Is there a reason why the 2016 "Heart of Italy in 9 Days" tours are not visiting the Vatican museum this year while in Rome? I'm still strongly leaning towards signing up for this tour, but was curious about this omission. Thanks.
RS staff posted this response to a similar question:
After a great deal of discussion and soul-searching, we’ve decided to remove the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel visit from most of our 2016 tours that pass through Rome. The extreme overcrowding of this site has made it a highly stressful experience for our tour members. Looking ahead, the pope has declared 2016 to be a Jubilee Year, which is sure to attract even heavier crowds.
Two of our Italy tours — Venice-Florence-Rome and the Best of Rome — spend enough days in Rome so we can creatively schedule those groups for off-peak times during the week. But our other itineraries, with less time in Rome, don’t give us that flexibility.
Fortunately, Rome offers many other unforgettable sights and experiences, which our guides are eager to share with their groups in 2016.
People on those tours who wish to visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel regardless, can make independent online reservations (and visiting as a solo traveler can be less stressful than moving through the site as part of a group). Rick’s guidebooks which cover Rome all include directions on how to make a reservation.
Having toured the Vatcan Museum and the Sistine Chapel on an RS tour two years ago, I totally agree with the company's decision to remove these from most itineraries. Way too crowded for comfort, and trying to go as a group as difficult.
Wow. It was, to me, overcrowded in September 1994, when I was there; I was not able to enjoy it, even then. But the fact that this undeniably top-tier site had to be removed from a tour of Rome really says something - it must be a real mob scene.
spwinters: there are tours that go early in the morning or late in the evening, before or after the herds. One morning tour often recommended on this board is The Pristine Sistine. They cost more than a regular tour, and of course for the morning tour you have to get up early (it starts at 7:30 AM), but it's worth it. If I ever go again, this would be the only way.
5 years ago in Sept. we took this tour and the tour of the Vatican was an absolute crush. It was first thing in the a.m. and it's a ticketed activity, but the hoards in the corridors were unreal. I almost wonder if the guides are starting to worry about safety with a group. When I first saw this thread, I couldn't believe they were cutting something as significant as the Vatican, but then I remembered the crush walking through- you couldn't really see anything or stop to enjoy at your leisure. I can see why it would better to have people do it on their own.
We're taking the BOE21 in October and The Vatican and Sistine Chapel are slated for day 13. Are you saying it's not even worth the effort of participating in that part of the tour? If it so packed that nothing can be viewed I'd rather know ahead of time and possibly make alternate plans.
I would say that it is worth it. You won't be alone, but this is arguably one of the foremost art and antiquities collections in the world. The people taking pictures in the Sistine Chapel are annoying, but don't be one of them and appreciate where you are. The route from the exit that takes you to St. Peter's Basilica is a mini-adventure.
I was on the BOE 21 tour last summer (June-July 2014) and the Vatican was NOT super crowded during our visit. I guess we just got lucky....but that may be the case for you, as well. We had an absolutely spectacular local guide who led us through the museum. Don't miss out if you can help it!
I also was on the 21 BOE trip in aug. and the vatican is worth every minute spent there. Don't skip it, it didn't seem that crowded compared to all the other museums we visited in Europe. You can do your own thing and meet the guide at the exit when it is time, no problems.
Yes you can do it on your own or even pay for an early private tour. I am doing that in December.
It was crowded even seven or eight years ago so this is not something new -- perhaps just worse than then. However, it is worth it even if you have to do it on your own. I would not rule out the "Heart of Italy..." trip just because it is not one of the tour activities. Others on the forum can give much more recent info about doing it on your own.
We were on the Heart of Italy tour last year after the Vatican Tour our guide told us that they were considering dropping it from the itinerary we were in 100% agreement. It is so crowded that at most times you can't see your feet.
The Sistine Chapel is beautiful but there was a guard yelling "Silencio" every 5 minutes through a bull horn so not the sacred space for contemplation I had expected.
St. Peter's was wonderful just breath taking.
I just returned from the Best of Italy in 17 Days tour, and I agree with this decision. The visit to the Vatican Museum was an unpleasant experience and a disappointing end to the tour. It was crowded and hot, even in mid-September. After seeing so much art already on the tour, I just wanted to get through the museum quickly so I could see what I really cared about: the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. I am glad I got to see the Sistine Chapel. However, I did not see St. Peter’s because a meeting there caused it to open late that day, and the group entrance from the chapel was closed. I would have had to wait several hours in the long line in the sun, so I skipped it. Some people on our tour stayed an extra day in Rome and reported that they got into St. Peter’s the next morning at 7:00 when it opened, with no crowds, so that’s the way to see the basilica.
I was surprised how spotty the air conditioning is at the Vatican Museum. Don’t they need to control the climate to protect the art? The best A/C (which wasn't that great) was in the museum store, which I suppose is the only place they’d like you to linger.
We've been on two RS tours that visited the Vatican, and the two experiences couldn't have been more different. On our Best of Rome tour, we had a local guide in the Vatican Museum who rushed us through, pointing out famous works as we scurried past. On our 21 day BOE, our tour guide, Jennifer Gouge, acted as local guide, and did a wonderful job. Even though the museum was as crowded as it had been on the Rome trip, we slowed down, took our time, and listened to Jennifer's thoughtful, well-informed, and entertaining observations. The guide made all the difference.