“When in Rome.”
It’s a sentence used by many. Whether as a dismissal for eating ”too much” pizza, devouring too much gelato (there is no such thing?) or when you wanna do something a little risky (or risque *wink wink*) and need an excuse for a lil’ encouragement.
It’s a sentence that, when actually in Rome, you say when you want to do *all* the things.
It was this, which lead me to Vatican City—well, that and the lure of visiting a new country, whilst already in one! I tried it once before, but bailed because the Pope had given a speech that day and as a result the queues were insane—and lol, I left England’s queues – I did NOT come to Italy for more of them. Especially when you only have a few days in Rome and there’s carbs to be had.
Which is why I did the smart yet ever-so-touristy-thing, and booked a tour.
To be honest, I’ve never really been a tour booker. It’s not that I have an issue with them, it’s more that I like the casual pace of wandering wherever my eyes lead me. But after visiting the Roman Colosseum and realising that those ever-so-touristy tours actually get you special access, the seed of ‘reconsideration’ had been planted. So, when I saw the queues in St Peter’s Square, the lure of the queue jump which came with a Vatican City tour, was all I needed to officially become a tour booker.
The day I visited the Vatican City, started as all good Italian days do. With ham, cheese and just a few “too many” cornetti for breakfast (is there anything better than a well-made buffet breakfast?—the answer is no. Unless there’s an omelette bar. I frickin’ love an omelette bar.)
After downing my daily dose of morning carbs, I hopped on the Metro and found myself on my way to Vatican City, my 12th country visited.
As I stood waiting for the tour to begin, tour group upon tour group began to descend onto the stairs, blurring the lines between who was with who. I swear, I’ve always chuckled to myself when tours wave flags to their group, but I’d never been more grateful for the group’s green sticker and flag which let me know who I was supposed to be with!
If you’re interested, the tour I booked was through a company called City Wonders. I booked it as it was one of the highest-rated tours and the company claimed to be able to get you in faster than the “Skip The Line” tickets that so many other touts promised, and into more areas due to their “Official Partner” status.
A claim that I would later find out was true, as I breezed through the security queues in just fifteen minutes. (A lead I later lost when one member of our group had issues getting through security!)
The tour guide, a flamboyantly Roman man with heaps of cultural knowledge, lead the way—stopping at each key location within the Vatican Museums to explain the history and cultural relevance.
I’m a firm believer that, whether for hobby or work, we should all find something we’re passionate about, and our guide (whose name I sadly forgot because I have the memory of a sieve) was the embodiment of that. He lit up as he spoke about the history of Rome, the Vatican City, and the layers of history the countries had.
At one point, he described Rome as Lasagne. A phrase which immediately captured my attention, because lol, lasagne. But as he began to explain how there were centuries of stories buried beneath our feet. I understood his reference—and as he spoke, it was hard not to become swept up by his passion.
The group walked through the Vatican Museums with purpose, stopping at each key point to take in the sights and stories.
We stopped at the ancient Greek/Roman sculptures where I couldn’t help but imagine how many statues we’d have today if people made them at the rate they take selfies (no shade—legit curious. I mean, would the thin eyebrows and trout pout pose of the early 00’s have made it into statue form?).
Our tour took us on a journey of Roman Baroque and High Renaissance art.
We walked through the Hall of Maps
The Gallery of the Candelabra and the Hall of Tapestries before venturing into the very reason we were there: to see the Sistine Chapel.
I know, I know. What a travel cliche.
But hey, these tourist highlights are highlights for a reason, right? Plus I’m a curious soul so I like to see the things and do the stuff.
The Sistine Chapel is described as being the artistic definition of the relationship between man, god and art. Something which, even as a non-religious person, I could appreciate. The thing I didn’t appreciate though, was how it was supposed to be a silent photo-free room, yet people were constantly talking and snapping photos. I don’t think there needs to be silence to appreciate art, but I do think that when rules are set out for preservation and respect purposes, they should be adhered to.
I stayed there for a few minutes taking everything in before leaving because I couldn’t deal with how busy it was and how pushy people were getting.
I mean, the Sistine Chapel was beautiful—but if it’s something that you’re *really* into, I suggest doing a morning or a private tour because it was so incredibly busy at the time I went, it kind of ruined the atmosphere. I’ve seen cattle less cramped!
After visiting the Sistine Chapel I left the Vatican City Museums to explore St Peter’s Basilica, but you’ll have to click here to read that!