Visiting Vatican City and its museums for the first time can seem a bit overwhelming, even for the most seasoned traveller. However, don’t worry, follow my simple pointers and you will come away with a truly memorable experience like no other.
#1 Where to start
My recommendation would be to do the museums first and then the Basilica and St. Peter’s square. If you are taking the metro, then Ottaviano and Cipro stations are similarly placed, I prefer Ottaviano as you don’t have 60 or more steps to climb on the route, and believe me, in the hot Roman sun, you can ‘ it ruffles your feathers a little and it’s just a little harder to get from.
Grab some water on the way too, although there are coffee shops and eateries inside, you don’t want to be delaying things further by having to find these places before seeing the goodies.
Also a great thing I learned is that cash is king! The museum does take cards, however, the machines are limited and can hold quite a lot of stuff, so be prepared!
#2 Allow some time
He said that the Vatican museums alone cover over 9 miles worth of art, sculptures and precious artefacts, which is quite mind blowing and certainly takes more than one trip to take it all in. The last thing you want to do is add to – chaos and you feel the need to go through it.
To get the most out of your trip I generally recommend around 5-6 hours which should give you plenty of time to see the main attractions and explore the glorious St. Peters too.
#3 Dress appropriately
As in every church in Rome, it is mandatory for ladies to cover their shoulders and knees. I have found that if you are wearing a sleeveless top, a sufficient scarf wrapped around the shoulders will do just fine. And for the guys, long pants are essential and the dress code will be enforced.
Keep in mind that there will be a fair amount of walking to do, so be kind to your feet and wear comfortable shoes. If you are thinking of taking a backpack with you it would be wise to think again.
It’s easy enough to fix the storage while you’re at it, but trust me; you can do without needing to pick up back.
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#4 Know when to go
Early morning is by far the most sensible time to visit. The official opening hours of the Museum are from 9am-6pm from Mon-Sat. If you get there at 8am, say, and there is already a sign, do not be alarmed, you will find that things will move quite quickly and once inside you should be able to glide through much easier.
In my experience, a sign that reaches the corner of Via Leone-IV will take about 30 minutes to reach the entrance of the museum. For some, a visit to the Holy See is a once in a lifetime experience and is the main reason to visit Italy, the Vatican allows a limited number of visitors to see the museums, including the Sistine chapel, from 8am with an official guide. , if you want to get the most out of your experience I can’t recommend this enough.
Of course you’ll also have the added benefit of an experienced guide, making sure you don’t miss a trick.
# 5 We get from the museums to San Pietro
Now, the Sistine chapel is usually the last stop in the museum, you have two options. Once you are done marveling at the works of Michelangelo, all in silence of course, there are two exits.
With the Last Judgment behind you, the door on your left will re-enter the museum, ending up where you started at the Viale Vaticano entrance, which is all big but then you have a walk of 15 a minute around the city walls to St. Peter’s square and the entrance of the basilica.
A good idea if you are wanting a cheeky update on the road; if not then the right door is for you! This is usually reserved for guided tours and will take you right through, into the basilica. Having been here many times, I remember 2 times where I was denied entry, so I would say ‘Go For It’!
Written by Kelly of Trips to Italy