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From Vatican: The Little Railway that Could

Even if the Vatican is the smallest country in the world, it is still a veritable nation. Besides all its services—such as the pharmacy and gasoline stations—it has an amazing transport network that guarantees mobility for the Pope and the city’s inhabitants.

A Thing of Beauty

The Vatican railway, which all in all is 1.27 kilometers long, was signed between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy on February 11, 1929. As mandated in the Lateran Treaty, Italy would build a train station within the Vatican City and would connect it to its own railway network, linking to the nearby Rome-Saint Peter’s train station.

Aside from holding the record for being the shortest railway in the world, the Vatican railway boasts an artistic backdrop beyond compare: colorful flowers sprouting from verdant gardens surround it, while St. Peter’s cupola towers over it majestically. It was such a special sight that when it was about to be completed, Pope Pius XI said, “Surely, this is the most beautiful train station in the world.”

The Real VIPs

It was on October 4, 1962, when a pope was first seen leaving on the train. Pope John XXIII began his pilgrimage to Loreto and Assisi to entrust the upcoming Second Vatican Council to Our Lady. On that morning, the train left at 6:30 and the trip was truly a celebration. All throughout the journey, the train was welcomed and greeted by a crowd.

In more recent times, the small Vatican station was in the news once again. On January 24, 2002, John Paul II rode the train in order to go to Assisi, on the occasion of the day of prayer he wanted for world peace.

From Vatican: The Little Railway that Could - image rsz_città_del_vaticano_train_station_staselnik-1024x634 on
The Vatican Railway Station

But not only Popes get to use the Vatican Railway. In June 2005, a special train left the Rome-Termini station, transporting 500 Italian railway men for an audience with Benedict XVI. One time, the Unione Nazionale Italiana Transporto Ammalati a Lourdes e Santuari Internazionali (National Italian Union of Transportation of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines) or Unitalsi, arranged for a train to transport sick people. Another time, some tourists from Perugia were able to secure a special train from the State Railways to visit the Sistine Chapel. The most recent occasion that allowed a peek at an Italian train beyond the Vatican State border was last June 23, when the little railway station welcomed “The Children’s Train” that brought to Rome more than 300 minors from foster homes in Milan, Bologna, and Florence to meet with Pope Francis.

Also Read: Lourdes: A Place of Miracles


The full feature on the Vatican Railway appears in the July 2018 issue of My Pope Philippines magazine. Words by Cecilia Seppia. Edited for web by Aizel Dolom.
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