Vatican Museums Rome

A visit to the Vatican

The Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Basilica is a highlight for visitors to Rome.  It’s an overwhelming feast of the senses, a visual spectacular that simply can’t be missed.  This however means that on a bad day, there will be just you and 25,000 others traipsing through the corridors and crowding around the exhibits. Do yourself a favour and pay the extra money for an early morning visit and beat the crowds. It was the best thing I did.

Vatican Museums Rome

Welcome to the Vatican Museums!

I went on an early morning skip the line tour with Italy With Us.  I had been a bit skeptical, but they really did deliver on their promise of a semi-private tour.  We met at their offices at 7.30am and made our way to the Vatican Museum to get in at 8.00am, one hour before the doors officially opened.  And then we were in!

Vatican Museums Rome

The Spiral Staircase, built by Giuseppe Momo in 1932, is one of the most photographed pieces in the Museum

Then for the next few hours we were taken at a gallop through the maze of corridors and multiple museums.  The vastness of the museums and sheer number of artworks on display was genuinely overwhelming.  As the day wore on, it quickly became busier and more crowded with people, the temperature rising, and as we rushed from room to room, sweat trickled between my shoulders.

Vatican Museums Rome

First visitors of the day to the Gallery of Maps

Yet, despite the heat and the crowds, it is truly magnificent and unbelievably beautiful.  There is an incredible array of riches and beauty on display.  Reaching the Sistine Chapel I was surprised by not only how small it was, but how bright and vibrant the colours were.  Even though I was surrounded by people, standing in the chapel and looking up at the famous ceilings, and painted walls, it was a very special moment.

As we walked through the Vatican museums, coming across artworks that I had studied at school was a genuine thrill.  Bernini’s sculptures, Michelangelo’s frescoes, the Gallery of Maps and the Hall of Tapestries were all stunning.  One of my favourites, Raphael’s School of Athens, did not disappoint and I loved the opportunity to view this with my own eyes.

Vatican Museums Rome

Raphael’s The School of Athens

However for me nothing topped the satisfaction of finally seeing Michelangelo’s La Pieta in St Peter’s Basilica.  This has been one of my all time favourite pieces of art since I studied it at school.  It is spectacular.

Actually all of St Peter’s was amazing.  If I thought that the Sistine Chapel was small, I was blown away by the scale of St Peter’s.  It is huge, vast, and beautiful.

After a few hours I emerged, exhausted and sweaty, back into the bright sunshine of St Peter’s square on a hot Rome summer’s day.  I lingered for a while, walking around the perimeter and looking back towards the Basilica, marvelling at the riches and beauty I had seen.  What a day it had been, a highlight of my time in Rome.

Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums Rome

The semi-private tour gave us access to areas closed to the rest of the public

Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums Rome

Beautiful bright ceilings, which could have been painted yesterday

Vatican Museums Rome

The statues on the roof are each at least twice the size of a person, which gives you some sense of scale

Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums Rome

You have to feel for the Swiss Guards, it was 36 degrees while they were dressed up in their finery

Vatican Museums Rome

St Peter’s Square

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