All eyes were on the world’s smallest country this week, following the funeral of retired Pope Benedict XVI. Here are 10 facts you didn’t know about the small city-state.
1. It is among the wine drinking capitals of the world
Vatican City has a huge per capita consumption of wine, with the average resident 54.26 liters – or just over 72 standard bottles – per year (for comparison, the French drink is 46). However, it is unlikely that you will find hundreds of empty items in the recycling bins. The country’s impressive drinking record is thought to be due to the large quantities of wine distributed during communion and at regular events.
2. No need to show your passport to enter
It may be a country in its own right, but there are no border controls for visitors to the Vatican, and many visitors are also disappointed by the lack of commemorative passport stamps. However, there may be delays at peak times, just like airport arrivals. In the summer, visitors fill St. Peter’s Square to cross the line from Italy or queue for ticketed entry to the Vatican Museums.
3. One-seventh the size of Central Park
Spanning just 121 acres, the Vatican is the smallest country in the world (and about the same size as the National Trust’s Winkworth Arboretum). Despite its small size, the state packs 120,000 works into its museums and galleries. These include Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, the Raphaels and Da Vincis in the Pinoteca Room, and the Porphyry Bathtub, which he built from incredibly rare stones and is thought to be worth around £1.8bn for Emperor Nero’s Golden Palace. is located.
4. It has the world’s shortest railway
Opened in 1934, Vatican City’s rail network is the world’s smallest, consisting only of two 300-metre rails, two freight lines and a station, Città del Vaticano. No Popes have boarded the train here since 1962, but in 2015 Pope Francis opened the railroad to tourists. Now on Saturdays in the summer, visitors can travel from the province’s small station to Albano Laziale, the closest stop to the historic Papal holiday home at Castel Gandolfo.
5. It has more tourists per capita than any other country.
Vatican City is far superior to the rest when it comes to tourists as a percentage of the population. It has a population of just north of 800, but is a site of great religious, historical, cultural and political importance, with the Vatican Museums alone receiving 6.9 million visitors in 2019.
6. He has his own Euro
The Vatican and Italy signed an agreement in 2000, allowing the Vatican to adopt the euro as its official currency and to issue its own coins from 2002 – so Vatican euros circulate freely throughout the entire eurozone. The unique painting on one side of the coin has seen various changes over the years, but since 2017 it features Pope Francis or his coat of arms. : Due to his rare drawings, Pope Paul II.
7. The Pope has a personal army of snobs
Don’t be fooled by the chaise-striped pants of the Papal Swiss Guard, this little army knows its business. The contingent of approximately 135 Swiss soldiers was born out of the alliance between Switzerland and the Holy Roman Empire and has been protecting the Pope for 517 years. Potential recruits must be Catholic single men aged 19 to 30 with Swiss citizenship, holding a high school diploma or professional degree, and at least 174 cm (5 feet 8.5 inches) tall. They must have completed basic Swiss military training and have also been trained in unarmed combat and small arms. While their uniforms are straight from the Renaissance, guards wield both traditional weapons such as two-handed, ax-like halberds, and modern ammunition, including pistols and submachine guns.
8. Postal service is excellent
So good in fact that many Romans are said to go there every week to mail their letters and documents from the Vatican’s box in St. Peter’s Square instead of using Italy’s less reliable national postal service. likewise, make sure you put that postcard in the yellow mailbox instead of the red square). Operating since 1929, the Vatican’s postal service comes with its own stamps and postmarks, so it’s understandably popular with tourists as well. According to the Universal Postal Union, more letters are sent each year from the Vatican’s postcode than any other postal code in the world.
9. ATMs speak Latin
Would you like to use the A-star GCSE? you are lucky. At least one of Vatican City’s ATMs has instructions in Latin, possibly for the benefit of visiting Catholic clergy from around the world. Just watch out for erratum ūsus. Or something like that.
10. The only country in the world on the UNESCO list
Italy has more Heritage Sites than any other country in the world, with a total of 58. However, Vatican City is the only country to receive the degree. Written in 1984, its status is due to “a great history and a challenging spiritual adventure”.