In February 1922 one or more aircraft flew over the Vatican low enough to disturb the papal conclave then underway. In response, authorities forbade flights over all of Rome until the conclave was concluded.

About seven years later, the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the King of Italy included a provision forbidding flights over Vatican City.

Various changes both in technology and in regulation of aviation have happened since that time. Ninety-one years after the aforementioned incident, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign as of the last day of the month, and on February 28 he boarded a helicopter in Vatican City to fly to Castel Gandolfo.

What are the current rules and practices on flights over Vatican City?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There is a Vatican heliport. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vatican_City_Heliport $\endgroup$
    – Just a guy
    Aug 17, 2020 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ SkyVector shows a prohibited area LIP-212 over Vatican, but for most prohibited areas there is still a way to get a permit, presumably in this case on approval by Vatican administration (details should be in the Italian AIP). $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Aug 18, 2020 at 5:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Pope is also special (like presidents and prime ministers): special rules and procedures (between civilian and military). If a state authorize a flight, it should guarantee safety (according one of the Vienna Conventions, IIRC), and other stuffs (for such reasons, sometime head of a country are not allowed to flight other country, until a full security protocol is established) $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2020 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ I think the reference to the Pope flying in a helicopter into and over Vatican City is a non sequitur. There are plenty of pilots that fly into and through prohibited airspace. Presidents, popes, and extra-terrestrials (including astronauts) to name a few. Marine One flies quite often into prohibited airspace. It is a given. Look at who is prohibiting flight in the area and for what purpose? They are the authority that can grant exceptions in most cases. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Sep 10, 2020 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec Your conclusion is correct, but the restricted area covering the Vatican City is P243, not P212 $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2020 at 7:03

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is legal to fly above Vatican City, but not below 2500 FT if flying IFR or 3500 FT if flying VFR.

There are several Prohibited Areas established over Rome. Prohibited area 212, mentioned by @JanHudec, is not actually above Vatican City, instead it is there to protect the Regina caeli prison.

However, there is a prohibited area covering the Vatican City: P243, in which IFR traffic is prohibited below 2500 FT and VFR traffic is prohibited below 3500 FT. The AIP (ENR 5.1.1-14) notes that the area is "subject to overflyng restriction for security-safety reasons". While not mentioned directly in the AIP, presumably, there is a way to get permission to fly into the area in special cases, for example to access the Vatican City Heliport.

enter image description here

The red area in the image above shows prohibited area 243. Marked with blue is the heliport.

There appears to be no restrictions for traffic above 3500 FT. There is even an airway (L5) almost directly above the Vatican City (black line on the map), which has a lower limit of FL95 (9500 FT) - which is a completely normal lower limit of an airway, Vatican City or not - so it seems IFR traffic will routinely fly directly above, albeit not a low levels.


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