Please sign in to post.

17 day Best of Italy- how is the Vatican tour handled?

I have read that the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are terribly crowded. If I was doing them on my own, I would do one of the tours that start very early. I am wondering how RS tours handles this. I know that this past year, the Vatican tour was substituted by the Borghese Gallery. What have tour participants experienced in years past? Thanks.

Posted by
1730 posts

Jeani,
I went on this tour in Oct 2016. It was not included as a tour event but on our free afternoon, several tour mates wanted to go and our tour guide helped with all the details. Those who went loved it even though it was sardine time. I thought the reason it was not on our tour agenda was because 2016 was a Jubilee year and it was extra crowded. I checked and it is on the 2017 tour.

I would call the RS office and ask how they plan to organize that day. I read the itinerary and it looks to me like they will probably have you up and on the ground extra early.
I am going on the RS 7 Days in Rome and I expect that to be a very early starting time for our Vatican tour day. But so worth it!

When are you going? I had a marvelous time and have such fond memories.
Best,
Judy B

Posted by
743 posts

I had been planning to post this exact question, as we are on the Venice, Florence and Rome tour in May. Perhaps someone from the RS office could chime in on this, or of course, past tour participants. I'll keep tabs on this thread for any responses.

Posted by
1047 posts

I was on the RS Best of Italy Tour in 2015. We got on the metro by our hotel and arrived at the Vatican around 9:00 am. By the time we connected with our local guide it was around 9:30. She passed out the headphones and in we went. It was crowded, but we didn't have any problems staying together or hearing our local guide. Our RS guide always stayed behind the group just to make sure no one got left behind. Before we entered the Sistine Chapel, we went into the Vatican gardens where our local guide stood in front of one many picture boards where she explained everything we were going to see in the Sistine Chapel. We were on our own in the Sistine Chapel as the guides were not allowed to talk. We had a prearranged meeting time at one of the rear doors that led directly into St. Peter's. Our guide was allowed to talk in there and it wasn't very crowded. After an hour, we were own our own that afternoon. We could stay as long as we wanted in St Peters.

If you have any specific questions about the 17 Day Best of Italy Tour and want to send me a personal message, I will be happy to try and answer you. Under my profile, I put the links to two, 10 minute YouTube videos of our tour that you might find helpful in seeing what we saw on the tour.

Posted by
743 posts

Yosemite: Grazie mille for posting the links to your tour. That looks like a fabulous trip. I wish we had that much time. Kudos for the rainbows and the "special guest."

Posted by
37 posts

Hi Everyone,

I see many of you have been wondering how the Rick Steves Tours are going to be visiting the Vatican Museum this upcoming year. At present it has been determined that the best and most efficient way to see this site, on those ITALY tours where the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are included, is to do a tour of the Museum with a local Guide. We have done this approach in the past and it seems to work, though the tour group may need to endure crowded conditions. As many of you know the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel are extremely popular and the crowds can be quite large. And though we try to get a reservation for entry at the best times there will still be a lot of people visiting when we do. Still, because it is such an important site, we want to assist our tour members in experiencing it. We hope that with the local guide taking you through the Museum you will be able to learn about the most significant works within and also take advantage of their knowledge in maneuvering through the halls and throng of people. If you go into it knowing that it could be crowded but that you will get to see some of the most incredible works of art, culminating in the Sistine Chapel, you will enjoy and remember your experience there. Give us a call if you have any other questions about this. Cheers.

Posted by
743 posts

Thanks for the update, Keith. Good information. Can anyone speak to how much time we might have in the Sistine Chapel itself?

Posted by
53 posts

Thank you all. It really helped ease my mind. So looking forward to our September tour.

Posted by
1047 posts

We had about 30 to 40 minutes in the Sistine Chapel. I think I heard the word "SILENCE" shouted 20 times and figuring they did it every 2 minutes, 40 minutes in the Sistine Chapel seems about right. That was fine with me because seating was very limited and standing and looking up takes a toll on your body.

Posted by
37 posts

Hi again,

Usually the Guide will get you into the Sistine Chapel and let you linger there for 25 - 30 minutes. It all depends on how the rest of the tour went time wise. But it will be enough time to enjoy this incredible work by Michelangelo. And a nice part of having a guided tour is that your Guide will take you to an area at the start of the tour where the Vatican has set up boards with close-up images of various parts of the Chapel. Your Guide will then give you a very nice presentation on the history of the Chapel and all the meaning that Michelangelo was trying to convey. It will better prepare you for what you are going to see when you get there. It is done outside of the Chapel as there is no talking allowed once you get in. "Silencio" you know:). I am sure you will enjoy it all. Cheers.

Posted by
4 posts

The Vatican is a must!!! I'm not religious or Catholic.

You should really get a semi-private tour. It's worth all the money you spend. Pay more to get to the Vatican and enter before everyone else. WELL worth the price you pay. Our family shared a guide with another family. We've done this twice. (Booked through Viator). Don't forget to tell everyone in your party to dress properly. I wore a lovely dress that hit my knees. Young son wore button down shirt (no graffiti). The young girl in the other family barely made it through. She was given a tremendous amount of grief by the guards for her incredibly insulting and short dress. The guards made her tie her father's extra shirt around her waist!! Even then, they were not happy with her.

Borghese Gallery - we didn't make it inside however, we rented bikes and road around the huge park. It was not planned but an incredibly memorable morning for us!! Highly recommend.

Posted by
743 posts

Thanks again, Keith. Just the kind of guidance I was seeking, and I assume it clarifies things for Jeani, too. I'm so looking forward to our tour, and the Sistine Chapel has been No. 1 on my bucket list since I was a kid. Ciao!

Posted by
2 posts

I was in Rome on a RS BOE tour last September. On Friday, several of us on the tour signed up independently for a tour of the Vatican --- some during the day and some in the evening. I had signed up for an evening tour, and was so glad that I did! The Sistine Chapel was not that crowded. I sat in there for 45 minutes just soaking in the experience. It was one of my peak experiences in the 21 day BOE tour! My tour mates who did a morning or afternoon tour were not happy. The crowds essentially ruined the experience for them. So my advice is to to take an evening tour if at all possible.

Posted by
10 posts

On my own with my teenage nieces I had pre-booked tickets for their opening time at 9:00 am and then we arrived early. They actually let us in around 8:45. We were off like a shot and stayed ahead of all the tour groups until the Sistine Chapel. There, we were able to enjoy it in relative quiet and then sat along the side benches and eventually just watched the crowds' reactions. Book early and plan to arrive early in the day.