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Rick Steves tour of the Vatican

When we visit the Vatican on a Rick Steves tour how do you stay longer/revisit in the Vatican Museum? Can you go with the tour guide through the Sistine Chapel and Basilica and then go back to the museums? Or is it stay with the guide and when they are done your time inside is over?
The itinerary we received says museum,Sistine chapel, then Basilica..” the rest of the day is free to wander through this immense church and explore more of the Eternal City on your own”
If anyone has been on either the Venice,Florence,Rome or the Rome city tour the itinerary reads the same maybe they could comment on their experience. Thanks!

Posted by
111 posts

I would call or write to the Rick Steve's office with this question. I took a RS tour around 2019 there when the Museum was not part of his tour. Our tour group did go through the Basilica and were given time on our own to explore the Vatican.
Because it wasn't part of his tour at the time, I got tickets to the Museum and went back on a different day. I used the Rick Steve's audioguide I had downloaded for my walk through the Museum. I thought the podcast guide was good and I felt I saw most things while following the large groups of other visitors as they made their way through. I might imagine that you could feel satisfied with the RS guide's visit and not feel the need to go back but everyone is different.

Posted by
27342 posts

I think the wording is intended to make it clear that you cannot go from the Basilica back into the Museums. If you stick with the group through the tour of the Basilica and want to return to the Museums, you'd need to have a second ticket to the Museums and allow time for the lengthy walk back over there. (Tickets to the Vatican Museums are selling out well in advance right now.) If you want more time in the Museums, I'd recommend dropping out of the tour before the group exits the Museums and seeing the Basilica on your own later.

I spent about 4-1/2 hours in the Museums a couple of weeks ago. I didn't attempt to see St. Peter's the same day.

Posted by
8586 posts

When we did V-F-R several years ago, it wasn't exactly a "tour" of St Peters. People in our group took as much time as they wanted in the museum and Sistine Chapel, and then we were on our own to go on into the St Peters, where we could spend as much time as we wanted (or none at all). Some people wanted to linger in the Sistine, and some wanted to go back into the museum. So the RS group was no longer together at that point, and a guide in the jam-packed Sistine would have been pointless.

It's an active church like many others, so it's kind of self-explanatory, and there are people in there to worship so it would have felt odd to be walking around in a group in front of them.

The next event of the day was dinner in Trastavere, so, with the afternoon free, it was entirely up to us to decide how much time we wanted in St Peters. We were just told where to meet up at a certain time for the walk to dinner.

Posted by
8500 posts

I was on a RS tour last September. The key point is when you get to the Sistine Chapel. The tour group will exit out a side door near the back which is a shortcut to the line for the Basilica. However, after a few words of advice outside the Basilica you were left to explore it on your own.

If you want to linger and explore the museums, you will need to inform your guide. There is a way to leave the Sistine Chapel and return to the museums, but you will leave the tour group at that point. All you will miss is being walked over to the Basilica since it is not guided. Transportation back to the hotel is individual after the morning tour. I think they gave us each a metro ticket.

Posted by
120 posts

It sounds like the best thing will be to talk to our guide and alert them we may want to stay longer and heed their suggestion. We will have the RS podcasts downloaded so can follow that if seeing the Sistine Chapel and Basilica ourselves. The itinerary has the afternoon and evening on our own so no time limits there.

Here’s another question for everyone: has anyone done both the RS audio guide and a “live tour”. Did you find them comparable as far as explaining what you are looking at?

Posted by
15975 posts

Can you go with the tour guide through the Sistine Chapel and Basilica
and then go back to the museums?

ncangelose, whether on a RS tour or a tour booked through an outside company, once you enter the basilica from the inside passage from the Sistine, there's no going back to the museums. It's a one-way route.

Posted by
6612 posts

My recollection from 2018 is that the one-way route starts as you enter the Sistine Chapel -- you can't go back into the museum from the chapel -- but I could be wrong. I do remember that there's no re-entry once you're past the chapel and onto the portico in front of the basilica. Our guide took us into the basilica and showed us some things there, but we were on our own at that point for the rest of the day, with time to explore further in the basilica or not.

At a minimum, I suggest clarifying with the local giude where the "point of no return" is so you can peel off before that, and informing your RS guide and "buddy" about your plans. There's no reason for a "buddy check" after the museum, since the rest of the day is free, but it might be helpful for them to know why you've disappeared.

The tour didn't go upstairs where the Raphaels are, and the downstairs was so crowded it was hard to enjoy the experience even with an excellent guide. The Sistine was a very well decorated zoo. I suggest peeling off before that and doing your best to swim upstream for the things you really want to see. When you're done, work your way back to the Sistine (where guides can't talk anyway) and then into the basilica (which has a lot to see).

Posted by
120 posts

Thanks Dick, I had forgotten there would be a local guide for Vatican City. They will be most familiar with what is allowed. I’m assuming from your answer the Raphael rooms were not included in the main tour and I’ll do some research.
Anything else that was a highlight anybody?

Posted by
7564 posts

ncangelose, one other thing about departing from the group tour and backtracking to see more of the museums: that short-cut door to the Basilica from the Sistine Chapel is strictly for people escorted by a guide. Once you leave the group, you won’t be able to use the short-cut, and will need to exit the museums where you entered (way back at the beginning), then make your long way around the outside to St. Peter’s Basilica.

Back in 2012, my husband and I toured the Museums, with the Rick Steves tour on our phones. We used Rick’s guidebook, too, and spent a lot longer in the Museums. The “secret” short-cut door was supposed to be just for groups back then, too, but discreet non-guided visitors could slip out of the Sistine Chapel using it (with advice from Rick), and we did just that, allowing a visit to the Basilica, and getting to the dome climb just before last admittance for the day. It was a long day!

In 2022, we hired a private guide. The “secret” short-cut door is now being closely monitored. Only guided visitors are permitted through. Our guide was checked to see who his clients (us) were. With him, we also got to see the Cabinet of Masks, a room with exquisite Roman mosaics that most folks don’t get to see. But the tour was shorter, faster than doing it on our own. He had additional information, but we didn’t see as much, overall.

If the museums are of interest, split off from the group at some point - once you reach the Sistine Chapel, or even before. Figure out where and when you’ll hook up again with the group, St. Peter’s Basilica or elsewhere.

Posted by
27342 posts

I was able to go into the Sistine Chapel and then backtrack last month. It's not terribly easy to navigate the Vatican Museums. There were a lot of rooms closed off, and I found the diagram I was given along with my ticket not useful--but perhaps that's just me.