One day to see the Vatican

Old Nov 26th, 2011, 06:24 PM
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One day to see the Vatican


My family of four will be in Rome for a few days starting Dec. 6th. Our itinerary is very tight, so we have only one day for the Vatican (unfortunately). We will be staying in an apartment at Campo dei Fiori.

The question is how should we plan this one day visit?
- how to get to the Vatican from the apartment?
- what places to see and in what order? Time allocation?
- should we need to buy entrance tickets in advance even though this is the off-peak season?

We don't have any special interests, we would just like to get an overview of the whole complex.

Many thanks in advance!

(desperate for advice)
Kevin11235 is offline  
Old Nov 26th, 2011, 06:35 PM
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Make reservations for the museum for early in the morning. See the highlights of the museum: Roman statuary, Raphael rooms, the Sistine Chapel. In between you will also be walking through other fabulous rooms such as the map hall.

Have lunch after the museum and then visit St. Peter.

Some walk to the Vatican from Campo de' Fiori. There may also be a bus that goes there directly. We stayed fairly close to Campo de' Fiori and took a direct bus to Termini and from there the metro to the Vatican.
Michael is offline  
Old Nov 26th, 2011, 07:37 PM
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Something to consider when planning your visit to the Vatican - December 8 is the Immaculate Conception and thus the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel will be closed that day.

The sights Michael has listed will be a good overview of the Vatican Museums for you, esp the Map Rooms and Sistine Chapel (don't be moved on to quickly by the guards, but do walk away from the entrance door and to the centre as you first go in, then look at the back wall of The Last Judgement before looking up and at the other walls - it's an impressive piece of artwork in itself and full of symbolism).

You can reserve tickets at a set time to visit the Vatican Museums via their website: with a booking fee in addition to the Euro15 pp ticket price. This will let you by-pass the general admission line, BUT - and this is just one of those things you have to decide for yourself - the queue for general admission is usually longer from 8am to 10am than it is from 11ish onward. And the irony is that sometimes the "skip the queue" tickets line is longer than the general admission (as was the case in January this year when I was last there). So, with that in mind, you have several options:
1. book tickets via the Vatican and go at scheduled time
2. go into St Peter's Basilica first thing (and even climb the dome if the weather is good) then go around to the Vatican Museums entrance (opposite side of the wall to St Peter's Square)
3. Queue up early for the Vatican Museums and take your time through there, ending at St Peter's Basilica in the afternoon.

Note for lunch: if you can avoid sitting down at any of the cafes around the Vatican, you'll save a fortune. There is a great pizza by the square place just off via di Porta Angelica (the road leading between the columns of St Peter's and along the wall to the Vatican Museums) on via della Grazie. You order what looks good, they heat it up, you grab a drink and stand outside munching on exceptional pizza. Cheapest thing you'll find at the Vatican!

From Campo de'Fiori, you can, as mentioned, walk to the Vatican (will take around 20mins) or you can walk out on to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and grab a green express Bus 40 or red and white Bus 64(opposite side of the road to the entrance to Campo de'Fiori) which are fairly frequent and will take around 7mins to drop off near the Vatican (get off after it cross the bridge, look left and you'll see St Peters). A note about these busses - they are often crowded and targetted by pickpockets. Unfortuneately this is because they are known tourist route busses so keep your belongings safe and stay aware while on the bus and at the bus stops. You'll be fine, just be aware.
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Old Nov 26th, 2011, 08:46 PM
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I arrived at the Vatican with no plan, was walking toward the piazza in front of St. Peter's when I was approached by a young woman gathering a group together for a tour. The price was reasonable and seemed to include the overview I was looking for so I joined the group. When a sufficient number were gathered, maybe 20 of us, not long, we proceeded to follow the American guide who bought all the tickets for us, no wait and off we went. It was a perfect solution for me, no language problem, she was professional and entertaining and I'd do it again.
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Old Nov 26th, 2011, 08:53 PM
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Some recent experiences: I reserved our Vatican entry time online and was able to bypass the use a different entrance, to the right of the one the general public uses.

