Picture Perfect: The Vatican

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For this Picture Perfect feature, professional photographer Rob Squire travels to Vatican City, Rome:

I’m often asked about my favorite place to travel, and my answer is always the same.  It’s impossible for me to choose.  Every destination offers its own distinct personality and its own plusses and minuses.  Some have natural beauty, some have unique and interesting customs, and some have fascinating history.  But I’ll tell you that in all my travels, there has only been one place that I’ve ever gone to more than once; there’s only one place that has drawn me back not twice but three times.  That fascinating city is Rome.

There are so very many things to see here.  Its very name conjures up mental images of the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and so many more. But one of my favorite Roman destinations is:

Vatican City

Photo by Rob Squire

This city-state is actually an independent country sitting wholly within the borders of Italy.  It is surrounded by towering walls that date back to medieval times, and at the same time it is possibly the easiest country in the world to enter.

The focal point is clearly St Peter’s Basilica whose Renaissance style dome is recognizable world-wide and visible throughout Rome.  As you approach it, you walk through St Peter’s Square which is surrounded by curved colonnades topped with dozens of statues all attributed to Bernini.

Walking inside the basilica, one can’t help being stunned by its interior.  Its size dwarfs almost any religious building in the entire world, and the beauty of the place defies description.  As you explore this place you find side chapels that are larger than many churches.  It’s difficult to keep your mouth from dropping open at the beauty of almost any individual piece of art, let alone when they are all taken in total.  Here, Michelangelo’s magnificent Pieta sits as the crown jewel in a sea of beauty.

Inside, one can choose to climb the 531 steps to visit the dome, descend to the necropolis where tomb of St Peter is buried, visit the Sistine Chapel, explore the Vatican Museums or just walk around and admire all that you see.

As you leave Vatican City you may walk along the Tiber River and pass the Castel Sant’Angelo where Pope Clement VII took refuge during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

picture perfect, rob squire, vatican city
Photo by Rob Squire

If you visit the Vatican, you’ll never regret it.  If anything, you’ll regret not spending more time there – no matter how long you visit. It is gorgeous, ostentatious, and over-the-top beautiful.  It’s easy to get to and shouldn’t require more than two flights from anywhere in the US with direct flights from many major cities.

Photo tip:  Cities in general are the most beautiful at night. To capture a night shot, you will have to use long exposures which require the use of a tripod or some very stable platform.  Don’t believe your in-camera exposure meter.  If you follow it, you’ll end up with overexposed light features.  Set your exposure for 2 or 3 stops lower than what your camera tells you, and take several shots at different exposures. Then, pick the best one.

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Rob Squire is a professional travel photographer who, when not traveling the world, is based in Denver, Colorado.  You can see his work by visiting Rob Squire Photography or by “liking” his Facebook page.