St Peter’s Square – Vatican City – Rome – Italy
St Peter’s Square or as the Italians call it Piazza San Pietro is the masterpiece of Gian Lorenzo Bernini done 1657-1667. The Piazza is 240 meters wide. When you stand in the middle of it and look around, you’ll find 284 Doric columns and 88 pilasters of travertine marble surrounding the square! The columns are 13 meters high and are arranged in four rows. There are some spots (white marble discs) on the floor, which are marked on St. Peter’s Square, on which you stand on and you’ll have an optical illusion then you’ll only see 1 row instead of 4!
The fountains you see on the square have a different history; in 1613 Carlo Maderno built the fountain on the right. Later, Bernini had it erected where it stands now and Carlo Fontana built another fountain in 1675 on the left to give the Piazza a symmetry look!
The obelisk in the middle of St. Peter’s Square is from the ancient city of Heliopolis on the Nile delta in Egypt (1835 BC). It was brought to Rome by Emperor Caligula for his circus. In 1586 the obelisk was moved to its current position.
Towards the Basilica on the left side of the square a small red porphyry stone in the pavement marks the spot where Pope John Paul II was shot on the 13th of May in 1981.
To your left when facing the Basilica you’ll see a building which is the Apostolic Palace. Inside is the Papal apartment which occupies the top floor. The top two right windows are the study and bedroom of the Pope. On Sundays at noon, the pope usually appears at the second window from the right to pray the Angelus and bless the huge crowd waiting for him in the Square! No tickets are required. From around mid-July to mid-September, when it get’s really hot in the city center, the Angelus and blessing take place at the Popes summer residence about 16 miles out of town in a pretty village named Castelgandolfo! The General Audience is held in the Courtyard in the town and even there tickets are not required. Space is limited because of the size of the courtyard!
Wednesday General Audience held in St Peter’s Square
At the end of the columns to your right facing the Basilica, you’ll be able to see Bronze Doors used as an entrance to the Apostolic Palace. Swiss Guards always stand here to guard the Palace, but they may be approached by whoever would like to buy tickets which are easily obtained to the Wednesday Papal Audience. Beware: During the Christmas and Easter season it is more difficult! The American church named Santa Susanna can help you further or you can also write a letter to the Vatican: Archbishop James Harvey, Prefect of the Pontifical Household, Vatican City 00120. The Phone number is 0039 06 6988 4857 and the Fax is: 0039 06 6988 5863.
On the right side on St. Peter’s Square when you come out of the Basilica, immediately you’ll find a Vatican book shop. Further down next to the book shop you’ll have the Post Office. This is where you can get your Vatican stamps which seem to be very appreciated amongst tourists! Right on the square itself they put up another mobile post office because of the long line-ups. A souvenir shop selling religious articles is located next to the post office further down. You’ll pass all of these shops if you like it or not because it’s the way out road after having visited the Basilica! Should you feel sick, a First Aid room is also available down the same path way. Bathrooms for men and women will be located on your right too. A map of the Vatican City has been put up to help tourists find their way around!
Also, taxi’s are located in the beginning of Via della Conciliazione and St. Peter’s Square.
If you look to your right facing the basilica when standing next to the crossing Via della Conciliazione and St. Peter’s Square you’ll find the official Vatican tour operators Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi