: A Photography Guide To The Smallest Country In The World
A couple of blogs ago, we discussed the wonders of Italy and the five most photogenic places you should visit. Among those places were Vatican City and the gorgeous St. Peter’s Square, which is the plaza right in front of the Basilica.
But in an article covering the whole of Italy, it was pretty hard to sum up what was so magical about Vatican City in just a few sentences!
Especially if you’re an Instagram lover, there are so many unique locations and hidden spots in Vatican City that you simply cannot miss. And we don’t want you to, which is why we’ve decided to expand on those sentences and write a photography guide to the smallest – but no less beautiful – country in the world.
A Little Backstory On Vatican City
Encircled by a 2-mile border, Vatican City is an independent city-state tucked away in the middle of Rome, Italy. It is governed as a monarchy, with a pope as the head of state, and it is recognised as one of the most sacred places in the world for the Catholic religion. But even if you are not a member of the Catholic faith, Vatican City welcomes anyone who wants to visit, with as many as 19,000 visitors coming for a look every day!
If this is on your list while you’re travelling Italy – and you have been documenting your trip for Instagram or a potential photo book – then you need to know what to see and what to photograph. Yes, Vatican City makes up only one-eighth of Central Park in New York, but there’s still a lot to see and even more you might miss out on! What’s more, this location can make up a beautiful photo book in and of itself – perhaps even a square photo book, so you can match the world’s smallest country with MySocialBook’s smallest photo book!
St. Peter’s Square
Okay, we won’t stay long on this one, as you can catch it in our article about the best Italian photo ops, but this is essentially the main square that leads you to St Peter’s Basilica. With hundreds of tourists taking selfies every day, there are plenty of angles and spots you can choose from, not least the beautiful Fountain of Four Rivers that is sat right in the centre.
St. Peter’s Basilica
If you keep walking straight from the plaza, you’ll find yourself in St Peter’s Basilica, one of the world's most iconic churches. With gorgeous, detailed architecture and artwork on every wall, this is one of the few places in the world where photographs can really capture the beauty, ensuring that you have a true-to-life document of the whole experience.
You’ve probably come across pictures of the Sistine Chapel online, but nothing can prepare you for when you step through those doors and look up at the incredible Michelangelo artwork that covers the chapel from head to toe. We should note, however, that no photography is allowed inside the chapel, so we want to direct you somewhere different. If you gain entry into the chapel, you also gain entry to the nearby Vatican Gardens and Bramante Staircase, two secret but stunning locations just waiting to be photographed!
Museo Pio Clementino
One of the best things about Vatican City – and Italy in general, for that matter – is the amount of artwork available for the general public to witness and photograph. One of the perfect places for this is the Pio Clementino, known for the incredible statues of the Hellenistic Nile God, the Laocoon and His Sons, Hermes, Apoxyomenos, Belvedere Torso, and many more. If you’re wondering what the rules are about photography in Vatican City and the museums, most attractions – including Museo Pio Clementino – allow cameras, so long as the flash is turned off!
Scala Elicoidale Momo
If you want a few quirky photographs to upload to our photo book maker, then we would recommend taking a detour above the Main Hall of the Pio Clemente, where you will find a secret passage known as the Scala Elicoidale Momo. This translates to “Momo’s Spiral Staircase”, and it is widely considered one of the most amazing and mysterious staircases in the world. Designed for Pope Gregory XV, the staircase is an excellent opportunity to take some mind-bending photography to really light up your portfolio.
The Cabinet Of Masks
If we’re talking about secret places to visit in Vatican City, we recommend the Cabinet of Masks, which is not visible on any normal entry or tour of the museums – you have to look for it. The cabinet is a square room of tiny mosaics, each depicting theatre masks from the era of Emperor Hadrian. To get to this room, you have to walk through the “Stone Zoo”, which is a giant hallway full of animal statues. We can guarantee you that, if you take the time to find this place, you will come away with photos that only a handful of the 19,000 people visiting that day would have too.
Yep, another chapel. But hey, it’s kind of Vatican City’s thing. This is a chapel unlike any other in the country. Located in the Apostolic Palace – where the Pope lives – this is a secret jewel with incredibly well-preserved paintings by Fra Angelico. Built for Pope Nicholas V’s private use, it is far more understated than St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, but no less beautiful. Plus, because there will be fewer tourists here, you can really get up close and personal with the frescoes, which is perfect for your photography portfolio. In Vatican City, remember it’s not just the size and grandeur that can take your breath away: it’s the small things as well.