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Vatican Museum or St Peters...must choose

Vatican Museum or St Peters...must choose

Old Jul 20th, 2010, 05:42 PM
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Vatican Museum or St Peters...must choose

We will be in Rome in August for 3 1/2 days so we are short on time to see all the places on our list of "must do". We've planned for 1 day to see Vatican City and then travel to the Baths of Caracalla. From what I've read on Fodors it will take hours to see the Vatican museum and St Peters and that we will be very tired from all the walking. If we had to choose to do one or the other, which would be the preferred site? Vatican museum or St Peters.

Also are the Baths of Caracalla worth our time for such a short visit?
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 06:02 PM
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You CAN do both.

The guides are correct - if you want to really see all the magnificent art in the Vatican museums it will take you hours.

For me the primary reason to visit the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel, so if you buzz through the rest of the museum straight to the S.C., then exit directly into St. Peter's you can get the best of both in a relatively short time.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 06:02 PM
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If you have to choose, I would skip the baths of Caracalla and spend the day seeing both St. Peters and the Vatican Museums. Both can be done in one day.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 06:05 PM
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And if I had to choose I'd pick St. Peter's over the Vatican Museums. My preference for a variety of reasons - you're likely to get varied opinions on that one.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 06:09 PM
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To see both does not have to take hours. You could do a combination of the Vatican Museums and St Peter's in half a day. (Many tour groups accomplish this every day.) It all depends on your interests

The Vatican Museums are indeed a series of museums, with specialized interest such as Egyptian art, Greco-Roman sculpture, Paintings, and so forth. You can choose which ones you want to visit. Since you don't seem to be convinced that you need to see the museums at all, it might be adequate for you to enter the museum and head directly to the Sistine Chapel. This route will take you through a series of galleries that will give you an idea of the artistic holdings and opulence of the place. You'll pass though highly decorted galleries of paintings and sculpture, the tapestry hall, the map gallery, and have a chance to visit the Rafael rooms, finally reaching the Sistine Chapel.

This route will take 1-2 hours, depending on the crowds and how long you linger at any particular point.

From the Sistine Chapel take the exit on the RIGHT marked for GROUPS. (DO NOT check any bags at the museum checkroom, nor get the audioguide, or you will have to return to the museum entrance rather than use this Group exit.)

This Group exit places you in a courtyard to the side of the entrance to St Peter's. By using this exit, you will have avoided a 10-minute walk back through the museum to the entrance, a 15-minute walk around the walls of the Vatican from the museum entrance to St Peter's, and the security line for St Peter's.

A visit to St Peter's may take as much or as little time as you like, but I'd expect an hour would be a good general estimate.

I've been to Rome about a dozen times and have still not visited the Baths of Caracalla—maybe next time.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 06:45 PM
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See them both, no question. There is so much more than the sistene chapel.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 07:00 PM
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With 3 1/2 days in Rome no reason not to do both. Regarding the Baths of Caracalla, I was there years ago while attending an opera there. I wouldn't carve time to go see them, so many more things to see in Rome!
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 07:50 PM
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I agree that you could do both if you limit your time at the museums and focus on main interest and if nothing else cut over to Sistine Chapel. As noted above, you can take whatever time you want to see the Basilica.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 08:00 PM
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I would skip the Vatican, which frankly nauseates me, except for the Sistene Chapel.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 08:58 PM
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<b>The Vatican Museums </b>constitute the biggest collection of art - mostly art (including sculpture etc) since AD 0, but there's some earlier stuff as well - under one roof anywhere outside St Petersburg. It really is impossible to be interested in any aspect of western art and not find something noteworthy in the Vatican. Some find the Sistine Chapel especially interesting: others one of the many other submuseums.

Personally, I've never seen the point of taking a guided tour of them: if you want to visit them, go online, see the range of subdivisions and select a couple. Though there's more emphasis in these museums on sacred art than in other great art galleries or museums, they really are just museums like any other. If you'd expect to spend serious time at the Louvre or New York's Met, the Vatican Museums are for you: if you'd prefer to avoid them - steer clear of the Vatican Museums as well.

<b>St Peter's</b> is, appropriately for a church dedicated to a fisherman, a completely different kettle of fish. Though it's a product of the High Renaissance, there's relatively little in it of huge artistic importance, though if you like over the top Baroque elaboration, you might enjoy it. Its real importance is that, in one way or another, it's been a focus of pilgrimage and the spritual centre of the world's biggest organised religion for the past 1700 years. The real interest in a visit is geting to grips with the impact it has on gazillions of people, and looking at how it projects power.

