Help me to make the Vatican sightseeing easy

We are planning to be at the Vatican on Friday June 7th. We aren't planning on doing a tour or taking the audio guide. We want to see the main things, but aren't prone to linger. We also plan on seeing more than the Vatican on that Friday. So, what time would you start the tour and do you start at the museum and then go to The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's? Or, do you go to St. Peter's and then the museum? Or does it matter? I have read that it is better to go in the afternoon during siesta time. I'd appreciate any help you can give me on this. Thanks, Susan

Posted by donna
cranberry twp, PA, United States
2392 posts

June is high season so if you go in the morning be prepared for very long lines. If you like to visit on your own I would skip the tour and just buy entry tickets. If you start at the museums after 1 pm you should have no problems seeing the museums/chapel and then ending in the basilica. The museums will still be crowded, even in the afternoon, but the lines outside should be short or non-existent. Donna

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

You could be in line to enter the basilica when it first opens (check the website, but for some reason, 7.30 is sticks in my mind... may have changed). I think it's the best time to experience the church. This would also allow you to get to the museums relatively early, which could be an advantage, given hot weather in June; there's not a lot of air conditioning. I'd suggest reservations at the museums (see Vatican website) to minimize waiting in line, and allow yourself at least 15 minutes to get from the basilica around the block to the museums. And FYI, the only way to get to the Sistine Chapel is through the museums. The view from the roof of St Peters (or the top of the dome) is lovely on a clear day, but you'd need to allow an extra hour or more for that, and it would be easiest to do between visiting the basilica and the museums (entrance for climb/elevator to right of basilica).

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2172 posts

Susan, you are already setting yourself for a very stressful day as I can get from your OP. It does take the better part of a day to enjoy a visit of the Vatican instead of rushing as some sort of tourist pilgrimage (pun intended) where you need to "ace" several places as compulsory stops. The chapel is part of the museum circuit. I'd visit the museum either as first thing in the morning (arriving 30 min before it opens with a ticket bought online in advance) or around midday. The Musei Vaticani are HUGE. And by that I mean really huge. The best strategy to visit it to browse its website and select what interest you most and concentrate there. Even so, I do recommend an audio guide for the purpose of giving very relevant context information (since the museum there doesn't have much information on written signs). My preferred area of the museum is, without any doubt, the Map Gallery. It is astonishing and I spent 2 hours there when I visited the museum twice.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

Susan, take what Andre says to heart. I believe it unwise to plan anything else on a day which includes the Vatican Museums. We certainly wouldn't. We have been exhausted afterwards. If you rush through you will miss huge amounts of really cool stuff. If you take it steady, in a full day you will still miss loads of stuff. I agree about the Map Gallery. I didn't have time the last time to stop there but was blown away as we passed through. Our intention was to stop in last week but everything at the Vatican has turned to a bit of a zoo at the moment. If you just want to see the St Peters then you can get by doing something else in the rest of the day. To see St Peters in any kind of detail will take 2 to 3 hours, more if you want to climb up to the roof or down to the Scavi.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3499 posts

I also think the best time to see St. Peter's is early in the morning, before the crowds. There's a Rick Steves audio tour that you can download for free. If you want to climb up to the dome (recommended), plan to do it as soon as it opens, right after seeing the basilica. The lines get really long because space inside is very limited and when it's crowded going up and down is really slow. If you are museum fans, a whole day isn't enough. If you aren't, then it's better to go when it isn't crowded and pretty much walk through the galleries to the Sistine Chapel. In that case, you might be better off getting there when they open (with reservations) and seeing St Peter's on another day. It really isn't that far from anywhere else in Rome.

Posted by Susan
Issaquah, WA
23 posts

Thanks for all your comments. I realize that the Vatican Museum is huge and there is a lot to see. However, my husband and I only have 3 full days in Rome and we had been told to take the side trip to Orvieto one of those days. That means that we only have 2 days to see Rome. I know this isn't enough, but it is what we have. So, we cannot spend a whole day in the Vatican Museum. We want to also see the Pantheon, Forum, Coliseum, Borghese Museum, Spanish Steps etc. According to Rick Steve's it is possible to see all of these things in 2 days. Do you all agree with that? If not, what would you cut out? Thanks so much for your help.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2172 posts

Susan, is you are so hurried for a visit in Rome, why on Earth spend several hours just getting to/from Orvieto? Use you time, fully, in Rome - my recomendation.

Posted by David
Sacramento, CA, USA
205 posts

Sorry, but with only 3 days. Rome. Period. Don't even think of excursions outisde of town.

Posted by Angela
Vancouver, Wa, Usa
233 posts

Sure you can see all those things in 2 days. Enjoy yourself? Eh, maybe not. I sent 2.5 days in Rome last May, and saw all that stuff. I felt very rushed and worn out afterwards. It takes time to find your way around... My friend and I got off the bus too soon and got pretty lost trying to get to the Vatican. Why we didn't take the metro, I don't know. It also took longer to walk to the Borghese gallery from our hotel than I anticipated. Everything looks so close together on a map!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2821 posts

Susan, I like Rick's advice on many things. But not on trying to see all of that in 2 days. Furthermore, note that he finds Rome "exhausting" - well no wonder! Let's Go guidebooks used to say something like, "Rome wasn't built in a day, and you can't expect to see to much of it in a short visit either - so don't try." I wholeheartedly agree. Furthermore, I also agree that with only 3 days in Rome, you shouldn't be taking time away for other places. If you spread your sights out over three days, you could actually enjoy them, instead of feeling like you're on a forced march.

Posted by Susan
Issaquah, WA
23 posts

THANK YOU so much for all your thoughts and comments. We really appreciate them and Orvieto is out! We will spend 3 days visiting Rome and not be exhausted for the rest of our time in Italy. Hopefully we can go back to Italy later on. But, as you all know, there are so many countries in the world to see and not a lot of time. Asia is up next on our list. Again, thanks Susan