I am hopping around a bit on telling the story of our Italy adventure by starting with our amazing tour with Walks of Italy to Vatican City during the Rome leg of our trip. Visiting the Vatican and getting the chance to see the Sistine Chapel was top on my Italy bucket list and Walks of Italy helped make it a flawless experience. I had heard horror stories about the lines to visit the Vatican and was happy to see that Walks of Italy offered a Pristine Sistine Tour which allows you to skip the lines and actually enter the Sistine Chapel before it is open to the public for the day! We had a very limited time in Rome and had so much to see- it was great not wasting time in line! It is still the Year of the Jubilee (which Walks of Italy told us all about) so a visit to the Vatican is indeed an even more popular destination.
We did not do a ton of tours on our Itay trip. When deciding on what sights we wanted to book tours- Vatican seemed like a good choice. 1) as I stated before- it is known for its long lines and 2) I did not know much about the Vatican other than it houses the Pope, home to the famous Sistine Chapel and is its own city-state. I was intrigued to learn more.
There were a few options to tour the Vatican- but we chose the Pristine Sistine tour which included entering the Sistine Chapel before the public, Raphael Rooms, Belvedere Courtyard, Pinecone Courtyard, Gallery of the Candelabra, Maps, Tapestries and St Peter’s Basilica/Square.
Our meeting point was right outside the Vatican walls before daylight where our guide handed us a print off of Michelangelo’s Old Testament (creation of the sun, seas, Adam and Eve, etc) Fresco and The Last Judgement (Judging whether souls will go to heaven or hell). If it wasn’t for the tour- I would have just entered the Sistine Chapel and have not understood what the paintings meant. Our Guide explained scene by scene and it was extremely interesting. She even explained how Michelangelo was basically forced to paint the Sistine Chapel for the Pope at the time (out of fear) and was actually not a painter- and had to learn how! He didn’t do too shabby did he? We learned a ton about life of Michelangelo and Raphael which I found surprisingly fascinating. (I normally am not into art history) Soon it was time to enter the famous Sistine Chapel!
Photos were not allowed in the Sistine Chapel but you can see some shots below I found on the internet (the photos do not do them justice!):
Being in the Sistine Chapel was absolutely amazing. It was so cool to be at the same place as many past Popes, etc. The art is truly exquisite. Next we entered the various courtyards- the highlight was seeing the world famous Laocoon and his sons statue which was made in 27 AD and is one of the most known sculptures in the world.
We also entered various galleries of maps, tapestries and artifacts. It can seem super overwhelming. You could be there all day just trying to look at everything. Our guide help pin point the must see and interesting items and gave us the 411. Such a time saver!
Next we entered the Raphael rooms which we absolutely beautiful. Our guide helped us interpret the stories which made us appreciate the artwork that much more!
Before leaving the museum areas- our guide made sure to take us to see this Van Gogh painting (below)! Now I can say I have seen one in person. 🙂
We walked outside and got some great news before entering St. Peter’s Basilica- we would be able to go through the Holy Vatican Grottoes!
Pictures were not allowed in the Grottoes but it was underneath the Basilica and such an experience. It is the resting place of many Popes and holds Saint Peter’s Tomb! It was quiet and peaceful with the light hymnal singing. I can see how many people get emotional during their visit.
We ended our tour by skipping the line and entering St. Peter’s Basilica. Out of all the churches we visited in Italy- this one was the creme de la creme! Breathtaking to say the least. It was pretty crowded but so worth the visit. I loved seeing the Statue of Mary holding Jesus after the Crucifixion- created by Michelangelo. In the 70’s a mad man entered the Basilica, screaming he was Jesus Christ and damaged part of the the statue. The saddest part was that onlookers stole the pieces of the statue that fell to the floor- making it that much harder to repair. Today the statue is behind glass to avoid any future incidents.
We learned so much from our tour! I highly recommend taking this Pristine Sistine Tour with Walks of Italy if you find yourself in Rome and wanting to visit the Vatican! You can learn more about their different Vatican Tours here.
*** This post was done in collaboration with Walks of Italy. As always all opinions are my own.