Navigating your way around the highlights of the Vatican are not for the faint of heart…or those who can’t stand a crowd. Each day, around 30,000 people (totalling up to about six million per year) mill through the halls of the Vatican Museum to take in all the treasures it holds. Seeing the Sistine Chapel can be somewhat overwhelming when you file your way into the massive room alongside a few hundred other guests. However, the museum has recently introduced a couple of ways to get away from the crowds to experience the Vatican more privately.
For the more budget conscious traveller still looking to get the most out of their Vatican experience, the Vatican Museum in collaboration with What a Life Tours has recently started offering an after-hours tour at about £60 per person. A few hours after the museum closes, when the crowds have subsided, the after-hours tour begins. On each tour, a dozen people are guided through the museum and though you won’t be the only group around or the only tour, you’ll be sharing the space with a fraction of its usual guests. Naturally, the tour includes a stop in the Sistine Chapel as well as by other highlights of the museum, including Raphael’s School of Athens. Tickets for these tours can be booked directly through the Vatican Museum’s website.
If you’re looking to have an even more exclusive tour, you’ll need to shell out a bit more. For a little over £4,000 (yes, that’s per person) you can have the Vatican more or less all to yourself, according to True Luxury Travels, who offer an exclusive tour of the museum but you’ll need to remember to set your alarm early. The tour starts bright and early at 6 a.m. when the Vatican’s clavigero, who’s the official keeper of the keys, begins unlocking the 300 doors around the Vatican Museum. Following his lead, you then make your way through various areas of the museum, including the Raphael Rooms and the Room of the Immaculate Conception, before making your way to the main show: the Sistine Chapel. You’re there before the lights are even on so you’re seeing it in some of its quietest moments. Then, the clavigero turns on the lights and you’ve got the whole room to yourself. Paying top price will also get you breakfast at the Vatican Museum cafe and some other amenities. You can also book a similar version of the tour directly through the Vatican that will set you back slightly less as it’s more à la carte. Seeing the Vatican first thing in the morning when booked through the museum starts with a flat fee of about £3,000 and you can add on extra as you like.
As always, though, if you want to see the Vatican’s museum without breaking the bank, regular tickets will run you around £15.
For more on experiencing museums…