Thursday, September 19, 2013

ET 3.02 - Vatican City

Actual date of this event: 6 September

The first time Luke visited Rome, he was unable to make it to Vatican City. He was told that it would take a whole day which he did not have time for. So, we dedicated one of our 3.5 days in Rome to the tiny country.
For those of you unaware, Vatican City is its own country. It is a tiny little area in Rome... if you Google Maps search Rome and start zooming in, you will see a little area to the west side of the river outlined in grey. That is Vatican City, the least liked country in Europe.... according to a poll... its a funny poll... you should take a look. Anyway, prior to leaving London, I bought us tickets in advance to enter the Vatican Museum. Again, I had done quite a bit of research and all signs pointed to "yes, visit the museum".


It was not worth it.

In my opinion, of course.

But this is also coming from the person who chose not to go into The Louvre to see da Vinci's Mona Lisa, and also chose not to go into Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo's David. I am not an art person, and I especially am not a fan of being pushed and shoved into an extremely crowded room where I can't even enjoy what I am supposed to be looking at. The whole experience reminded me of my visit to the Palace of Versailles, except more expensive. Well, I will be fair, the experience wasn't really really crowded until the important part - the Sistine Chapel. Aside from the museum being a waste of money (again, in my opinion), I enjoyed everything else we did in Vatican City.
According to the metro signs, the stop to get off for the museum is Ottaviano, but you can also get off at Cipra. The entrance to the museum is on the north wall of Vatican City. If you get off at Ottaviano, be prepared to be bothered by every single person along the way trying to get you to buy their tickets and their tours for Vatican City. If you already have tickets, you can ignore these folks which is what we did. We even had one person begin with, "Excuse, I know you have been bothered by everyone, but do you need tickets?" Really, guy? Really? If you get off at Cipra, you may or may not be hassled, but it's only one stop more, so its worth a try.

If you are not dressed appropriately upon entering the museum, you will be told that later on in the museum you will need to cover up. By dressed appropriately, I mean no short shorts and no bare shoulders for women. I saw plenty of women with skirts that were just barely above the knee and that was not a problem. To be safe, bring a scarf. For guys, shorts were not a problem, but I assume short shorts are not okay ever and tank tops are also inappropriate. You don't need to wear your Sunday best or be covered from head to toe. Just be respectful that you are in a Holy place and use common sense, which I realize not everyone has.
When entering the museum, you must go through security in which they are looking for weapons. Signs said no food but we had water and food in our backpacks, and it was fine. I believe an audio guide is free in the museum, but Luke and I chose not to get one. Maybe this would have made our experience better? Maybe not? But it s a very very long walk throughout the museum and there are very few places to sit for a rest... actually, I can't remember any place to sit the whole time. The museum consists of old stuff...
lots of people...
and lots of painted ceilings...

And finally at the very end you arrive at the Sistine Chapel. This is where you are told to 1. ) dress appropriately, 2.) to be silent and 3.) no photography at all. Luke and I were LITERALLY the only ones who followed the rules. I tied my scarf around my waist since I had on shorts, and when I entered, I saw shoulders and shorts on very noisy people who were taking pictures as I was being pushed through the room. Frustrating. Maybe I was in a sour mood from the long hallways of art. Maybe I was mad that people were being disrespectful. Maybe I was irritated that I paid all that money, and I felt like I was being herded through. I don't know, but the experience was not a very good one.

If you had a better experience, please please please share it with me! I would love to know that someone enjoyed their visit to the Vatican Museum.

After a frustrating 1.5 hours in the museum and seeing the Sistine Chapel, we needed a break, so we ate our sandwiches on the ground of a hallway. Don't worry, it was the hallway by the cafeteria not one of them with art. Then we began our search for how to get to St. Peter's Basilica. My research told me that we would be able to "skip the line" into the church from the museum. In the process, we found a small museum with a bunch of massive carriages. The wheels were taller than me! Crazy!
Finally we asked an employee how to get to St. Peter's Basilica.


Things just weren't going the way the googletrons said they would. Argh! Our irritation went even higher when we found out we had to leave Vatican City and walk back around the wall almost to the very east entrance. It was hot and we were trying to stay in as much shade as possible... after making this map below, I discovered this was an extra 0.5mi of walking.

