PEAK 28: Vatican – Vatican hill

Vatican is the only country in Europe where the highest point is not named. There is nothing to be surprised about. The Vatican has no real mountain. But of course there is a highest point so I had to visit it. The nameless point commonly called Vatican Hill is located in the Vatican Gardens. Surprisingly, it is not that easy to visit this high point. If you want to visit it you need to book a guided tour months in advance.

Date of summit: 29th December 2019 10:15 
Traveling mode: Guided tour
Height of the peak: 75m
Hiking distance: 3.05 km 
Time to ascend to Vatican Hill: 1 hours 38 minutes (the whole guided tour)
Elevation climbed: 86m (during the whole guided tour)
Map of my hiking journey to Vatican Hill: Movescount
Personal rating of the mountain: ** (6 stars maximum) 
Beer on the peak: Birra Roma Bionda **** (6 stars maximum) 

After completing my expedition EU Peaks during which I managed to reach the highest point of every European country, I was broke. Unexpected expenses after my accident in Scotland forced me to come back to my job. During the autumn of 2018 I was saving as much money as possible to start a new expedition.

I was close to the world record in climbing the highest point of every European country which was at that time 364 days. Will I manage to beat this record? I would have to reach all the mountains by June 24th 2019. Is this possible? It means there will be many winter climbs.

I started visiting the highest points again at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019. Follow my visit of the dwarf countries in Italy/France – Vatican, San Marino and Monaco. I traveled there with my girlfriend Joanne and two good friends from Sweden, Chilean Emiliano and his Swedish girlfriend Anna.

Our journey began in Rome, a city which is regarded by many people as the most beautiful city in the world. I had never visited Rome before so I was very curious about it. We selected our accommodation as close as possible to the Vatican in order to visit the highest point of the country early in the morning. This is the best way to avoid the crowds of tourists that are famous for Rome.

It was the right decision. We could see the walls of the Vatican and the famous St. Peter’s Basilica right from our window . It is the largest church in the world. It is 211 meters long and 27 meters wide.

St. Peter’s Square is without tourists during sunrise

The next day I let my friends sleep and I got up early to welcome the sun at St. Peter’s Basilica. I wanted to take the shortest way but I was still sleepy so I went in the opposite direction. In the end I circled the entire Vatican. I vainly hoped that the Vatican had several entrances. When I finally found the St. Peter’s square the sun just started to rise. It was beautiful and the square was completely empty. I was the only tourist there. I took a panorama picture of the square and came back to our accommodation to pick up my friends for a pre-booked tour of the Vatican Gardens.

View over Vatican gardens from the Dome of st. Peter's Basilica
View over Vatican gardens from the Dome of st. Peter’s Basilica

Getting the tickets to Vatican gardens was the biggest challenge to reach the Vatican’s highest point. It must be ordered months ahead because they are sold out very quickly. The advantage of the ticket is that a visit to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums are included. This time “climbing” will be accompanied by a rich cultural program.

Thanks to the confusing morning I knew this time exactly where we should go for the tour, so we got there in time. We skipped a kilometer long line with our pre-purchased ticket and we went looking for our guide.

Unlike the other highest points, the visit of the highest point of Vatican was not physically demanding. On the other hand one must be patient. Before we reached the Vatican Hill we had to listen to many histories of different popes. Our guide turned out to be a deep fan of all the popes, telling us both her personal or passed on stories of thirteen of them. Her tour took over two hours. When we got to the “peak”, I was glad to have a secret escape for a while to take some photos and to take a break from the pope stories.

Selfie from the highest point of Vatican gardens
Selfie from the highest point of Vatican gardens

A visit to the gardens was worth it anyway. The Vatican gardens are charming. The Pope is a happy man that he can stroll through such natural and calm beauty every day in the middle of a busy city.

Although the highest point of the Vatican is in the gardens, some also regard the viewpoint of St. Peter’s Cathedral as the highest point. Of course we could not miss it. We planned it for the next day, again in the early morning to avoid queues. Opening hours from 7 am saved us again from crowds and we basically had the whole viewpoint of Rome for ourselves. The view from the dome of the cathedral is truly monumental. Those who visit Rome should have this place on top of their must-see list.

The view from the Dome of st. Peter’s Basilica

After a four-day visit of Rome, I was thinking if it was really the most beautiful city in the world. From a historical point of view, it probably has the most interesting monuments I have ever seen. I agree with that. I wasn’t impressed though about the overall picture of the city. The main disadvantage of Rome is the excessive tourism. From lunch time on, the city is overcrowded. If you want to visit any museums or viewpoints you have to spend a long time in queues. Although I was glad that my expedition provided me with this cultural bonus, I was looking forward to the mountains again.

Rome is overcrowded
Rome is overcrowded
Another viewpoint which I enjoyed a lot is from the Altar of the Fatherland

My tips for visiting Rome and Vatican Hill:

  • Get up early and visit the main sights before other tourists wake up.
  • The most beautiful view in Rome is from St. Peter’s Cathedral and from the Altar of the Fatherland.
  • Many tickets can be purchased in advance on the internet. For example, if you want to avoid a several hours long queue for Coliseum tickets, buy them online.
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