The Vatican Museum houses some absolutely amazing pieces of art, pieces that we all have learned about in art classes growing up. As a student in a Catholic school all my life, I feel like I learned more about the Vatican and the Museum than most people probably did! But either way, we all learn about the famous Sistine Chapel and we all want to marvel at it.
The Sistine Chapel is glorious. But there are many other famous works of art including many of Raphael's works; The School of Athens, La Disputa and The Liberation of St. Peter. I was also surprised to find a section of more modern artists' works...many who are very famous! There are also many gorgeous tapestries throughout. And the ceilings, let's not forget all of the intricate and shiny ceilings throughout. Get ready to have some neck cramps!
The Museum is lavish and over the top. Formerly the papal palaces, the museum definitely has a feel of the opulence that once was. It can be exhausting and thrilling if you are an art lover. But if you aren't a big art buff, here are some tips to help you survive this massive museum!
My Tips for Surviving the Vatican Museum
1. Have an idea about what you want to see
I would not advise you to just waltz into the Vatican Museum only knowing that you are there to see the Sistine Chapel. There are so many marvelous works of art housed here. So take so time before your trip or on your flight over to do some reading about the artwork. I recommend a guide book, such as Rick Steves' or even just take a gander on the web! But having an appreciation for the works before you enter is always a good idea. Or else they all look the same!
2. Choose a time
Another one of those 'do you not know what the internet is' moments. Book your tickets in advance. When you do this, yes you have to chose your entry time. And yes, you have to be there at that time! (Trust me, I missed our time and lost out on my tickets!) But by doing this, you skip a portion of the line and if you choose an early morning time or late afternoon time during the weekdays, you may not be shoulder to shoulder with everyone else inside the museum. We chose the 2:30pm time slot on a Saturday, which I believe is the last entry and while there were still people inside, it wasn't horrible like some stories I have heard!
3. Have a Map
Or an audioguide. Get a feel for the layout before you enter...this goes along with knowing about the works. The museum is huge I tell ya! You will want to know which rooms are where. Although there are signs, you can get excited in the commotion and wind up in the wrong spot.
4. Take a Break in the Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel has to be the most amazing place that you can take a break in any museum. The guards make sure everyone stays silent and no one is allowed to take pictures. So what you have is a room full of quiet people and no cameras in the way. Just everyone sitting in awe of what could possibly be the greatest work of art by any one person. This room is incredible. Have a guide (Rick Steves again for the win) or some sort of information on what each of the sections of the ceiling represents. And the Last Judgement wall is pretty intense. It's is good to have an understanding of who all of the characters are upon the wall. Best break spot in the art world! (and unfortunately, I don't have a photo....I'm not a rule breaker!)
5. Don't Schedule other major sites on the day of your tour
My suggestion is to not do St. Peter's and the Vatican in one day. Or with any other site. It is a lot of walking and a lot of art. It can exhaust you if you are not prepared! Unfortunately, we were forced to take our tour immediately after having seen the Colosseum. While we were up for the challenge, it lessened the experience. We love to take our time and this was not entirely possible for us.
|The School of Athens, Raphael|
To visit the Vatican, where the Pope resides and runs the Church, is a honor and a privilege. One that I feel so blessed to have had! While the Museum itself can be overwhelming, these tips can help ease the stress and help you enjoy your time while visiting!
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Have you been to the Vatican Museum? Do you have any other tips that I missed?