Vatican City is a must see while in Rome (an added perk is that technically it’s another country, bonus for us country counters out there!) but although it is tiny, by both country and city standards, it’s easy to spend at least half a day in this amazing section of Rome.
Given that I hate waiting in line, and knowing that that’s exactly what would happen if I went on my own, I booked a half day, skip-the-line tour through Viator with the Enjoy Rome company. The three hour tour took us through the most important parts of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel, and through St. Peter’s Basilica. Usually I’m not one for museums, especially not a tour of one, but I figured this should be an exception.
It was easy enough to meet them at the office about 15 minutes ahead of time to check in. Or at least it would have been if I wasn’t hungover thanks to an impromptu pub crawl til 4am the night before that led to a misunderstanding that “transportation strike” meant the metro when apparantly it only referred to trains. (Highly do NOT recommend trying to walk to Vatican city from the far side of the city, 1.5 hours is NOT enough time, especially when it’s 30+ degrees out, and traffic is so congested that taxi fares run a little high.)
But anyway, important part is that I made it!
Our tour started in the Museums, and although we did skip the line it did seem like quicker access to the city than the main entrance. After going through airport-style security checks we spent approximately two hours wandering through the treasures of the Vatican Museums.
Two full hours and we barely saw anything! The place is enormous. And although I’m not an art lover, even I had a few favourites, including the bronze statue of Hercules, which having been struck by lightening, was considered to be bad luck and buried, only to be found perfectly intact hundreds of years later. (please note the leaf is a recent attachment due to a super modest pope)
Some amazing marble statues, including this famous one of the Greek Goddess Artemis (believe it or not, those funny things hanging from her dress are apparently testicles. Ew.)
But my favourite was the hallway of paintings. The walls had huge paintings of different parts of Italy and the ceiling was a collage of different artworks. It was incredible!
Finally we hit the highlight of the museums, the Sistine Chapel. Sadly no photos were allowed inside and although I debated sneaking one, the Vatican Police, yelling “SILENCIO” every 2 minutes were pretty intimidating. Honestly though, no pictures could do it justice so you will just have to trust me when I say in was unreal.
Finally, the highlight for me, was St. Peter’s Basilica, aka the biggest church in the world. And wow is it ever big! To give a little perspective to anyone who hasn’t been, these letters are 9 feet tall!
Like the museums, you could spend ages walking around the Basilica and still miss seeing things. However one thing you could not miss was the corpse of a pope encased in a glass coffin (there are actually two on display).
We spent an hour wandering around the busy Basilica before our tour finished, leaving us with the options of visiting the crypts below or climbing the Cupola for the famous panoramic view. I did both and although the crypts were neat the highlight of the day was the view from the top of the Basilica, the highest point in Rome.
However getting up there was a whole other issue. Those 551 stairs are pretty much hell, especially when you get higher up and they tilt on a weird angle. For 7 euro instead of 5 you can take the elevator up the first 200 steps but lets face it guys, those additional 2 euro can also buy gelato. I don’t know about you guys but in my world, gelato beats elevator.
After cursing myself for deciding to do this I finally reached the top and was awarded with the most amazing panoramic view of the city. Can you find the Coliseum?
The climb was absolutely worth the view, especially towards the end of the day when it’s not too busy.
And then, after an equally (if not more) terrifying descent down those stairs, you can use that 2 euro coin to buy some amazing gelato!