If you’ve done the visit of St Peter’s Basilica, been up the dome & viewed Rome from on high, marvelled at Michaelangelo’s Pietà, and instagrammed the Swiss Guards and then decide you will take in the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel on the same day – DON’T! Seriously, don’t. Don’t even think about it. You will never take it all in and you will be well & truly knackered.
Firstly, the museums (yes, that’s plural), although within the Vatican City, are quite a long walk from St Peter’s. You also need to book online, in advance to guarantee entry at a prescribed time slot – and make sure you’ve either downloaded your booking details or have them on your phone/ipad. Don’t do it on the hoof – there are loads of tour guides around St Peter’s who will try & sell you tickets/make a booking, but if you get a bit organised and do it yourself, you know you have your confirmation. We visited in September – it was still quite busy & there were more than enough people wandering around, looking lost and clueless, but I can’t imagine the chaos in the height of summer! There are lots of online sites where you can make a booking – just make sure you do. Don’t forget your passport too, as you need proof of identity at the security check points.
Once actually in, you begin to realise the enormity of these museums. When you leave the entrance and security area, you come outside onto a huge courtyard around which are the museums.
The picture above shows “The Sphere Within Sphere”, also known as “Sfera con Sfera”, a series of sculptures created by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro depicting an enormous metal sphere with a cracked surface revealing an intricate interior with another cracked sphere inside. Don’t forget to give it a spin 😉
Once inside, if you don’t have a guide book, best advice is to just go for it, stopping at what takes your fancy. Unless you’re an academic or an art historian, I would defy anyone to take in every piece of art in every room. You should also probably aware that there are over 50 rooms & the Sistine Chapel is the last sala within the museum – and, sort of like IKEA, we never found a shortcut. It is overwhelming, but well worth it. The following pictures give you an idea of the staggering scale of the art and opulence on show…
Next word of warning, in case you’re not aware of this and your sole purpose for trekking through the Vatican Museums is to get to The Sistine Chapel. There is NO photography allowed, whatsoever – it’s not even worth trying because you get shouted at. Very loudly. Security is all over. And, you are herded in, cattle market style. I hated the whole experience and couldn’t wait to get out. It is difficult to take in the brilliance of what Michaelangelo did as you are jostled and pushed and you can’t just stand, look up and take it all in. A private tour is maybe the answer…
Don’t forget as well – it’s all closed on a Sunday. Opening hours are Monday – Saturday with the museum closing at 6pm. Tickets are only valid of day of purchase and are non-transferable. And, don’t forget that passport!