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BOE 21- touring the Vatican on our own

We are going on the BOE21 this July and I'm wondering about scheduling the Vatican into our trip. There is a day on our itinerary when the afternoon is open and visiting the Vatican is mentioned as an option. So, is this something I should book ahead of time or should I wait to see if several of the group want to go? I know that sometimes the guide helps organize activities/make suggestions for people in their free time.

I know it will be a chaotic mess when we are there, but it is one of those "must do" items for us. Would love some input from past tour people on how they think this might be handled.

Thanks!
Rachel

Posted by
697 posts

The Vatican tour was included on one of our Rome days last spring when we did the 21 day BOE tour. I will admit, it was a very busy place and if it hadn't been for our local guide, we probably would have been lost. This was our first European trip so we aren't necessarily savvy travelers! It would be a shame to go all the way to Rome and NOT see the Vatican, though!

Posted by
469 posts

Hi Rachel,
It seems as though the two day itinerary for Rome has been completely redesigned from past tours, which included a full Vatican tour. If the "walk through ancient Rome" is at all similar to the previous tour, it will be one of the most walking-intensive parts of your tour. And it is unclear exactly what is meant by "the rest of the afternoon." Does that begin at 2:00? At 4:30?

I think your best bet would be to call the RS Tour office. They can give you a sense of what time you might have available that afternoon....and they may also know whether there are any special circumstances on the dates your tour is scheduled for Rome which would result in changes to the schedule.

Good luck! It's a great tour....I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

Posted by
40 posts

The tour has changed since I booked it. Originally we were to go to the Capitoline and Pantheon on the first day, but now it is the National Museum and no mention of the Pantheon. I would skip the museum on the first day and go straight to the Vatican, but it looks like that is the evening we are walking around and I'm hoping will see the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. I don't want to miss that beautiful evening with the group, so I'm looking at the following day. It is hard to know what time to schedule a tour because as you said, what time does the free time begin. This could be an exhausting day. Thank goodness Cinque Terre is the next day!

After taking this tour, would you wait until the tour starts to try to book things to try to include other members or would you plan it on your own? I will call the office, but I'm guessing I need to wait until the tours start for the 2016 season to see how things are playing out. I just can't imagine we are going to be the only two who want to see the Vatican and I don't want to seem antisocial by scheduling individual tours ahead of time.

Posted by
7205 posts

If had only 1 free day or afternoon in Rome it would not be spent in the Vatican. Maybe walk by and look from the outside, but I wouldn't waste time standing in line to enter St Peters, and I DEFINITELY wouldn't spend it stuck inside the Vatican Museum.

Yes, Yes, I know the Vatican is a wonderful piece of history - but Rome is oozing with history everywhere. Get out and about and see everything you can see and avoid standing in long lines and being stuck "inside" museums.

Posted by
469 posts

Hi Rachel -- Once you've talked with the tour office and know a little bit more, I'd encourage you to go ahead and book your tour for the Vatican if it is super important to you to go there. That way you can book exactly the kind of tour you want, and you won't be left with whatever (if anything) is still available when you get there. I don't think you need to worry about being anti-social if you have scheduled one (or even two or three) things on your own ahead of time. Several couples on our tour had made one or two such arrangements (such as a special tour of Saint Peters or the Doge's Palace in Venice) and no one thought they were being anti-social. After all, you'll have lots and lots and lots of other time to spend with the group!

I understand the Vatican has gotten so crowded that they had to change up the BOE21 schedule. That's too bad....we got lucky and it wasn't super crowded when we were there a couple of years ago on the tour....and the local guide who showed us around was excellent! I also really enjoyed the walking tour of the Colosseum, Forum, and Pantheon, with a dinner break and then even more walking to the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, etc. It was an exhausting day, but really excellent in all it covered. You should try to get as much info from the tour office as you can about the specifics of your group tours in Rome. That should help you with your decisions.

Posted by
524 posts

I realize you might never have seen the Vatican and understand your desire to see it. I would not want to miss it either. This is a jubilee year, which is going to mean even more crowds than this past year. We were there this past Sept. and was so crowded that it limited my experience. I honestly think it might have been better on our own, not trying to keep up with the tour. Our guide explained why this helped with decision to not include the Vatican on some of the tours. I, too, would call the office. They will know the itinerary much better and can tell you which day might be best to visit the Vatican.

If you decide against the Vatican, I can highly recommend The Borghese Gallery. You will need to purchase tickets in advance, by appointment only. This museum has beautiful Bernini sculptures, along with works by Canova, Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael. It is far less crowded and was truly a pleasure.

