Will be making a reservation to see the Vatican/Sistine chapel in the beginning of August. Is there a time of day that is less crowded?
The Vatican/Sistine chapel are busiest in the morning. We went there at 10am as we had reservations, and it was rather crowded. However, by 2pm the crowds had started to thin out. Since you should allow about 4 hours to see it all (depending on your stamina), perhaps make your reservation to arrive 4-5 hours before it closes. You are smart to reserve. We were able to by-pass a very long line that was probably an hour or more, and that was in May. PS, if you are there on a Wednesday, the Papal Audience is at 10:30am each Wednesday (although in August it may not be at the Vatican - check the Vatican's website to be sure). If the Audience is at the Vatican, this means that St Peter's Basilica will be closed. On the other hand, if you're not planning to see St Peter's on the same day, it usually means that the Vatican will be less crowded in the morning (since 200,000 people will be in St Peter's Square instead). Seeing the Papal Audience however is also a great experience. If you want to do that, go to the website for the Church of St Susanna to order your (free) tickets (also covered off in the Ron in Rome website - a great resource). If you want to get a close up look at the Pope going by in his popemobile, you would need to arrive at least 2 hours before the Audience begins.
My experience was nearly identical to Greg's. Follow his advice. I was there June 2012. I had forgotten to reserve the tickets prior to departure, so I did that with an iphone while in Rome. I emailed the reservation to the hotel reception where they kindly printed them.
THanks for your input. Yesterday I ordered tickets for 2pm for the Vatican, so we are set.
For me the issue wasn't the ticket buying line, but rather the crowds once in the museum. I too thought that I was being smart by reserving an afternoon slot, but found this to be a big mistake. It was so crowded, that for the mile or so walk to the Sistine Chapel, I could not see my own feet. Just herded along. I suggest getting the earliest slot possible to reserve tickets, and then power walk it to the Sistine Chapel to get some enjoyment out of it.
Thanks for the advice. At this point I'm expecting to be facing big crowds no matter what. I hear you on the power walking to get to the Sistine Chapel. Hope we don't have to step over any trampled bodies ! Just kidding. I was there 40 years ago and probably would have considered skipping the whole thing, but my husband hasn't been there. I know traveling in August is crazy!