While a visit to the Vatican is a must for tourists in Rome, did you know that there’s more to explore in Vatican City than just the Vatican Museums and the famous Basilica? If you want to dig a little deeper into the fascinating corners of this tiny independent city-state, you might be surprised to find one of the most obscure and intriguing transport hubs in the world: The Vatican Railway Station.
Whether you’re planning to opt for the best skip the line Vatican tour or just a simple visit to the Vatican, let’s take a look at some interesting facts about the Vatican Railway Station, so you can make the most of your Rome experience. Let’s dive in!
The World’s Smallest National Railway System
First up – did you know that this railway station holds the title of the smallest national railway system in the world? The station’s total length is just about 300 meters, making it the smallest railway in the world.
Construction Was Approved by Pope Pius XI
The Vatican Railway Station was a direct result of the Lateran Treaty signed by Pope Pius XI and the Italian government in 1929. The treaty recognized Vatican City as an independent state, and as part of the agreement, the Pope requested the construction of a railway station to facilitate the movement of people and goods, making it a symbol of sovereignty and independence.
The Station Was Designed by Architect Giuseppe Momo
The Vatican Railway Station, like many buildings in Vatican City, is a testament to grand design and architectural prowess. It was designed by Giuseppe Momo, a renowned Italian architect also responsible for the iconic spiral staircase in the Vatican Museums. The station’s design has a touch of Renaissance elegance, incorporating long, straight platforms and a facade adorned with intricate decorations.
A Witness to World War II
The Vatican Railway Station also holds a poignant mark of history from the tumultuous times of World War II, having been the only place within the Vatican that suffered damage during the conflict. Although the damage has now been fully repaired, a part of the destruction has been deliberately preserved on one corner of the station building. This maintained piece of war-inflicted damage serves as a somber reminder of the station’s – and the world’s – endurance through challenging times.
The Station Has Two Tracks But Only One Is Operational
Though the station was designed with two platforms, it has only one operational track. The design of two platforms allows for easy loading and unloading of goods from both sides of the train, however, the single track emphasizes its purpose as a quiet and private transport hub rather than a bustling metropolitan station.
Limited Use Since Inception
Since its establishment in 1934, the Vatican Railway Station has seen very limited use. For the first several decades, it was used primarily to import goods, especially coal for heating. It was only in 2015 that it was first opened to the public as a tourist site; prior to this, only a handful of popes had utilized the railway for traveling purposes.
The First Papal Train Ride Took Place in 1942
Though the Vatican Railway Station was constructed in 1934, the first papal train ride didn’t occur until 1942, when Pope John XXIII, embarked on a historic pilgrimage to Loreto and Assisi.
Pope Francis: The Third Pope to Use the Train
Pope Francis became only the third Pope in history to use the Vatican Railway. In 2013, he took a short journey on a train from Vatican City to the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy. This trip was part of the Pope’s wider efforts to promote public transportation and environmental sustainability.
Opened to the Public in 2015
Despite being operational for over 80 years, it wasn’t until 2015 that the Vatican Railway Station was opened to the public. The Musei Vaticani launched a special tour called “Vatican by Train,” allowing visitors to embark on a journey from the Vatican City to the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo. This marked a significant turning point in the station’s history.
It’s A Unique Way to Experience Vatican City
Finally, visiting the Vatican Railway Station offers a unique way to experience Vatican City. After all, it’s not every day you get the chance to step inside the smallest national railway system in the world! A tour that includes the railway station offers a unique perspective on the city-state, away from the more crowded attractions, and offers a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into Vatican City’s history, architectural genius, and elegance.