Once we entered into Piazza San Pietro, it was a sigh of relief. It wasn't too crowded, and the semi-circular structure around the square is really pretty. Unfortunately, one side of it was covered in that pesky scaffolding.

I noticed the entrance into the Basilica on the right, so we headed that way to get in line to enter. We had to go through security again which proves that entering from the museum would make much more sense since we had already done the security check. After security, we went through what I will call a "clothes check". If you are dressed appropriately, you are free to enter, if not, they pull you to the side where you can cover yourself up. If you have nothing to cover yourself up with, then they tell you must you leave. Trust me, I saw a few turned away and one girl with shorts five inches above her knee walking away because she they wouldn't let her enter.
St. Peter's Basilica is very open inside, and it was not very crowded. Or maybe it seemed that way after the fiasco in the Sistine Chapel. People were actually being respectful. Anyway, it is a big church but according to the podcast I listened to, the statues are different sizes to make it seem like the church is bigger than it is.

Up near the alter, around one of the columns on the left, you can go down some stairs. This takes you to an underground area of tombs of former Popes. (no photography allowed) And when you leave, the ticket office to climb the Cupola (the dome) is right in front of you.

I had already made up my mind that I wanted to go to the top of the Cupola. It was 7 euros to take the elevator to the first floor and walk the rest of the way up, or 5 euro to take the stairs the whole way (meaning 551 steps). Amazingly, we chose to fork over the extra 2 euro to be lazy :-) Luckily, I did not need to be "appropriately dressed" for the climb or else I would have been really hot! The elevator took us to the roof of the church where we would then start the climb on the stairs.

Before the climb, we got to go inside on a platform that went around the walls of the dome. It overlooked the alter but a fence made it really difficult to take pictures.

The stairway is very narrow and the walls start to slant as you get higher up the dome. This is not something I recommend for a person with claustrophobia. At one point, we had to walk with our bodies tilted sideways because the wall was severely slanted and we couldn't walk straight up and down. There was a spiral stairway and a zigzag stairway too. And on top of all of that, there are 320 steps to climb. Thankfully, there were a few windows letting in some air.

I promise, in this next picture, that I am standing straight up and down. The walls were that tilted!
Once we got to the top, it was so nice to breath the fresh air! But it was so crowded! This time, I was not as irritated about how crowded it was - I guess I was just happy to be at the top. The views were great, but I didn't get enjoy them like I wanted to as there were so many people. We did our best making our way around the circle snapping pictures. I was shocked when I came back around to the side we started on just 5 minutes later. The circumference (yeah math teacher!) was really small!

We made our way back down the stairs which were a separate set of stairs than going up. Oh my, I can't even imagine what it would be like if it was the same set of stairs! Ahhh!! Along the way, we stopped on the roof again where there are bathrooms and a water fountain. Continuing on, the bottom of the stairs took us right back into the basilica, so I had to cover up again before entering. No problem though :-)

We were pretty much done with Vatican City after about 4 hours. But we couldn't leave without taking a few pictures of the Vatican guards.

How would I do this better?
I would pass on visiting the Vatican Museum. If I was to do the museum again though, I would visit the basilica first, climb the cupola second, and visit the museum later in the day with hopes that it would be less crowded and go straight to the Sistine Chapel to make sure you see it before closing time, then wander through the other areas.
If you have visited, what was your experience of the Vatican Museum like?

Other posts on Rome: Tips & Tricks, General Itinerary, Roman Ruins

The Statue of Liberty can fit inside St. Peter's Basilica under the dome. Wow!

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like I had a much better experience than you when visiting Vatican city. Although if I remember correctly we split it. One morning we did the Basilica and then another morning we did the Sistine Chapel. We did both first thing in the morning and neither one was crowded. I was on a Trafalgar tour and they usually let them in first if you arrive on time. That is why I like the tours so much because you get to go in first and cut lines. Although people do seem to linger in the chapel and yes, people were being disrespectful by taking flash pictures and talking.

    P.S. I'm not an art person either but you should see David if you get another chance - it literally is jaw dropping beautiful. I was surprised how much I looked at him in amazement.


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