A thoroughly competent, numbingly thorough guide to life and work on the 108.7 acres ruled over by the Pope. Editor-translator-freelancer Bull is also a Vatican-watcher of long standing and a layman with many high clerical connections (which may explain the absence of juicy anecdotes). Serious tourists, Catholic or otherwise, will find vast stores of information here about the geography, bureaucracy, and recent history of the Vatican. They'll learn about the endless architectural innovations (from Gregory XIII's Tower of the Winds to the swimming pool that John Paul II installed at Castel Gandolfo); about diplomatic tradition (ambassadors to the Holy See can't be divorced or have previously divorced spouses); papal etiquette (which required Queen Elizabeth to wear a black dress on her state visit); the structure of the curia (once compared to General Motors, but anachronistically rigid and reactionary). Also: the Vatican museums (250 employees and a closed-circuit TV security system), newspaper (L'Osservatore Romano), radio station, railroad (seldom used). Bull highlights a few leading Vatican figures (apart from the Pope), such as the gifted Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli; lists all the prefects and secretaries of the various Sacred Congregations; tells you everything you need to know about the Swiss Guards, etc. He's got a fluent style and boundless enthusiasm, but this mildly pious Baedeker is too detailed and too dutiful to hold our interest very long.