When in Rome there is certainly a plethora of ancient wonders to behold both in and outdoors. It can be certainly overwhelming when trying to decide which among these world class displays one might wish to spend precious touring time. It cannot be overstated how much the city has to offer just in its open streets, but if one is wishing to see a master collection of the tale of the Eternal City, the Vatican Museums might just be the best conglomeration.
First of all there are some basic ideas one has to understand about the Vatican Museums in order to make the visit worthwhile. It is a humungous collection, it is said that spending even a moment in front of each individual piece in this museum would take one several years to see it all. Also unless it is low periods of the year (such as November or February) expect a lengthy line that extends out the door and around the block. For any high season visit simply go to the official page where you can pre-book tickets to enter at a designated sate and time. There will still be something of a line but nothing like the one for buying tickets on the spot. Many tourists are drawn in by guides in the street who offer no wait times and a guided tour of the museums. The quality of these personalized tours can vary and the price will be considerable, it depends on how much you really feel you need a guide, the museum is well marked and explained.
One of the top reasons that a Vatican Museum tour is recommended is that it provides the only access one can get into the Sistine Chapel and it finishes inside of St. Peter’s Basilica which means you can skip waiting out in St. Peter’s Square in the heat waiting to pass security which you will have done in the museum. Entrance hours are 9am till 6pm (last ticket sold at 4pm). The Museum is open Monday to Saturday regularly. The last Sunday of every month (unless it is a major holiday) there is free entrance to the museums between 9am and 12:30pm. A special ticket for a night tour is now offered on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m., May through October, but it needs to be reserved well in advance. Fees are 16 Euros for a standard entry, 8 Euros reduced fare for university students, clergy, religious and children from 6 to 18 years old. A 4 Euro ticket exists for primary, middle and high school groups.
There are many exhibitions arranged according to artistic style and time period. Starting with the earliest one can explore the Pio-Clementino wing which showcases classic antiquities. There are also halls dedicated to the Etruscans and Egyptians, civilizations which predate and influenced ancient Rome. All along the corridors and hallways one has merely to look around for fantastic frescoes and detailed artistry that adorns the palaces. The Raphael Rooms pay homage to Renaissance paintings, while the Gallery of Maps and the Gallery of Tapestries celebrate the icons of the age of exploration and significant historic moments preserved in parchment and fabric.
Update for summer 2014: The Vatican Museums will have special late hours openings every Friday from May 2nd until July 25th 2014 and then again from September 5th to October 31st 2014. 20 Fridays in all. Tickets will soon be available on the museum website. Hours will be from 1900 till 23.00. New cultural events and concerts entitled “Il Bello da Sentire” beginning at 20.30, lasting an hour at no extra cost and a current exposition on Indonesia will peak the interest of Many tourists.
Remember the best time to visit the museums is during the Italian lunch hours between 1 and 4pm. Crowds die down and one must enter the museum by 3pm in order to reach the Sistine Chapel before it closes.