Vatican City travel guide
About Vatican City
The Vatican City is the world's smallest sovereign state and is situated entirely within the city of Rome. Many visitors come for religious reasons, but you don’t have to be a Catholic to appreciate this extraordinary destination.
Famed sights include the colossal monument to Catholicism that is St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Palace, where the Pope resides. Inside his lavish abode lies the legendary Sistine Chapel, which lays claim to the most famous ceiling in the world. Crane your head to marvel at Michelangelo’s magnum opus, The Last Judgement.
Crowds can make a visit to Vatican City a bit of a trial – it’s busy throughout the year and at most times of day – but putting up with swathes of tourists seems like a small price to pay to bask in the state’s assorted treasures. Join the queues and follow the masses through the Vatican Museums to see an astonishing collection of paintings by the likes of Raphael and Giotto in the Pinacoteca Vaticana. You’ll also find extraordinary artefacts from classical antiquity, as well as museums dedicated to older finds from the Etruscans and Egyptians.
As leader of the Papal States for more than 1,000 years until Italian Unification in the 19th century, the Vatican has a long and uneven history. But the new Argentinian pope, formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has breathed new life into the old office since his appointment in 2013. As a result, visitors from far and wide have been flocking in ever-greater numbers to catch a glimpse of the new Roman Catholic leader and the city he lives in.
Pope Francis is known to give a general audience on Wednesdays, either in Audience Hall or St Peter’s Square. On Sundays, he usually gives a midday blessing from the window of his office, which overlooks the square.
0.44 sq km (0.17 sq miles).
801 (UN estimate 2016).
1,818.2 per sq km.
The State of the Vatican City came into existence in 1929.
Pope Francis since 2013.
Pope Francis since 2013.
Last updated: 23 January 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Approximately 3 million British nationals visit Italy every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
Due to Mount Etna’s recent volcanic eruption, a series of earthquakes and earth tremors are affecting the Catania area and the eastern part of the island of Sicily. For more details, see the National Centre for Earthquakes’ website (in Italian). This seismic activity is expected to continue until the volcanic activity subsides. Local authorities are monitoring the situation and providing updates via their website (in Italian). If you intend to travel to affected areas, you should follow their advice. You should also check the Catania Airport website for flight updates before travel.
On Tuesday 14 August 2018, a section of the Morandi bridge in Genoa collapsed. The Morandi bridge connects the A10 motorway towards the south of France and the A7 motorway to Milan. It also connects major ports. Extensive disruption to road traffic in the area should be expected. You should check with your tour operator, cruise ship company or airline for updates before travelling, and allow additional time when travelling to Genoa airport.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Italy. You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
Forest fires are a risk during the extended summer months. Forest fires are highly dangerous and unpredictable; check with local authorities if you’re considering travelling to affected areas. Take care when visiting or driving through woodland areas and report fires to the emergency services. You can also visit the website of the Civil Protection Department.
Since 14 August 2018, there have been a number of localised earthquakes in the Molise region of Italy, near the town of Montecilfone. Several strong earthquakes were felt in central Italy in 2016, 2017 and 2018. For more information about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake visit the Italian Civil Protection website.
For severe weather warnings, visit the European Meteorological Services website
If you’re visiting a ski resort, you should take advice on weather and avalanche conditions before you travel and familiarise yourself with local skiing laws and regulations. For more information about the avalanche risk, visit the European Avalanche Warning Service website.
Demonstrations may occur with little or no warning in cities. You should avoid any protests, political gatherings, or marches.
If you’re living in or moving to Italy, visit our Living in Italy guide in addition to this travel advice.
If you need to contact the emergency services, call 112 (police), 118 (ambulance) or 115 (fire).
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Crime levels are generally low but there are higher levels of petty crime (particularly bag snatching and pick-pocketing) in the big city centres, such as Rome. Be aware that thieves can use a variety of methods to distract you.
Take care on public transport and in crowded areas in city centres, particularly in and around Termini station in Rome, where incidents of street muggings have been reported, and at other main stations.
Be particularly vigilant on trains to and from airports and cruise ports in Italy (especially Fiumicino airport), as well as the Circumvesuviana train between Naples and Sorrento, and when unloading your baggage from trains and coaches.
Use a hotel safe for valuables where possible.
Alcohol and drugs can make you less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Don’t leave food or drinks unattended at any time. Victims of spiked drinks have been robbed and sometimes assaulted.
Those in cars can sometimes be targeted by thieves. Robberies from cars have been reported particularly in and around Rome, Milan and Pisa, as well as at motorway service stations. Always lock your vehicle, never leave valuables in cars and avoid leaving luggage in cars for any length of time. Be aware that thieves may use a variety of methods to distract you or encourage you to stop your car. These may include asking for help or directions, or pointing out a fictional fault with your car.
Make sure Euro notes received from any source other than banks or legitimate bureaux de change are genuine.
Only use officially licensed taxis. These will have a taxi sign on the roof. Make sure the meter in the taxi has been reset before you set off.
Tickets on public transport must be endorsed in a ticket machine before you start a journey. The machines are usually positioned at the entrance to platforms in railway stations, in the entrance hall to metro stations and on board some buses and trams. Officials patrol public transport and will issue an on the spot fine of 100 to 500 euros (reduced to 50 euros if paid immediately) if you don’t hold an endorsed ticket. Tickets can be purchased from shops displaying the ‘T’ sign, and are usually bars or tobacconists.
