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lor41886 Jan 3rd, 2013 10:50 AM

Vatican Tour and Scavi Tour - suggestions?
Based on several suggestions from family and friends, we reserved a space on the Scavi tour for our upcoming trip to Rome (March 9 -12). Unfortunately, the time of our tour is 15:00 on the 9th (the day we arrive).

We are arriving in Rome early in the day (9AM), but we'd like to make an entire day out of the Vatican City. Our plan was to check in at our hotel (Hotel Giuliana) and then head over to the Vatican City. Unfortunately, the guided tours of the Vatican are only at 8:30, 10:30 and 13:30.

Clearly, we can't do any of those times (as the tours are 2 hours long). So my question is, 1) do we need a guided tour of the Vatican? Are there any other possibilities that are just as good (i.e., walking by ourselves, using an audioguide, etc.) and

2) Can I change my time with the Scavi tour? Has anyone ever tried to do that?

Any suggestions or insights are welcome. Thanks so much!

annhig Jan 3rd, 2013 10:59 AM

lor - by all means try to change your Scavi tour time, [if only because you don't want to miss it because the flight is delayed] but I'm not sure that i would try to combine it with the vatican museums.

why not? because the museums are huge, and you will be very tired by the time you've finished. try to do this on the day you arrive and frankly, i suspect that you'll wish you'd never heard of the vatican and the scavi tour. I would suggest taking it easy, arrive in good time for the scavi tour, [you need to get there at least 30 mins in advance to get through security and present yourselves to the Scavi office] then at the end of the tour, take the opportunity to walk around the Basilica [you can get in without going out and back through security] and if the queues not too bad, to climb the Dome.

if you end up getting there early enough, by all means tour st. peter's and do the Dome before the Scavi tour. but I would not try to do all of it on the day you arrive. you'll wish you hadn't!

lor41886 Jan 3rd, 2013 11:28 AM

ann - Thanks for the helpful suggestion! I just emailed Scavi to see if I could change the time. Hopefully that will work so that I won't be exhausted on day 1.

As I've never been to Rome before, I was thinking about also taking a guided tour (through the Vatican Museums) of the Sistine Chapel. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Hopefully, the Scavi tour will allow me to change my time to later in my trip so that I can spread things out a bit. Thanks again!

kybourbon Jan 3rd, 2013 11:28 AM

I think attempting to visit the museums, St. Peter's and the Scavi is too much for arrival day.

>>>Unfortunately, the guided tours of the Vatican are only at 8:30, 10:30 and 13:30.<<<

? I'm not sure how you would know that since the Vatican is only currently booking through March 2. The Vatican has tours at times other than what you listed (usually there is a 12:30 tour). You will have to wait until the bookings for March 9 (next week as you can only book 2 months in advance) to see what is actually available. Remember it's a 15-20 minute walk from the museums to the Scavi security area.

You can rent the audio guides which are about 7€. You can also download for free Rick Steves' audio guide and map on ITunes. There are also audio guides for St. Peter's.

If your flight arrives at 9, it will be at least 10 before you get your luggage and 11 before you get to your hotel. I don't think you would get to the Vatican before noon and you would need lunch by that time.

lor41886 Jan 3rd, 2013 11:42 AM

ky - Thanks for the information. I was was looking at the already scheduled tours for the Vatican Museums. For the month of February, Saturday tour times were 8:30, 10:30 and 13:30. It is possible that the ones for March 9th would be different, but I was guessing they would follow that same pattern.

I think your comments and ann's above have confirmed that I should try to reschedule the Scavi tour if possible or spread my itinerary over multiple days. Thanks!

kybourbon Jan 3rd, 2013 11:58 AM

I see some 12:30 tours along with other times (14:00)for some days in February. I think there will be more choices in March as your are getting closer to Easter.

If you haven't traveled to Europe before, I don't think you understand how jetlagged/foggy you will feel on arrival day. It's best to limit sightseeing to things that don't require much concentration (Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, etc.). If that's the only day you can work the museum and Basilica into your schedule, then don't expect to retain much.

flanneruk Jan 3rd, 2013 12:02 PM

What's this "guided Vatican tour"?

If it's a tour of the Vatican other than St Peter's, its underground excavations and the Vatican Museums (which include the Sistine Chapel) - and you really want to see its gardens etc - then you can't do that except on an arranged tour.

If it's a tour of the Museums and the Sistine Chapel, I'd personally very, very strongly suggest you fuggedaboutit. The museums are immense (roughly equivalent to the sum of all of London's best known museums and galleries, which means at least three times New York's total museum resources). A three hour tour is someone else's decision of what might interest you: by definition, bypassing 90% of what's there.

Anyone fantasising that it's possible to spend more than three hours in a museum profitably is delusional. Except is carefully designed modern places (and Oxford's Ashmolean is the only example of such design I know), no-one's brain can take in museums after a few hours. So editing is essential - and only you know what's likely to interest you (I'm fascinated by early Christian art: I'd pay serious money to avoid the modern religious junk you have to fight your way past on the way to the Sistine Chapel, for example).

Till recently, I'd have said get yourself a decent guide book, decide what you want to see in the Vatican museums and guide yourself.

But technology seems to be hitting at least part of Italy's major ecclesiastical artistic heritage. The tablet-based e-guides on hire last weekend at Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella were simply gobsmacking, and for the first time in my life I saw how electronics might finally replace paper as mediums for tourist guides.

Now Santa Croce and SMN are managed, respectively, by Franciscans and Dominicans, who've been centuries ahead of the Vatican's bureaucrats for - well, centuries. And unlike the bloody Vatican, they're committed to educating people. So it doesn't necessarily follow that their grasp of guide-writing implies the Vatican's emerged from its traditional role of incomprehensibly, in diabolical Latin and worse English, telling people what not to do.

But it'd be interesting to hear from any other contributors who might have used the Vatican museum's e-guides in the past few months. Who knows: maybe a real miracle's happened.

lor41886 Jan 3rd, 2013 12:11 PM

Thanks everyone! I guess I should clarify a few things. I will be arriving in Rome at 9AM, but I will be coming from Barcelona.

My full travel itinerary is: Barcelona Mar. 6-9, Rome Mar. 9-12, Prague, Mar. 13-17. So hopefully, the plane ride from Barcelona to Rome won't be nearly as taxing as the initial JFK - Barcelona flight. :)

The tour I was considering was the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

However, flanneruk, your insights are definitely giving me pause regarding that tour.

Again, all of the comments so far have been so helpful. I really appreciate it!

denisea Jan 3rd, 2013 01:18 PM

I can't recommend Walks of Italy Pristine Sistine tour highly enough. It covers the Sistine, the Vatican Museums and a short overview of St Peter's. Our guide was Stuart and he more than exceeded our exoectations. Easily money well spent, loved being in a small group (so it does cost more) and it was a trip highlight.

We enjoyed the Scavi tour, as well. Our assigned guide was good but not great. I am glad we went but and Stuart was impressed that we had been on that tour. No one else on our Pristine Sistine tour had even heard of it!

just27 Jan 3rd, 2013 10:58 PM

Second the recommendation for the Pristine Sistine tour:
It starts at 7:45 am and ours, last month, took four hours (advertised as 3.5 hours). Excellent.

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