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Vatican no longer included in BOE14 & other tours any recent tour alum thoughts?

HI I was disappointed to see the tour no longer goes to the Vatican. I realize it is a crowded year to go there. Wondering if anyone that has been on a tour in 2016 or planning on it this year is still planning to go or has gone to the Vatican? What day did you go and what time? How did you get it to fit in with the rest of the Rome tour?

Any other recent tour alums that have feedback from 2016 would love to hear it. I have not seen much in tour reviews yet for this year. Thank you

Or if you are going in 2016 what dates and what are you looking forward to the most? Thanks

Posted by
394 posts

As a recent (2015) 14-day BOE Tour alum, our itinerary did include a visit to both St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum. Not sure if their removal from this trip is permanent going forward, or they may be just temporarily omitted due to 2016 being 'The Jubilee Year of Mercy' -- which sees far more visitors than typical going to Rome/VaticanCity. Hopefully your guide will offer alternative places and ideas for your time; you might consider going across the Tiber River to Trastevere, easily accessible by public transportation or taxi.

Posted by
16894 posts

Since that tour ends in Rome, some travelers will stay an extra day there to fit in all they want to see. But if not, you can reserve an afternoon museum visit (assuming that day 13 of your tour is not a Sunday). The morning walking tour should finish by 13:00, then you need something to eat, and transport across the river. Your final dinner with the group might mean meeting again about 19:00.

We hope to be able to add the Vatican Museum back to more tour itineraries in 2017.

Posted by
474 posts

Thank you for the responses. Would have loved to have the next day but alas our next day is a Sunday. As for the last day a Saturday I was worried about fitting it all in. Thank you

Posted by
79 posts

I was also disappointed by this. Not crazy about the first thing we will be doing in Rome is going to a museum to look at sculpture and I've studied art history. But I promise I wont be grumpy about! I plan on an afternoon visit to at least the Vatican Basilica on day 13. Don't think we can fit in the Vatican Museum. Luckily the hotel will be close by.

Posted by
1 posts

I just finished the Best of Rome tour a week ago, so here’s my first-hand view of the whole Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel issue.

First, the museum/chapel is very, VERY crowded, so the experience itself borders on unpleasant. I gather from our tour guide and one of the local guides that a conversation (debate?) about whether to include it on tours in Rome has raged in Edmonds for some time, and for now the decision is to keep it in only the Best of Rome seven-day tour, leaving time for members of other tours who want to brave it to do it during the free time. My take: if you’re OK with missing it, I’d say visit one of the many other great places in Rome. But the Sistine Chapel is one of the great pieces of Western art, so it may be worth it to you. It was included in our tour, I found it unpleasant, and I’m glad I did it.

If you want to go, here’s my advice, for what it’s worth.

  1. Be sure the museum and chapel are covered in whichever RS guidebook you use. These 34 or so pages are invaluable in helping you navigate logistically and understand what you’re seeing. If it’s not in your guidebook, invest in the Rome or Italy book.
  2. If you have a smartphone, download the Rick Steves Audio Europe app (on this website) and the “Rome-Sistine Chapel” walking tour.
  3. Read/listen on the plane or bus/whatever BEFORE you get there, twice if possible. There’s lots of great info, and the crush of the crowds is no place to thoughtfully contemplate Rick’s excellent guiding. BTW, I hope he’ll add a walking tour of the Vatican Museum soon….
  4. BE SURE you have reserved a ticket. The guidebooks explain how to do this on line. Laura in her post above gave you a rough estimate of the schedule of the tour’s group activities, and it sounds like you can see the museum/chapel in the afternoon without missing any of the group activities. Our guide had us leave plenty of time to get to the Vatican because if you’re late they won’t let you in, so keep that in mind. I don’t know how far in advance you need to reserve. Advice about free time activities is included as part of the tour. You can ask your guide when you meet him or her in Paris, but I’d call the tour department and ask. While you’re on the phone, ask about which guidebook.
  5. I normally take public transportation in Europe, but you’ll be walking all morning and we’re talking a Hike through the museum. I’d recommend a taxi to get there.
  6. Pay attention to Rick’s comments about the size of your bag. Backpacks and anything larger than a purse must be checked, necessitating a return hike through the museum to get them.
  7. Pay attention to Rick’s comments about WC’s. Go before you start the tour.
  8. I carried a small pair of binoculars as Rick suggested for many years when I realized I never used them. I wished I had had them to get up closer and more personal with the ceiling.

BTW, all our local guides commented that the crowds this year were smaller than usual. The speculation was that the crowds in 2000 were so large that people decided to stay away this year…

Hope this helped…Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
474 posts

Thank you for the insight. I wish we could do the very early breakfast tour but the way our tour ends on a Sat the museum is not open on Sunday. Would have loved to do the Friday night but they don't have it in Aug.

I do feel it should be part of the tour. Is is such a key item about going to Rome and not easy to do on your own.

My kids really want to see it so I am trying to fit it in.

Thanks for the insight.

Posted by
50 posts

In 2012 my tour did the Vatican and St Peter's. Since I hoped to see a bit more before my South Italy tour this May I went back. Believe me. 2016 is NOT a year to go to either. In 2012 our group was the only one leaving the Sistine Chapel by the 'back door'. This May that was the way all the tour groups moved through. And it was a solid stream of people four to five people wide slowly shuffling through on the edge or if you were lucky to move around the guards directing the people through, you could move out of the stream into the center to stand cheek to jowl and try to appreciate the artwork! It was ever harder to see anything in the church as I slowly moved through in a packed mass of people seeing nothing but feeling a lot of other bodies! I was definitely glad of my money belt! So my view is that it was a good decision to leave these out of the tour this year as my independent visit was very disappointing.

