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Kemwel Travel Blog

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5 Vatican City Facts You Should Know Before Visiting


One of the most popular places to tour in all of Europe and a must for anyone visiting Rome, the Vatican City (also known as The Holy See) is a must for those looking for a little history, and a lot of surprises. We’ve put together 5 Vatican City Facts to read before you head to the picturesque location that is surrounded by Rome, Italy:


1. Surprisingly, the Vatican has its own post office, pharmacy, and publishing house.

Not to mention the influential radio station (Radio Vatican broadcasting throughout Europe), web site, important observatory that hosts international astronomers’ conferences, and a vatican-city-factsunique banking system that is central to the finances of the state. Speaking of banks, the Vatican Bank is actually the only bank in the world that allows ATM users to select Latin to perform transactions (in case you were fancying doing just that!).


2. What is the smallest country in the world? You guessed it, it’s the Vatican City.

Encircled by a 2-mile border of stone, visiting the Vatican City which is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope at its head and currently has a population of 842, is exciting and slightly crowded. Incredibly, the Vatican produces its own euros, prints its own stamps, issues passports and license plates, and has its own flag and anthem. There are also no taxes, no restrictions on the import or export of funds, and no customs that have to be paid. Employees of the Vatican pay no income tax on gasoline or goods that they buy there and non-Italians enjoy allowances on their monthly salaries.


3. The Vatican Museum contains one of the most prevalent art collections in the world. vatican-city-facts-art

With multiple galleries and displays, and works from the immense collection built up by the Popes throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the country, it’s quite the site to see. The Sistine Chapel nearby is famous for its frescos, which include works by Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, as well as the ceiling and Last Judgment by Michelangelo.


4. The Vatican is digitizing its library and making it available to everyone for free.

The Vatican Apostolic Library is undertaking an extensive digital preservation of its 82,000 document collection. The entire undertaking is expected to take at least 15 years and cost more than $63 million dollars; an effort the Vatican Library is attempting to support, in part, by crowd-source funding. Partly because of how great the task is, we just couldn’t leave this off the list of Vatican City facts.


5. The Vatican has no military branch.

Within the Vatican, the Swiss Guard has been responsible for the personal safety of the Pope since 1506, but in reality, its function is ceremonial and policing of the state is left to the Civil Guard. If anything were to go wrong, Italy would step in and take responsibility for defense. When visiting the Vatican City, you can be sure to see the Swiss Guard in their official dress uniform which is made up of blue, red, orange, and yellow with a distinctly Renaissance appearance.


Visiting the Vatican City

As the spiritual and governing center of the Roman Catholic Church, and with cultural sites such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums; visiting the Vatican City is truly something to be remembered! If you plan on touring iconic sites like Vatican City, keep these fascinating facts in mind to uphold your appreciation for the amazing nation-state but be sure to visit some of the other attractions Europe has to behold, too. You’ll want a genuine and immersive experience of this wonderful country and a car rental in Italy right from the Rome Airport is the perfect way to see as much as you can in comfort and convenience! Contact Kemwel today to learn just how much you can save on your next vacation abroad with some of the best travel deals and specials available; check out our options online or call one of our friendly travel experts, toll-free at 1-877-820-0668. Your next international adventure awaits!


The Strange Roman History of Lake Nemi: Ships, Caligula & More


When traveling in Rome, you may hear the whispers of the stories surrounding the short lived Emperor, Caligula, and the two enormous wooden ships that once belonged to him. These Caligula ships were dedicated and built to the moon Goddess Diana on Lake Nemi, Italy. In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and childbirth, and was associated with wild animals and woodland creatures.


The Rich Roman History of Lake Nemi, Italy

The largest of the Lake Nemi ships resembled one of the Emperor’s palaces and was adorned with marble mosaic floors of many colors, inlaid ivory on the walls, heating, plumbing, and steam baths. Everything was quite remarkable looking even for the royal standards of that time. Caligula himself is generally depicted by historians as a cruel power-hungry man who was noted for many excesses and strange desires. His floating palaces, the ships, were attached to shore by chains and bridges so that people could come and go as he pleased. At 250 feet long, there was plenty of room for decadent parties, large pets, and sporting activities.

Unfortunately, (or perhaps not) the emperor Caligula had a very brief reign.  He ruled from 37A.D. to 41A.D. for a period of three years and ten months. His downfall? An assassination by members of the Praetorian Guard, who were sickened by his depraved behavior and reckless spending. He was twenty-eight years old. Because of the scantlake-nemi-ships historical record, Caligula’s final resting place has become the subject of debate, but many think that his body was buried in the Mausoleum of Augustus, in Rome, and still lies there today.

Sometime after the death of the Emperor, the ships tragically sank to the bottom of Lake Nemi, Italy, taking all of their treasures with them. There is some speculation that perhaps they simply floated on the lake until they leaked and became too heavy with water to stay afloat. Other analysts have speculated that Caligula’s successor, Claudius, a more kind and practical ruler, may have had them sunk to help obliterate the memory of his predecessor.



Resurrecting the Caligula Ships

After hundreds of years with many excavations and restorations, the Caligula ships were brought out of the water and put on display in a large museum dedicated to the Lake Nemi ships, the Goddess Diana, and the treasures that were found in those floating palaces. During the Second World War though, the two ships were completely burnt to ashes after a nearby bomb set the museum on fire.

Today, the Lake Nemi Museum still exists in the same building after being restored and reopened in 1953. The spaces once taken up by the two mighty ships are now occupied by one-fifth scale models that were built in the naval dockyard near Naples, and various artifacts that had escaped destruction. The people of Rome and Lake Nemi, Italy have found other ways to preserve and restore what once was.


Modern Attractions for Your Own Visit to The Lake Nemi Ships

The Festival of Nemoralia (sometimes known as the Festival of Torches) was once celebrated by the ancient Romans either on August 15th or on the August Full Moon, in honor of the goddess Diana. Worshippers would form a twinkling procession of torches and candles around the dark waters of Lake Nemi (sometimes now called ‘Diana’s Mirror’ because of the extremely clear water). Today, the festival still takes place and people from all over the world come to see it every year. Rent a car in Rome this summer and you too can take part in the festivities and explore the beautiful regions surrounding the Italian capital.



Lake Nemi today is still a beautiful place and a very popular summer tourist destination. Formed by the crater of an old volcano, there is plenty to see when vacationing here. After visiting the Caligula ships museum, see all that Rome has to offer by exploring the Pantheon, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel (just to name a few). In Italy’s capital, you’ll be captivated for days by all the attractions there are to see and remember that Kemwel can provide you with the versatile transportation you need at affordable price with some of the best travel deals and promotions around. Peruse your options online or give one of our travel experts a call, toll-free at 1-877-820-0668 to get started planning your next vacation!

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Kemwel car rental has partnered with the car manufacturer, Peugeot to provide you with discounted long term car rentals through our buy back auto lease program.

If you need to rent a car in Europe for more than 17 days, we can save you money. More information...
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