If you can, slip out the exit to the right from the Sistine is supposed to be reserved for tour groups, but we used it and it saves a lot of walking. You wind up on the front portico of St. Peter's and can walk right in.

Bus #64 and #40, as madamtrashheap noted, go directly down Vittorio Emmanuele to the Vatican. We also were warned about pickpockets, but with reasonable caution (consider using a moneybelt), you won't have to worry.
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Old Nov 26th, 2011, 11:32 PM
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We did the Vatican in a day thing during our trip back in October. I would recommend the order of St. Peters in the morning and the Vatican Museums in the afternoon. No lines for either when we did it (and no need to pay extra for pre-booking).

Heed the advice on optimal days to visit if possible (Tue / Thus/ Fri).

We followed madamtrashheap's advice -- Pizza al taglio was excellent!

We walked from Piazza Navona -- about 20 minutes (similar for Campo dei Fiori).

More details from my TR:

Also good info from Ron In Rome:
indy_dad is offline  
Old Nov 27th, 2011, 12:36 AM
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The Pope is in the square on Wednesday mornings, meaning that you can't visit St. Peter's Basilica while he is there. So.... If you have a hankering to see the man in white, by all means go on Wednesday, if not.....
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Old Nov 27th, 2011, 01:37 AM
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Bus 64 is also known as The Pickpockpocket Express. There's no need to avoid catching it, but keep a very close eye on your belongings.

One day will be plenty if you plan it as Michael has suggested. When you have finished with the Sistene Chapel exit at the opposite end to the alter and you will find yourself right outside st. Peter's.
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Old Nov 27th, 2011, 06:27 AM
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You can book museum tickets only or tours on the Vatican website. The museum and St. Peter tour might be a good choice for a family. Not too long (3 hours).
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Old Nov 27th, 2011, 08:05 AM
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we found that after we'd spent all day in that ring of hell which is the Vatican museums, we were too exhausted really to enjoy St. Peter's.

i agree with indy-dad; start with St. Peters' [about 90 mins including a trip to the dome] and have a booking for the vatican museums for about 12 noon which will give you time for an early lunch.
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Old Nov 27th, 2011, 12:07 PM
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If you want to do the Scavi tour (highly recommended) you need to get tickets in advance. They may well already be gone - but it can;t hurt to try.

A full day is enough time to see the Vatican - including the museums, St Peters; the Treasury, walking up to the Dome and the Scavi tour (if you're lucky enough to get tickets.)
nytraveler is offline  
Old Nov 27th, 2011, 02:18 PM
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you need to be 14 or over to go on the Scavi tour - they are very strict about this and ask to see passports.
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Old Nov 27th, 2011, 03:08 PM
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Walk to Vatican - it's less than 10 minutes. Museum in AM and St. Peter's in PM is a good plan. Plan on the dome climb as your LAST thing. Otherwise , you'll never have the energy (or legs) to see and appreciate all St. Peters basilica has to offer.
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Old Nov 27th, 2011, 03:34 PM
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We started our day at the Vatican by taking the electric bus from Campo to the River around the Via della Concilizione (we didn't figure in Monday morning traffic), a very brisk walk from the river to the Scavi tour (9 a.m.), then straight to St. Peter's (an hour or so in the Basicila), to the cupola/dome (another hour-ish), lunch outside the Vatican, the museums/Sistine Chapel (we were out of the Chapel and back on the street by 5 p.m.). We then walked back to our apartment along the Via Vittorio Emanuelle with a stop along the way for a beer and to check email in a pub. Our apartment was on the Via del Corso.

