Visiting the Vatican Museums in 2018 and Surviving!

Visiting the Vatican Museums in 2018 and Surviving!
10 June 2016 0 Comment

The crowds are bigger and the lines are longer in Rome. Let Perfect Traveller help you avoid the drama of entering the Vatican Museums?

Ah yes, the Vatican Museums. You know the biggest collection of many of the most important artworks and artifacts anywhere in the world. Add to the museum proper, the irresistible attraction of Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel (and by the way, when you finally make it into that chapel do look at the wall frescoes that were completed before Michelangelo’s masterpiece, by such important artists as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Roselli, Piero di Cosimo, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Bartolomeo della Gatta and Luca Signorelli) and the Raphael rooms, not to mention old favourites like the Apollo Belvedere, Lacoon and his Sons, the Belvedere Torso (a personal favourite) and enough Papal flotsam and jetsam filling every nook and cranny, to keep the most avid art and history enthusiast in a state of ecstasy for a lifetime, and what you have is big, very big! I kid you not; the Vatican museums are over 9 miles (14,5 kilometers) long, and it is said that if you spent only one minute admiring each painting it would take you four years to complete the circuit! And that’s just the paintings in the collection.

So why is this great museum so completely indifferent to the needs and good management of all that come to visit, and visit we do in our millions every year? The answer must be ‘because they can’, knowing that like lemmings running blindly to the cliff edge, we will continue to come. Each year to my memory, the price of entry goes up without a by your leave. As Elvis pointed out, every year the number of visitors increases as well, which means longer lines waiting to get in. The Vatican Museums has introduced a system of pre-booking of sorts, which you can check out via the link below but it needs work and the system needs to become obligatory to eliminate the unacceptable, in any weather, waiting in long lines outside. Such a system of pre-booking has been introduced at the Borghese Gallery, the Colosseum, the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery, to name some obvious examples in Italy, which works well and makes a visit to these museums and historical sites more enjoyable and less stressful. The Vatican talks about it, less these days, does nothing about it, and still increases the entrance fee with such precision and speed as to make me wonder, do they really care?

Once inside it doesn’t get any better or easier, as the crowds are so vast and thick that by the time you reach the Gallery of Maps, you are shuffling at a snails pace, trying hard to pause and enjoy a moment in front of some piece or another, which at times is almost impossible. As for the ridiculous performance of the guards inside the Sistine Chapel that take great delight yelling in their best but often wanting operatic voices, QUIET!!!!!!! They make more noise by far than the visitors inside the chapel, and are just another example of the absurd hoops we all have to go through to visit this place. A sardine in a can is a good description of how I felt when I last visited these museums.

So how do you get around the crowds? Well, it helps to visit between December and February of course when tourism is at a low ebb, but for many that is not an option.  Standing outside in the summer heat for what can be hours is not a pleasant way to spend any sort of time when on vacation either. My advice is quite simply to arrive at the Vatican Museums around 1.00pm, when many have battled the worst of the crowds and are now leaving on mass and thinking of lunch! There will always be people inside, but often at this hour you can walk straight in. Another piece of advice is to consider hiring the museums own CDrom audio guide which is surprisingly good and at least you are free of being part of a group, without having to keep up with anybody, as you control the tempo of your tour! There are many websites ‘yelling’ at you to book in advance, but I would research this very carefully as they can be expensive and can be very vague about where to meet to avoid the lines? By visiting the Vatican Museums Official Website, you can at least avail yourself to the exact opening hours and on what days, as you prepare yourself as best as you can to take on this monster of a museum. One great recent initiative and it’s back in 2012 is visiting the museums at night? Every Friday night, from May 4 through to July 13 (this should be every Friday period!) you can book to enter the museums from 7.00pm – 11.00pm (last entry is at 9.30pm), and how wonderful is that. To have the place almost to yourself – bliss! Check out the Vatican’s own booking online site for Night Opening’s for 2016.

I wonder how many photos you will squeeze off in the Sistine, when you know you’re not supposed to. QUIET please!!!!!!!!!!

The 2018 entrance fee to the Vatican Museums is € 17.00 (without online booking) per person. There are no reductions for non EEC citizens.

Visit the Official Vatican Museum Website and discover which tickets are available for you to skip the lines.

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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