Topics include Transportation, Dining Scene, For Foreign Visitors & more!
Here are a few tips on how you can maximize your visit to the Vatican Museum while in Rome.
First, known when to go! Many believe that as long as you purchase a tour that allows you quicker entrance and avoidance of the long queues outside the Vatican, you will be ok. Some will disagree with this suggestion because, if you arrive after the first wave of visitors, you will still be held up once inside the museum and by the time you make it to the Sistine Chapel, you will have to see it in shoulder-to-shoulder company with other visitors. Thus, if at all possible make your way first thing in the morning, ahead of the large crowds.
Second, contrary to conventional advice, unless you are on a tight budget, avoid going to the Free Entry Days due to the massive crowds that attempt to this very same thing. Having done this in the past, arriving before opening time - still found ourselves in huge queue. Because of the large crowds that had made it through beforehand, it took a long time to go through the museum, much longer than past visits, when arriving early in the day.
Third, do not take a backpack with you. You will need to check this in upon entering the museum. This can be frustrating and a waste of your time upon entering and when you leave the museum.
Fourth, if you are able to visit first thing in the morning, make sure you bring smaller Euro notes for entry tickets. Unbelievably, the Vatican - while one of the richest institutions in the world, can't make change for a 100 Euro note for two tickets first thing in the morning. During a recent visit, this was experienced, when attempting to purchase two entrance tickets, being told there was no change for 100 Euro note.
Fifth, do not jump at the first chance to buy a Vatican museum guidebook upon entering. Many of the rooms, like the wonderful Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) each have information display cards in various languages. This is generally good enough for most visitors. Also, there are many small kiosk setups throughout the museum selling the same guidebooks. Thus, if you decide later that you want one, no problem, you buy it later on.
Sixth, know how to visit the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. Many find it is best to visit the Vatican first, entering as early as possible in the morning to avoid the queue and crowds and to then make you way to St. Peter's Basilica. There is an approximately twenty minute walk between the two attractions. By visiting St. Peter's Basilica second, you will find yourself closer to the historic city upon finishing the attractions, this can be a life saver for your feet if you planning to walk into the historic center after your visits, as so many choose to do.
Seventh, wear good walking shoes. Odds are you are going to be at the museum at least 2-3 hours and will be visiting St. Peter's Basilica immediately afterwards. This means, you've a lot of walking on the day and there are not many places to take a seat and rest in either attraction or in between so be kind to your feet and wear your most comfortable walking shoes.
Eighth, eat a decent breakfast before making the early morning trip to the Vatican Museum as the museum cafe leaves much to be desired and the cafe and restaurant scene directly around the Vatican is not Rome's best. Because, it takes some time to visit both the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica, you very well likely might not be having lunch until the early afternoon. So make sure you get plenty during your breakfast to tide you over for a while.
Ninth, a common mistake visitors make in the Vatican is to make a beeline for the Sistine Chapel and ignore the world-class art that is all around them, along the way. While this is understandable for those having to make a rushed visit to the museum, it is equally unfortunate. For example, the Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms), which are just before the Sistine Chapel, are just remarkable rooms yet so many people rush and push their way through, not paying any attention to what they are rushing past. This is a shame, as there is so much more to the Vatican Museum than just the Sistine Chapel
So, try to enjoy as much of the Vatican Museum as you can as it really does not get any better than this.
For further useful guidance on how to maximize your visit to the Vatican Museum, see the following TA Article.