Tourism in the Vatican City
July 13, 2006 8:53 AM   Subscribe

A co-worker and I were talking about the Vatican City as a tourist locale, and came up on some questions that we can't find answers to easily. For those questions, check the...

(Quick note - I AM Catholic, if a lapsed kind of bad one, so I don't mean any offense here.)

1. Does the Vatican city have hotels, or do visitors stay outside the walls and commute in? (A google search seems to indicate no hotels, but it also gives me a lot of badly designed websites, some of which are in Italian, which I don't speak.)

2. If they do, do those hotels require visitors to adhere to Catholic standards of co-habitation? (I.E. Unmarried couples can't stay together, no fornication, certainly no fornication with birth control, that sort of thing?) How would they enforce something like this?

3. Are there restaurants inside the Vatican City? What about other amenities?

4. I'm told there's a dress code. No shorts or skirts above the knee, no sleeveless or shoulder-baring tops. How strongly is this enforced?
posted by FritoKAL to Travel & Transportation around Holy See (Vatican City State) (9 answers total)
My coworker just came back from a weeklong vacation in Rome and toured VC. Here are her answers:
1. No. But there's tons in Rome right outside the walls of the V.C.
2. Moot.
3. No restaurants, no fun parks, etc. Tourist shops, though. But again, and I quote, "Rome is right outside the walls. He can eat and stuff outside."
4. There is a dress code as you describe. How strongly enforced? Very strongly enforced. What, you don't want to look nice for the Pope?

She recommends you go to the vatican city website and reserve a tour before you go (months in advance-- the vatican is apparently slow about faxing stuff back and forth). Otherwise, be prepared to wait for a really long time.
posted by boo_radley at 9:03 AM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's inside Rome and consists of a really small area on a hill, with the museums and the plaza and religious buildings taking up all of it. It's not really a city as you think of other cities.

There's a post office. They have nice stamps (because they're a sovereign entity) and the coins, when I was there pre-Euro, were unique as well (although entirely compatible with lira.)

Think of it as visiting a really large religious building (as that's essentially what it is.) That's what the dress code is for - large cathedrals ask you the same thing. In the summer women just bring shawls if they're going to spend the rest of the day in Rome in a tank top, I'd guess.

If you get any sort of tour book about Rome it will include a section on Vatican City.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2006

4. I'm told there's a dress code. No shorts or skirts above the knee, no sleeveless or shoulder-baring tops. How strongly is this enforced?

Hell yes. In line to get into St. Peter's suit-wearing guards turn away people wearing shorts. It's rather amusing to position yourself in line right behind them, if only to hear their feeble protestations. When I was there in 2002, there were even people selling zip-off khaki pants emblazoned with a tart purple "ROMA" down the leg right next to the line, warning the short-clad that they wouldn't be admitted.

I don't know if the same applies for the Vatican Museums, which, while they contain holy places like the Sistine Chapel, doesn't seem like a functioning church in the same sense as St. Peter's. The Wikipedia article on the Vatican's "Culture" section offers only this:

Visitors must adhere to strict dress codes. Clothes that show the legs above the knees are strictly banned.

Wikipedia also offers the following reasons to be proud of Everyone's Favorite Microstate:

A bit of conventional wisdom in Rome is that international mail dropped in a mailbox in the Vatican will reach its destination more quickly than one dropped only a few hundred metres away in an Italian mailbox.
One lucrative source of income for the state is a two-pump gasoline station where Italians can buy gas at prices up to 30% lower than in Italy, because the gas is not taxed. However, only people with special residence or work permits may use the station.

posted by mdonley at 9:14 AM on July 13, 2006

When my wife and I went to the Vatican we had no idea about the dress code, and it was hot. Really hot. We were there during a big heat wave last summer. Luckily, both of us were wearing longer shorts, mine below my knees and hers right at her knees. She just kinda "sagged" them a little and we were set. Watching people get turned away, while some may have been amusing (who wears a mini skirt and tube top to the Vatican?), it was sad to see some of the people getting turned away who had been waiting in line in the heat.
posted by chrisroberts at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2006

The dress code is for the church complex, and is fairly common for Italy (Venice's St. Mark's requires that knees and shoulders are covered also). The dress code does not apply to the entire city.
posted by occhiblu at 9:23 AM on July 13, 2006

There is a cafeteria in the Vatican museum and it's actually quite good. I've eaten there twice. Don't get mad if you go during Lent though and they don't serve hamburgers.

(NB I haven't gone in maybe 5 years so I hope this isn't outdated)
posted by clairezulkey at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2006

I confirm all that's all ready been said. As an additional note, Vatican Museums close early afternoon (1/3 depending on the season) while the basilica stays open until 6-ish.
posted by romakimmy at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2006

The shorts thing applies at more churches throughout Italy than just the Vatican City. I also got pulled up at Assisi too. I took to stuffing a lightweight rayon skirt in my backpack that I could pull on over my shorts if needed.
posted by web-goddess at 5:29 PM on July 13, 2006

My muslim buddy went with his wife (who covers her head, arms, and legs). Other American tourists were turned away. When the women asked how they should be dressed, the guard pointed at my buddy's wife.
posted by exhilaration at 2:51 PM on July 17, 2006

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