The Vatican

The smallest country in the world is filled with both historical and artistic wonders. Only part of Vatican City is open to the public, but these parts house some of the worlds most precious pieces of art. The architecture of the buildings was done by the masters. Regardless of your religion, a visit to Rome should always include a visit to the Vatican. Personally, I have visited the Vatican on four occations. My first trip was in  1990, my second trip was in 2000, my third trip was in 2009, and my most recent trip was in 2012.

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. 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. Present concerns of the Holy See include religious freedom, international development, the Middle East, terrorism, the failing health of Pope John Paul II, 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. (CIA Factbook)

Me and My Mom in St. Peters Square, 1990

St. Peter's Square Just before Pope John Paul I's speech (Top) 2000
Inside St. Peter's Basilica (Bottom) 2000

Images from Vatican City 2012