Visiting the Vatican

Old Jan 4th, 2018, 05:59 AM
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Visiting the Vatican

I’ve been to Italy before, but next month I travel to Rome for the first time on a solo getaway. I’d like to see the Vatican, but am ignorant about the process. It seems that advance tickets are the way to go, but should I participate in a tour? Is it required? I tend to set my own pace and am uncertain if that will work when visiting this significant spot. Advice? Things you would do differently next time if you’ve already been?
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Old Jan 4th, 2018, 06:24 AM
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We had a wonderful visit to the Vatican this past fall. That being our 4th visit, it was the best. Two reasons: arriving very early (at the opening) and having a phenomenal guide.

We, too, often like to explore things on our own. But there are certain phenomenal sites, like the Vatican, for which a good guide is invaluable.

Enjoy Rome!
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Old Jan 4th, 2018, 06:25 AM
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I don't normally take tours, but I did last year when I visited the Vatican. I used Italy With Us, and it was fantastic. Great guide, good timing, and the price was right. I highly recommend them. I got so much more out of it than I would have had I done it on my own.
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Old Jan 4th, 2018, 06:47 AM
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There are various things to visit at the Vatican. Do you know which things you want to visit.

The Vatican Museums include the Sistine Chapel, and for this it's advisable to reserve in advance, to avoid waiting in a very long ticket queue. You can reserve online here:

You would normally want either the open tour (self-guided) or the guided tour for individuals. If you choose the open tour, you can rent an audio guide.

St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square are free to visit, and you can't reserve a time for the visit. You have to pass a security checkpoint to get in, and there is often a very long queue for that. There are some groups that sell priority entrance, but I have no direct experience of that. You have to pay €6 to go to the top of the cupola of the basilica. You can take an elevator half way for €2 extra. (It's 600-some steps if you don't take the elevator.)

You can also visit the Vatican Gardens, the Vatican Necropolis (where St. Peter is believed to be buried), and various other archaeological sites and collections.

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Old Jan 4th, 2018, 07:34 AM
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We took a tour offered by the Vatican, on their website. It was nice to be able to skip the line.

Best tip I had: visit the Museum and the Sistine Chapel first. Then you can go directly into St Peter's Basilica from a certain backdoor in the Chapel. You will not have to go outside and stand in line again for St Peter's.
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Old Jan 4th, 2018, 08:09 AM
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Just to be precise, skipping the line doesn't require booking a guided tour. The "open" (self-guided) tour on the Vatican website allows you to skip the line for a modest €16 (plus a €4 reservation fee).

The "back door" in the Sistine Chapel is supposed to be reserved for people on guided tours, but this is often not enforced.
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Old Jan 4th, 2018, 08:17 AM
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The inside of the Vatican Museums is often unpleasantly crowded. There are two ways to avoid the worst of the crowds. One is to visit when there is a night opening, which is only at the busiest season of the year. The other is to take an early entry tour or self-guided tour. There are several companies offering early entry tours. The Vatican Museums offers an early entry self-guided tour with breakfast in a Vatican courtyard.
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Old Jan 6th, 2018, 07:03 AM
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We generally prefer do-it-yourself sightseeing, but the long lines, due to security precautions, have made skipping lines our preference there. The posters above have made excellent suggestions. There are also many tours offered on the internet and the streets of Rome. Most are over-priced. The link provided by the posters above is for the official Vatican site. Two years ago, we did a blog of a European trip that included the following links for suggestions on the Vatican.



If interested, you can see the Pope’s schedule of Papal audiences on the following link:

Please note if you want to pre-book free tickets to the Wednesday Papal audience, the ticket source has shifted from the church mentioned in our blog post to another one:
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Old Jan 6th, 2018, 11:33 AM
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We did a tour of the museum/Sistine/St. Peters the day after seeing the kilometer long line to buy tickets. Realize that the Museum is quite extensive and full of great art but had no labels, leaving us dependent upon the narrative and selections of our guide. Also, the crowded inside is just like the outside line: long and dense and slow moving. We did not have an opportunity to go at night or very early.
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Old Jan 6th, 2018, 11:45 AM
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We bought museum tickets in advance to avoid the line.

Rick Steves offers free audio tours on his website, including one for the Vatican Museums. We weren't overly impressed with his Colosseum audio tour, but we enjoyed a couple of others when we were in Florence.

Lee Ann
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