If you like to eat, and like sweets, make sure to visit the Jewish Ghetto. Pasticceria “Boccione” Limentani (Via Portico D’Ottavia,1) makes some of the best Pizza Ebraica (Jewish Pizza). This is made with candied cherries, almonds, pinenuts, and raisins: plus a few other ingredients. Think fruit cake, but without the spices and the overly sweetness. Go early, they sell out fast.

Posted by
408 posts

I was sad to see that the Vatican is left off the 14BOE tour too. I guess I understand that is very crowded this year but can't imagine going to Rome and not going there.

Posted by
4600 posts

It's possible, maybe even likely, that your guide will help organize an unofficial Vatican tour. When we did the Best of Rome tour, our guide (Cecilia) managed to score some tickets for the papal audience, which was not one of the listed activities. It was optional, of course, but probably the person who enjoyed it the most was a Southern Baptist fellow from Florida who was just awestruck.

If I had to choose between the Vatican and the Borghese, I'd have to flip a coin. I think I'd probably opt for St. Peter's, but with a guide, if possible. There's so much art, history, architecture there, that it would warrant getting a guide. The Vatican Museum is too big to enjoy on a single short visit; save it for another time.

Posted by
40 posts

Jane,

That thought is what prompted this question. I'm hoping the office will be able to give some insight. They may have already thought this through knowing it might be something that comes up on each trip.

I appreciate all of the input from everyone. It will help guide my research and planning for Rome.

Thanks!
Rachel

Posted by
34 posts

I think another reason for dropping the Vatican from the itinerary (at least on the BOE tours) is that 2016 is a Jubilee Year in the Catholic Church, which probably means that crowds will exceed the usual.

I did get to the Vatican on my BOE 14 tour last year - it is absolutely beautiful, of course, and my favorites were the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's. But even with the fact that we were there before the place opened, and with a tour group able to cut certain lines, it was still a mass of humanity.

I assume it will be chaotic, so go into it with a lot of patience. You'll be part some very large crowds, and will probably struggle to see certain displays, but you can at least check it off the list!

Posted by
1290 posts

I used an online broker for our June trip, as I am afraid I would not be fast enough to get tickets the day they became available. I hear the large tickets brokers jump at them leaving few if any available for individuals. Since larger crowds are expected, due to it being a jubilee year, I am hoping I am successful. The additional cost wasn't much more. Maybe 8 euros more? I'd have to check my reservation for exact pricing.

Posted by
40 posts

Diane,

Are you going with a RS tour in June or on your own? If with a tour, what time of day did you book your tour?

Thanks!
Rachel

Posted by
79 posts

If you want to walk through the HolyDoors you will need to register online through the Vatican. I was able to get my date. The Vatican will be emailing me a communication closer to the date to take with me. The Pilgrimage website is www.im.va

Posted by
40 posts

Thanks! I was reading over the weekend and I found where it says people should go ahead and book their Vatican experience before leaving and for BOE21 to choose a time after 2:00.

Posted by
14326 posts

This came up when the tours were first published. As I recall, the reason for eliminating the Vatican was the expectation of huge crowds because of the Jubilee year, making it more difficult to take a group through.

I've only been to the Vatican Museums twice, both times in February (definitely off-season) and it was pretty crowded then, rather hard to enjoy some rooms. I can't imagine what it's like in summer in a normal year, let alone a jubilee year. There are other excellent places in Rome to see similar collections - though not as many or as extensive and not in one place. And there's the overload factor when visiting such a huge place, how much can you absorb. There is a one-way route through the Vatican museums, and while it's not impossible to backtrack, it's rather like swimming upstream. Even following the route can be quite slow. If you're with a group, the Sistine Chapel is at the end of the route, and you exit into the piazza, from there a short walk to St. Peter's. If you aren't with a group, you have quite a number of rooms to go through to get to the exit, which is quite near the museum entrance - and about 15 minutes' walk to St. Peter's, plus the wait in the security line.

There is often a long line to buy tickets if you just turn up at the museum. While there are (or at least used to be) lulls, when you could walk right in, that only works if you have the time to "drop by" especially since it isn't very near other sights. If you buy tickets in advance you must reserve a time - don't know how lenient they are if you are either early or late. If this is indeed a must-see for you, try to book a private tour.

Posted by
4 posts

Hello,

We leave in May for the BOE21 tour and was also disappointed to see the Vatican taken off the list. My husband and I went up to Rick Steves store/travel center in Edmonds (WA) to talk to a representative about our options. The travel expert said they were sad to remove the Vatican off the list (due to Jubilee year) but they replaced it with The National Museum of Rome. He encouraged us to book in advance if we want to see the Vatican as it's very popular. We're considering skipping the National Museum of Rome and seeing the Vatican, since it was one of the major highlights we were excited to see.