If you've got a Catholic background, you'll probably want to visit it anyway. My experience with most non-Catholics is that, unless they're specialists in the art of its period, they find St Peter's pretty underwhelming, BUT:
- being there when there are interesting services on can be interesting
- watching proper pilgrims can bring out their inner Papephobia
- the excavations under St Peter's (referred to on this forium, as the Scavi) are gobsmackingly fascinating.

Only you can judge. Though why you'reso determined to see the Baths of Caracalla is slightly beyond me
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 05:11 AM
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I'm not Catholic so the interest in the Vatican is the opulence and the architecture. And I can't imagine going to Rome and NOT seeing at least a bit of it. Not interested in seeing the Pope although, I'm sure for those of the Catholic faith this would be a highlight. I will definitely keep the directions that Ellenem gave so that we can shorten our walking.

The excavations under St Peter's does sound fascinating and that would be something my DH and I might want to see.

We visited the Louvre several years ago and I was overwhelmed with the amount of art that we saw and yet we barely scratched the surface. After a couple of hours of walking with the crowds, we called it a day. Totally exhausted us! So I'm not sure that we would spend hours at the Vatican museums.

The Baths of Caracalla looked interesting. We like ancient ruins but perhaps these are too "ruined" to enjoy? Depending on how the day goes we may just bag that and do something else.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 06:17 AM
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The Louvre, the Uffizi and the Vatican Museums have something in common. They are overwhelming and it is best to do some research ahead of time and find those things that appeal to you. Limit your visit by selecting the things you want to see. Otherwise you are worn out by the end.

I am a non-Catholic but wouldn't miss the Sistine Chapel and St. Peters. Each is magnificent in its own way. While, as Flanneruk says, there is relatively little of artistic importance in St. Peters, the building itself is remarkable. And Michelangelo's Pieta is an exquisite work of art. Hope you have a chance to see both.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 06:39 AM
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You can do it all. If you are afraid that you'll be too tired, skip the baths.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 08:15 AM
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You can do it all. Saying there is nothing of artistic significance in St. Peter's is hard to fathom. What about Michelangelo's Pieta?? It is an awesome feat of architecture, to put it lightly.

As said above, see the Museums and exit directly to St. Peter's. You can do this all in about 3 hours. I'd give the Baths a miss, myself.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 08:22 AM
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" Saying there is nothing of artistic significance in St. Peter's is hard to fathom"

It would be if anyone had said that.

But no-one has
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 09:32 AM
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IMHO the Baths are a minor sight compared ot either St Peter's (do get tickets for the Scavi tour) or the Vatican Museum. (You can do just the Sistine Chapel if you want but would bemissing some of the world's great art. I hae been 5 times and still not seen it all.)

Have yet to see the Baths - and not sure why I should - although I have seen Roman baths other places. I believe they used to - or perhaps still do - stage operas there - that might be interesting.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 09:43 AM
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I've been to Rome twice, for multiple days each time. I have been to St. Peter's and the Vatican Museums twice (not a Catholic, but an art lover) but I've never visited the Baths of Caracalla (although I did drive by and see it out the window). I am also a big fan of ancient Rome, but if I had to choose, I would do the St. Peter's and the VM instead of the Baths.

However, if you read up ahead of time, decide on the particular things you want to see in St. Peter's and the VM (as a previous poster suggested), and note their location (using maps in guidebooks and on the VM site), you could do all 3 in a day. I would probably make advance reservations for the VM so you don't have to stand in line, unless you go in the afternoon. If you don't take the guided tour but just see what you want on your own you can save time and energy. You could save more time and energy by taking a taxi to the Baths instead of trying to use public transportation.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 11:28 AM
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RE: St Peter's art-- "there's relatively little in it of huge artistic importance"
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 11:38 AM
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If you show up at the VM with a reservation AND just blitz through until you get to the end to see the Sistine Chapel... then take the group's entrance to St. Peter's, you would conceivably have more than enough time to go see the Baths of Caracalla. I didn't go to the Baths when I was in Rome last month but I'm positive you could show at VM early morning and be out of St. Peter's by lunchtime.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 01:55 PM
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I was in Rome in April and a friend of mine who lives in Rome had mentioned that PARTS (but not all) of the Baths of Caracalla were closed due to foundational instability and damage that had occurred the prior year during teh earthquake and had not yet reopened. I would make sure that site was completely open before going there rather than denying yourself an experience of either the Vatican Museums or St Peters.
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