How about visiting the Vatican Museums with no crowds before the official opening time? Read on to know how I managed to be the very first one to access the museum…

Rome-vatican-museums-pinterest

Whilst in Rome last week, I had the chance of visiting the Vatican Museums with no crowds. Yep, you read that right, no crowds! And no, I’m not talking about using a secret entrance, but rather of a very special tour organized by a company called The Roman Guy, who invited me to try their Early Access Vatican Gold Tour.

I must admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of guided tours, but the Vatican is one of those places where having a guide really made the whole experience thoroughly memorable. 

Why you should consider this Vatican tour

At 7:15am I met Raffa, our guide, outside the Vatican Museums’ main entrance. It was just me and a lovely family from New York. It didn’t feel at all like being in one of those standard guided tours, but rather like hanging out with a bunch of friends, I loved it.

The Vatican Museums officially open at 9:00am and by the time we entered at 7:30am there was already quite a big crowd behind us. No need to tell you how privileged and excited I felt when the guard opened the door and I was the very first to be let inside!

Rome-vatican-museums

Peaks of 30,000 people enter the Vatican Museums daily and I can only imagine the horror of being stuck in endless queues and long waiting times. Having the chance of walking around all that beauty in total peace was priceless!

Raffa was super fun and shared lots of information and anecdotes on the stunning artworks around us that I probably wouldn’t know now if I visited the Vatican on my own. For example, did you know that Michelangelo wanted nothing to do with the making of the Sistine Chapel, since he was primarily a sculptor and had no experience whatsoever with frescoes? Yep, but the poor guy was forced to accept it and spent four years perched on scaffolding, with paint dripping down his face, leaving him almost blind. I was so fascinating by this and many other stories shared by Raffa that now I’m looking for a good book on Michelangelo’s life!

What I saw during the tour

The Roman Guy’s “Early Access Vatican Gold Tour” begins in the stunning Candelabra Gallery of the Vatican Museums, with a spectacular exhibition of marbles and sculptures. There’s such a variety of beautiful art pieces in there that will literally make your head spin!

Rome-vatican-museums

We then got into the Gallery of Tapestries , with an extraordinary selection of textile treasures on display under a magnificent ceiling that looks like a 3D design (but it’s actually painted). Look out for the tapestry called “Resurrection of Christ”, where Jesus seems to follow you with his eyes as you walk from left to right – such an incredible artistic illusion!

Rome-vatican-museums-gallery-of-tapestries

From there, Raffa showed us the impressive Gallery of Maps, my personal favorite. It contains 40 beautifully-illustrated geographical maps representing Italy and Italian regions in the 16th century. The hall embraces you with a vibrant palette of greens and blues and your eyes will be drawn to the fantastic details depicted on the maps, like little tents, boats, waves and sea creatures. I would have stayed in there for hours!

Rome-vatican-museums-gallery-of-mapsNext stop was the Sistine Chapel, one of the greatest art treasures in the world, home to Michelangelo’s famous ceiling frescoes and Last Judgment. I don’t have photos to show you because taking pictures in the Sistine Chapel is strictly forbidden (you can photograph the rest of the Vatican Museums, though),  and although I was a little bit disappointed at first, I now believe it is a good thing. This way, you can totally enjoy these masterpieces with no distractions nor the urge to take that perfect picture. It’s just you and Michelangelo’s genius.

We spent a good 20 minutes in the chapel with our noses in the air to admire all the magnificent scenes and figures depicted by Michelangelo and when the room started to fill up, we made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica. This is the oldest and largest church in the world. It took 120 years to build it and its spectacular interiors contain three of Italy’s most celebrated masterpieces: Michelangelo’s Pietà, his incredible dome, and Bernini’s famous baldachin.

Rome-vatican

Bonus: climb up the St. Peter’s Dome

After saying goodbye to Raffa and my tour companions, I decided to climb up the St. Peter’s dome, as I was curious to see what the view looks like from the tallest dome in the world (136 mt. high).

You can walk 551 steps to the top or take a lift and then walk the last 320 steps (guess what I chose?!). Either way, it’s quite a steep climb, with very narrow corridors at times, but you’ll be rewarded with the most amazing views over Rome and St. Peter’s Square.

Rome-st-peter-square

Before reaching the top terrace, it is possible to take a walk inside the dome through the circular gallery that surrounds it, thus getting a unique perspective over St Peter’s interiors.

