VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The official Vatican City travel guide was released, aimed at making life easier for pilgrims and tourists, and offering accurate and exhaustive details for scholars and historians.p2story3newphoto(CNS)

The “General Guide to Vatican City” says it’s trying to fill the gap created over the 80 years since the Vatican published its first official guide one year after the city-state was established in 1929.

Even though there are many other travel guides out there, “what was still missing was an essential, rigorous work that illustrates” every aspect of Vatican City, the guide’s introduction says.

The dark blue paperback was published in English, Spanish, French and Italian in a joint venture by Jaca Book – a Milanese publishing company – the Vatican Museums and the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

In 447 pages, the 2012 guide packs in colorful photos, maps, contact information and extensive details about the artistic, archaeological, architectural and historical patrimony housed on Vatican City State’s 109 acres.

The smallest country in the world has “one of the highest concentrations of art works in the world,” the guide says.

What makes the guide unlike other travel guides is that the sections about the Vatican Museums were written by the museum departments’ own curators; the sections on the Vatican Library and Secret Archives were written by the offices’ top officials; and other sections were written by Vatican experts or top-notch outside scholars.

Detailed itineraries are offered for St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s tomb, the Apostolic Palace and the Vatican gardens, grottos and museums.

The guide’s appendices give practical details about visiting Vatican City State, including how to get tickets to a papal Mass or audience.

It provides opening hours for major Vatican offices as well as contact information and details for many Vatican services such as how to request a papal blessing on parchment.

The guide, which costs 35 euros or about $47, can be ordered through the museums’ online site.

However, as of late January, the Vatican was unable to accept credit- and debit-card payments. The Vatican had been in negotiations with other point of sale providers since Jan. 1 and hoped online credit card payments would be resumed in the near future.

Another alternative, according to the Vatican publishing house, is to send an email to and then send payment, including shipping costs, by check before shipment or arrange for cash on delivery.