But Vatican City is also a tourist magnet thanks to the presence of some of Rome's most popular attractions, including the St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums, home to the Sistine Chapel.
Usually referred to as a City State and often called "The Holy See", Vatican City is home to about 800 residents. None of them are permanent. The population of this tiny area, which surrounds St. Peter's Basilica, is made up of priests, nuns, guards, high-ranking dignitaries and, of course, the pope, and is constantly changing.
Vatican City wasn't always this small. In the mid-19th century, the Papal States covered approximately 44,000 square km (17,000 sq mi). However, during the next decade and the struggle for Italian unification, the majority of these states officially became a part of the country of Italy.
The pope's power was abolished and the papal territory was confined to the Vatican. In 1929, the Treaty of Lateran gave The Holy See autonomy, officially establishing this tiny area that attracts millions of visitors each year. The city state is protected by its own military, the strangely-clad Swiss Guards.
St. Peter's Square
Guests enter Vatican City through expansive St. Peter's Square. The square was laid out by Bernini during the pontificates of Alexander VII and of Clement IX (1657-1667). Visitors to this magnificent square (which is actually an ellipse) are surrounded by two huge colonnades, with 284 Doric columns arranged in 4 rows, atop which stand 140 statues of saints.
In the center of the square, you'll find a 25.31-meter-tall (83 ft) Egyptian obelisk, brought to Rome by Caligula in 38 AD from Heliopolis, located on the Nile Delta. Fountains are situated on either side of the obelisk. The one sitting on the right was placed in this location by Bernini and was made by Carlo Maderno. The other was created by Carlo Fontana.
Thousands of guests gather in the square to hear blessings from the pope or to participate in masses, especially on religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica, the crowning glory of Vatican City, is the most important church in the world. The cornerstone of this church was laid more than 500 years ago, in 1506. The magnificent altars and monuments inside the church are too numerous to mention, but even those who aren't art aficionados will be wowed by what they'll find inside this amazing basilica, including more works by the renowned sculptor/architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini and also Michelangelo's Pietà.
The enormous dome of St. Peter's is accessed from an elevator to the…