Traffic can be busy, fast and chaotic especially in the larger cities. Pedestrians should use zebra crossings, but take care especially where lines are faded and not clearly visible to drivers. Vehicles don’t always stop, even though they are required to under the Italian Traffic Code. The green pedestrian crossing signal also allows cars to turn onto the crossing, so cross with caution.
Transport strikes are often called at short notice. For more information visit the Ministry of Transport website (in Italian).
You can drive in Italy with a UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to be able to drive in Italy and other EU/EEA countries as a visitor after 29 March 2019.
There are 3 types of IDP. Check that you have the correct permits covering all countries where you will be driving - you may need more than one IDP. For full information, check this guidance page. You should also check guidance on driving in the EU after Brexit for information on other additional documents you may need to carry.
If you’re living in Italy, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
If you move to Italy with your British-registered car, you must re-register your car with Italian licence plates within 60 days or you may incur a large fine. If you’re driving a vehicle that does not belong to you then written permission from the registered owner may be required. On-the-spot fines can be issued for minor traffic offences.
In 2016 there were 3,270 road deaths in Italy (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 5.4 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 in 2016.
Private and hire cars are not allowed to enter the historic centre of many Italian cities without an official pass. If your hotel is in the centre of one of these cities, you can buy a pass from most car hire companies. The boundaries of historic centres are usually marked with the letters ZTL in black on a yellow background. Don’t pass this sign as your registration number is likely to be caught on camera and you will be fined.
There is a congestion charge for Milan city centre. For further information see the Milan Municipality website.
To reduce pollution, the city authorities in Rome sometimes introduce traffic restrictions on specific days whereby vehicles with odd or even number plates are not allowed on the roads in the ‘fascia verde’ area (covering most of Rome). For further information, including exceptions, see the Rome Municipality website.
Trucks over 7.5 tonnes (75 quintali) are not allowed on Italian roads (including motorways) on Sundays from 7:00 am until midnight, local time. These restrictions don’t apply to trucks that have already been granted an exception (eg those carrying perishable goods and petrol supplies).
If you are planning a skiing holiday, you should contact the Italian State Tourist Board for advice on safety and weather conditions before you travel. Address: 1 Princes Street, London W1R 9AY. Telephone: 020 7355 1557 or 1439.
Off-piste skiing is highly dangerous. You should follow all safety instructions meticulously given the dangers of avalanches in some areas. Italy has introduced a law forcing skiers and snowboarders to carry tracking equipment if they go off-piste. The law also obliges under-14s to wear a helmet. There are plans for snowboarders to be banned from certain slopes.
Read more about how to stay safe on the slopes.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Italy. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners.
There are isolated cases of domestic terrorism. Attacks carried out by the extreme left-wing and secessionist groups have generally been aimed at official Italian targets, mainly in the form of small bombs and incendiary devices. The Italian authorities have made a number of arrests of individuals with links to Daesh and other extremist groups.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
By law you must be able to show some form of identification at all times. In most cases a photocopy of the data page of your passport should suffice, but you may be asked to accompany the police to collect the original document, or to produce it within 12 hours. The police will normally ask for your full passport if you are stopped while driving.
In the Rome area, restaurants must display a menu outside the restaurant, only charge for bread if the customer specifically requests it, inform the customer of the prices being charged before he/she orders, give a proper receipt and not make any cover charge (coperto).
In some Italian towns and cities you may be fined for dropping litter and in some towns or cities it’s an offence to sit on monument steps or to eat and drink in the immediate vicinity of main churches, historic monuments and public buildings. It’s also an offence to enter or bathe in public fountains. Until 6 January 2019, it is not permitted to consume food while stationary on the pavements around the Uffizi gallery in Florence, between the hours of 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm. Doing so will incur a large fine.
Illegal traders operate on the streets of all major Italian cities, particularly tourist cities like Florence, Venice and Rome. Don’t buy from illegal street traders. You could be stopped by the local police and fined.
Many major cities in Italy now impose a small tax on tourists. The tax is levied by hotels and is usually not included in any pre-paid arrangements or package deal. The rate of tax varies from city to city, and can depend on the star rating of the hotel. Hotels often ask for payment of this tax in cash. Make sure you get a receipt. For more information check with the local tourist information office.
It is illegal to remove sand, shells or pebbles from coastal areas in Italy. Doing so may result in heavy fines. It’s also forbidden to collect various species of flowers, plants and herbs from mountain and wooded areas. For more information, check with the regional authorities of the area you’re visiting.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
If your passport describes you as a British Citizen, you don’t need a visa to enter Italy. If you have another type of British nationality, check the current entry requirements with the Italian Embassy.
If you’re planning a stay of longer than 3 months, see our Living in Italy guide and contact the Italian Embassy if you have further questions.
The UK and EU have agreed the full legal text of the draft Withdrawal Agreement in principle. This sets out that there will be no change to entry requirements for British citizens travelling to the EU or for EU citizens travelling to the UK during the Implementation Period (30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020).
In the event of changes to entry requirements after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, this page will be updated as soon as information is available.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
However, if the UK leaves the European Union with no deal, the passport validity rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change from 29 March 2019. Some passports with up to 15 months validity remaining may not be valid for travel. Before booking travel, you should check that your passport will meet these new rules and find out whether you need to renew it.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Italy.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
If you’re visiting Italy you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Italian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 118 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
Many parts of Italy lie on a major seismic fault line. Minor tremors and earthquakes are a regular occurrence. To learn more about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake visit the Protezione Civile website.
The currency of Italy is the Euro.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.