Spread over just 0.44 sq km, Vatican is a small city-state and enclave located within Rome, Italy. The seat of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican is more than a place of pilgrimage. A must-visit for anyone who has been bitten by the travel bug, the Vatican is a treasure trove in every sense of the word. It is home to some of the most significant works of art across centuries, drawing history buffs and art enthusiasts alike.
Here are some interesting facts about the Vatican.
With an area of only 0.44 square kilometers and a population of 825 people, the Vatican is the smallest country in the world. It is probably the only country in the world that can walk around in less than 1 hour. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that the country is situated within the city of Rome.
Vatican City is likely the only nation on Earth to not have a prison. The country does have a few cells for pre-trial detention. Those convicted and sentenced to imprisonment serve time in Italian prisons as per the Lateran Treaty. The costs for imprisonment are covered by the Vatican government.
The Vatican is home to less than 1,000 official residents, and yet, has the highest crime rate of any country in the world. Although, this is not because it has more crimes than other countries, but because it has more crimes per capita. These crimes are usually carried out by the millions of tourists that stream through the area. The most common crimes are shoplifting, purse snatching, and pickpocketing, and the official Vatican tourism website itself asks tourists to be alert at all times.
It is reported that the residents of the Vatican consume more wine per capita than anywhere else in the world. The average Vatican resident consumes an astonishing 74 liters of wine every year, which is double the consumption of wine capital countries of France and Italy.
There are multiple reasons for their higher consumption of wine. Vatican residents tend to eat communally in larger groups, and the only supermarket in the city sells wine duty free, which results in the higher consumption.
135 Swiss soldiers, known as the Pontifical Swiss Gaurd, is responsible for protecting the Pope. They were first hired in 1506 by Pope Julius II who needed personal protection from any enemies of the Church. They are easily recognizable in their colorful striped uniforms. Not anyone can join the Swiss guard; one has to be male, between 19 and 30 years old, and 5’ 8’’ tall. One must also be a Christian and must have completed basic military training.
The Vatican has no hospitals, or more importantly, no delivery rooms. As a result, no one can be a citizen of the Vatican by birth. You are granted citizenship on the grounds of appointment to work in a certain capacity in the service of the Holy See. The citizenship is extended to spouses, parents, and other relatives that live together. Once the appointment ceases, the citizenship is stripped away.
Italian is the official language of Vatican City and is the language used for all official matters. Italian is also the lingua franca, but the Holy See uses Latin as its official language. The Vatican is also considered to be the de facto custodian of the Latin language. So, it might not be as surprising a fact then that the Vatican Bank's ATM offers instructions in Latin.
Vatican City is also home to the shortest railway in the world. The station has two 300-meter tracks and has one station: Citta Vaticano. The railroad tracks and the train station were built during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI. It’s used for ferrying goods. No regular passenger trains are scheduled to run on it.
In 1981 the Vatican purchased a state-of-the-art telescope, which is one of the world’s largest telescopes – the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope. It sits on top of Mount Graham in southeast Arizona and the Vatican conducts astronomical research out of here.
The Vatican is the only country to be entirely designated as a World Heritage site. It was listed in 1984. The list includes both the city of Vatican and extraterritorial properties in Rome, I. e. the Basilica of St. Peter and Saint Mary Major.