If you can get into the Scavi tour I highly recommend it, but even if not there is plenty of time in a day to do St. Peter's/Vatican Museums. We did the Museum later in the day so that there was no wait in line. It is about a 15-20 minute walk from St. Peter's to the Museum entrance but later in the day there was no line, we walked right up to the ticket counter and into the museum.
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Old Nov 28th, 2011, 04:35 AM
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you will see that we are more or less evenly divided between those who suggest St. Peter's 1st, the Vatican museums 2nd, and vice versa.

I am of the former school for one main reason - you can book for the museums, but you can't for St. Peter's. every time I've been in the area, after about 10am the queues to get into St. Peter's [or rather through security to get in there] have been humungus. whereas if you turn up by about 9 am, you can just waltz in.

you can get round this by booking a scavi tour [IMHO better done before the museums as you could find yourselves lost in there with only 30 mins to go to your time for the scavi] which gives you entry into St peter's afterwards without having to go through security, or by taking the "group" door at the back of the sistine chapel, which leads you down some stairs to the front of the Basilica. However, the door isn't always open and if it isn't, you face a long walk back round the vatican walls and that queue.

THerefore, I would suggest starting with the Basilica [either just turning up or via a scavi tour] and booking the museums in the afternoon.

BTW, you can still enjoy the roof of st. Peter's without going all the way up the Dome. The lift /stairs take you to the roof area where you can wonder around, use the loos and/or the cafe. [yes, there is a cafe on the roof of st. Peter's]

you then go through another door which takes you into the cupola [where you get up close and personal with the mosaics that you can barely see from the floor below] and then via a series of ever narrower stairs, right to the viewing area at the top.

you don't have to go further than the roofs, which are very beautiful and interesting, and give you a view over Rome from behind the statues which overlook the piazza below.
annhig is offline  
Old Nov 28th, 2011, 11:08 AM
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I agree with annhig. At 8 am you'll walk right in to Saint Peter's but by 10 there will be a long line. And, after 1 pm there is virtually no line for the museum. I have also done the opposite and entered Saint Peter's via the tour group door from the Sistine Chapel however I do admit to feeling funny breaking the rule - I'm normally not a rule-breaker. But, it does save a long walk and for some of us of a certain age that shortcut is very helpful
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Old Nov 28th, 2011, 08:45 PM
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We walked to the Vatican from our hotel near the Pantheon but that was in May and the weather was good. I suppose the weather might be a factor in your decision of how to get to the Vatican.

Twice during our stay, we took a cab to the sight (Colosseum & the Borghese Gallery) in the morning thus "saving our feet" for the visit & a leisurely walk back to the hotel.
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Old Nov 28th, 2011, 10:46 PM
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Some great advice so far... I've lived on Via Candia, one block over from the Vatican Museums entrance for 3 years and have visited them 100+ times. I always see something new.

Since we ride the buses EVERYDAY, from the Campo Area, you can ride the 62 bus to passetto near St. Peter's Square. If you walk back to Largo Argentina or over to the Corso del Rinascimento, you can catch the 492 bus, which would take you closest to the Vatican Museum entrances. You might look at this link which has a map that shows ALL the bus stops around the Vatican and St. Peter's - and some great tips on maximizing your one day at the Vatican:

During the winter months, the Papal Audiences are not held in St. Peter's Square but in the 6900 seat auditorium behind St. Peter's Basilica. So the Basilica will be open on the Wednesday you are in town. Also, the age for the Scavi is "15" and over and yes, they do check. Unfortunately, at this late daye, I doubt you can get tickets.

The Pope will be headed to the Spanish Steps for a 16:00 placing of a wreath at the Column of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, so they traffic in the area will be crazy. Then he will ride the "Popemobile" back through the city to the Vatican (or at least that has been his pattern the last few years - huge trafffic jams!).

As mentioned, the Vatican Museums are closed on Decmber 8th, so expect larger crowds on the days before and after. If time is challenge, book a skip-the-line entrance through the Vatican... or use a tour. Whenever the museums are closed mid-week, they always seem to be busier. Good Luck!
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