USEFUL TIPS

  • The meeting time for this tour is 7:10 am but you’ll be waiting for about 20 minutes for the doors to open; during this time the guide will anticipate some of the things you’ll be seeing inside and share some interesting facts about the Vatican
  • If you decide to climb up St Peter’s dome after the tour like I did, remember that you do not need to join the queue at the security gate, you can go straight to the dome entrance…super handy!
  • Watch Dr. Elizabeth Lev’s fascinating Ted Talk on the unheard story of the Sistine Chapel for a sneak peak into what you’ll see when you’ll walk into this magical place
  • If you are looking for a more detailed itinerary, The Roman Guy offers several types of tours in the Vatican and in Rome more in general, you can check out their website for further details

I totally recommend exploring the Vatican with this tour. Ok, you don’t get to see every single gallery of the Vatican Museums, but hey, it covers all major highlights and you don’t have to rush through hordes of tourists – I mean, I had the Sistine Chapel almost all to myself for 20 minutes! If you’d like to check out their tours, here’s a discount code for you:

The-roman-guy-tours

Use MYITALIANDIARIES5 at check out to get 5% off on all their small group tours.

 

Have you visited the Vatican? What was your experience? 

Until then,

Disclaimer: I believe in full transparency when it comes to writing about products and services. I was invited by The Roman Guy to try their “Early Access Vatican Gold Tour”, but my views of the experience stay independent from that invitation. I would never recommend something that I wouldn’t willingly pay for myself.

Tags: , ,

17 Comments

Sarah 28 March 2019 at 14:56

It’s amazing that you had the whole museum to yourself for at least 20 minutes! I mean, who wouldn’t want to experience one of the busiest attractions and have it all to themselves?

Such a great tour! I will check The Roman Guy if I have to visit Rome in the future 🙂

Suzy 28 March 2019 at 15:55

This is such a great piece of travel advice! I have always wanted to visit the Vatican Museum but the crowds put me off. I love the idea of an early morning tour to truly experience the wonders without so many people.

    Val 29 March 2019 at 11:45

    Being the very first one to walk into the museums when the line behind you is getting longer and longer and having so much beauty all to yourself is priceless!

Rosemary 29 March 2019 at 16:18

What a fascinating experience and privilege to see the Vatican with no tourists. I’ve been once before and I really did not enjoy the experience. It was beautiful and stunning, but the tourists and the Summer heat made it unbearable. Interesting facts about Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. It really does help to go with a guide. Will definitively look for a tour with the Roman Guy on my next Italian tour. Stunning shots from the Dome!

    Val 30 March 2019 at 11:49

    I can totally imagine Rosemary, heat and crowds are not a great combination, right? And yes, having a super knowledgeable guide with you maes a great difference to the overall experience.

Ann 30 March 2019 at 09:17

I did the tour and climbed the St. Peter’s Dome aswell, what an amazing day that was. Rome is one of those cities that you never grow tired of, and I would really like to go back 🙂

    Val 1 April 2019 at 11:42

    I loved every minute of it!

Maggie 5 April 2019 at 01:50

What a great experience! When I visited the Vatican, it wasn’t packed, but it definitely wasn’t empty haha. I can’t imagine getting to wander around without any other tourists! This is such a great tour to know about, thanks!

    Val 6 April 2019 at 11:47

    Thank you Maggie, glad you find it useful!

Martha 20 June 2019 at 17:01

One of the reasons I’ve avoided museums in Rome and the Vatican is because of the crowds. It’s great to know that there is an option where I can truly soak up the art and history around me. I’d be interested in knowing what other attractions/museums you can visit before it’s open to the public!

Albína Mrázová 21 June 2019 at 09:42

I always dreamt about visiting museums in the Vatican but I never thought it could be without crowds. I’m so impressed by this article! This is a super useful tip and I’ll make sure to make a best of it once I’m visiting the place!

    Val 21 June 2019 at 11:42

    Thanks so much Albina!

Katy 21 June 2019 at 13:40

Such a helpful post! The Vatican is sooooo pretty x

Jean 21 June 2019 at 13:41

Wow, what an amazing way to see the Vatican museum. I couldn’t imagine being in line with 30k other people day!

    Val 25 June 2019 at 16:00

    Lines are truly a nightmare, especially in the summer heat!

Anna Schaeffer 23 June 2019 at 16:26

One, I absolutely love your logo. Two, it looks like you had a beautiful trip! The tour looks incredible. I would LOVE to tour the Vatican one day.

    Val 25 June 2019 at 15:59

    Thanks so much Anna!And yes, the tour was really amazing, I totally recommend it 😀

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I'm Valentina, an Italian blogger with a huge passion for my country, its culture and traditions. My Italian Diaries is the online space where I share my expert knowledge of itineraries, activities and off-the-beaten path places to help you experience the best of Italy like a local.

READ MY STORY

Signing

CONNECT WITH ME


Shabby-Sheep-Design-discount
 

TOURS IN ROME PROMO CODE: MYITALIANDIARIES5

Subscribe

My Italian Diaries Newsletter

* indicates required

RECENTPOPULARTAG