Posted by
5 posts

We just finished a Best of Europe 14 tour in Rome last week. To say that the Vatican is crowded is an understatement. There are so many tour groups pushing through that it makes it very hard to enjoy the museums and the Sistine Chapel. Our tour ended with breakfast on Sunday, but it also had free time Saturday afternoon, so we booked a tour through Walks of Italy on that Saturday afternoon. They have a 2-5 PM tour that was done in plenty of time for the farewell dinner. On Sunday, to wind down, we got touristy and did one of the hop on hop off bus tours and it gave us the chance to see the parts of Rome that we wanted to see more of.

I totally understand why BOE does not include the Eiffel and the Vatican. The advice given previously about the Vatican is spot on. Have a great time!

Posted by
474 posts

Is there much advantage to the Walks of Italy tour vs doing on our own?

Posted by
5 posts

If you want to tour the Vatican on your own, you have to buy tickets; even if you order them online, there is still a long wait to pick them up. With the tour, the Vatican ticket is included and you do not have to wait in lines to buy or pick up your ticket. The tour guide also gives you a lot of history behind the artwork which is helpful.

Posted by
474 posts

Thank you for the information. It is most helpful. We are thinking we will take a pass on the Museum this time. From hearing how bad the crowds are in Aug to the lack of air conditioning in the building to the fact we can only go for a few hours in the late afternoon just think it will not work out. We are very much looking forward to our trip and hopefully we will be back to Rome someday.

Posted by
2 posts

Just completed the BOE 14 day tour, sans the Vatican. They subbed in a guided tour of the Capitoline museum with local guide Francesca. FABULOUS. Francesca was able to engage even those least interested in Roman art and history. She was magnificent. The second day in Rome, we continued with her to the Colisseum and Roman Forum, then split off and visited Vatican city on our own, since during this Jubilee year groups were not given reservations. We had a wonderful time, as she had given us the tools needed to enjoy Rome. I would encourage Rick Steve's to continue in this manner when crowds are expected, as our visit to the Uffizi gallery in Florence was miserable due to the crowds.

Posted by
11294 posts

I saw the Vatican Museums in September 1994. Even that far back, it was so crowded that it was a miserable experience. Particularly in the Sistine Chapel, the tension was so high that I couldn't enjoy or appreciate it; all I could think of was getting out. I'll never go back unless I can go on one of the early morning or late evening tours with smaller numbers of visitors.

So, while I realize that it's a bitter pill to swallow, not having the Vatican on your tour is probably a blessing in disguise. As you see, you'll be spending the time in other places you will actually get to enjoy.

Posted by
2485 posts

I am going on the 17 Days Best of Italy tour on Oct 9 - 25, which ends in Rome. We spend 2 nights there and I have to go home on the last day. When I thought about not going to the Vatican or St. Peter's Basilica I found myself trying to figure out to go back. Voila! The idea came to me when the tours for early 2017 were introduced! I also, luckily, found a direct flight from Atlanta to Rome and back for $751 on sale and then booked my trip with RS for the 7 Days in Rome tour in late March 2017. Problem solved, I will go to the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica after all. I hope you will be able to go back also because it seems that it is important to you, too, as it is to me.

Happy Travels,
Judy B

Posted by
115 posts

It was my least favorite part of the Italy tour. We had a 700 reservation and we had to be lectured for over an hour outside the entrance while the guide pointed to a poster of the sixteen chapel.. Then in the museum it was packed and we walked through the museum quickly. I wouldn't go back and would have skipped it if I would have known.

Posted by
474 posts

Update. Thanks for everyone posting. Our trip was fab. We did not go to the Vatican. About half our group did. They had prebooked tickets and went in the small three hour window we had on a Saturday afternoon. They said it was crowded but manageable.

I noticed for 2017 they do go to St Peters but not the museum. I still think it should be part of the tour. It just makes it easier and since so many people want to go anyways.

The trip was great and we loved it.

Posted by
6360 posts

kwolps, we had Francesca as our local guide on two RS tours, twice for the Colosseum and once for the Borghese Gallery. She is magnificent! A treasure.

We've also been to the Vatican museum twice on RS tours. On our best of Rome tour we had a local guide (not Francesca) who hurried us through, every now and then pointing out a piece of art. Very disappointing. The second time, on our 21 day Best of Europe, our tour guide Jennifer acted (unofficially) as our museum guide, and did an outstanding job. We do hope to go back sometime on our own, so we're not tied to a schedule. And yes, the crowds are daunting.

Posted by
284 posts

The two RS tours I took in years past did include the Vatican Museums. The tours occurred in mid-December and late-February. Additionally, I went back on the last Sunday of February which was a free adminsions day. On all occassions I did not feel it was too crowded. But the time of year has a big affected this.

Suggestion if you are going to Rome is try to arrange for a Scavi Tour. This is a guided tour under St. Peters which ends with you coming up into St. Peters. You have to provide several options for day and morning/afternoon and then work around what is offerred. Just make sure you request this as soon as possible and as far in advance as possible since they limit the number of people per day.