Welcome everyone to the next installment of our magical mystery tour of the Western Mediterranean. As you’ll recall when we last left our fearless adventurers were fighting against a significant amount of turbulence as they made their way from Frankfurt to Rome. Well thankfully the turbulence finally ended …. When we landed. Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic as there were people sleeping on that flight but I’m not a fan of turbulence. If you want to read about our journey to this point you can read it here.
We landed in Rome in the evening and went from the airport to our hotel via a limo service we booked through Viator, and we can´t recommend you this enought, especially if you have a long trip, getting picked up by a limo is the best.
We booked a lot of activities outside of the cruise through Viator and would recommend using them at least for tours and transportation because compared to other activities these were awesome…
The night before the skip the line vatican tour
Our hotel was the Hotel Alimandi Vaticano and we booked it through hotels.com where we got the best price. The hotel was literally across the street from the Vatican Museum entrance and, we would discover the next morning, right next to the meeting point for our skip the line Vatican Tour.
The hotel was very nice both outside and in. We booked a standard double room and discovered it was equally nice but shockingly small. not unexpected for an European Hotel though. It definitely looks bigger in the pictures on the website than it does when you’re standing in it. It was a bit challenging for two people with luggage to maneuver around the room which was just a little bigger than the bed.
One thing I´m going to say though.. good think we are married. It´d be embarrasing go to the bathroom in that size room if you were with someone you need to impress.
The lobby had a little bar where the Prosecco was less expensive that at the bar next door and the hotel staff were all extremely nice. The man at the front desk that checked us in even recommended what Carmen considered to be the best restaurant we ate at in Rome called Tocco Ferro, but we will tell you all about this place in a following post where we talk about were to eat in Italy.
Skip The Line Vatican Tour
Now for the skip the line Vatican tour which was actually a “faster than skip the line Vatican tour”, 3 hours long, that was semi-private and included the following:
- Faster Than Skip-the-Line Access to the Vatican Museums
- Skip-the-Line Access to St. Peter’s Basilica
- Groups no larger than 12 people
- English speaking art historian guide
- Headsets so you can always hear your guide
This tour was amazing and exceed all our expectations.
Sites Visited on the Tour:
Gallery of Maps
Gallery of Tapestries
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Square
Apparently the “regular” skip the line Vatican tour includes a 45min wait to get in but we were whisked right through the gate.
In fact it was an 8am tour and the regular line to get in was already massive so I can’t imagine waiting in that for what was probably going to be hours.
This was definitely the way to go.
As I mentioned earlier we purchased our tour through Viator and our hotel was conveniently located across the street from the Vatican Museum entrance and right next to the meeting place for the tour. We met the tour guide and our group, got our headsets and were on our way.
Skip the Line Vatican tour – Vatican Museums
Inside we first saw St. Peter’s Dome and the Vatican Gardens. The guide took time to explain everything we were seeing and it’s significance.
She also went on to explain that Michelangelo was a sculptor and Raphael was a painter and they had a bit of a rivalry and that they were working in the Vatican at the same time and that is an important precursor to the rest of the tour.
Next we went to the Pinecone Courtyard, where we saw Egyptian statues and abstract modern sculptures on our way to the Sistine Chapel. Before reaching the Chapel we were escorted through the Gallery of Tapestries, Hall of Maps, and the Gallery of Candelabra. All through these sections, our guide was pointing out many fascinating details such as optical illusions, the painted ceilings and tiny paintings of Christopher Columbus as well as giving us a little history about each. Next we toured the Raphael Rooms with the famous frescoes he painted.
One of them even included a painting of himself and of Michelangelo because Raphael was so impressed by what he was doing in the Sistine Chapel.
Skip the Line Vatican Tour – Sistine Chapel
After this we took a bit of break from walking while again our guide spent some time giving an outline of what to look out for in the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is a church and there is no commentary allowed inside and we were asked to be respectfully quiet while inside so we could reflect on Michelangelo’s awesome creation. Inside there were people and a lot of them and the respectful quiet was more like a dull roar. There were people standing in the middle of the church and many sitting on a bench that went around the room.
Carmen and I waited for an opening and sat down so we could spend some time checking out the ceiling and the mural behind the altar that Michelangelo returned to paint some 35 years after he painted the ceiling.
It was awe-inspiring and words here could not possibly describe what we were seeing and feeling during that time.
Skip the Line Vatican Tour – St. Peter’s Basilica
Leaving the Sistine Chapel, we availed ourselves of the skip-the-line access once more and went straight into St. Peter’s Basilica. The dome is even more impressive as you stand underneath it than it was when we first entered the Vatican. We saw the famous statue of St Peter and I was able to touch his feet which a common ritual for Catholics visiting the Basilica. So common in fact that the feet are actually worn for being touched so often.
We also visited the altar that is built right over St Peter’s tomb and apparently only the Pope can say Mass from there. We got to see Michelangelo’s ‘Pietá’, which is the only one of his sculptures to be signed by him, and many other sculptures and pieces of art.
There were also the tombs of several Popes on that level of the Basilica like John Paul II. Finally, we had enough time to go downstairs into the catacombs underneath. Here we saw St Peter’s tomb as well as the remaining tombs of Popes including two unmarked which are reserved for Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.
Skip the Line Vatican Tour – St. Peter’s Square
At the end of the tour, we exited the Basilica into the impressive St. Peter’s Square where the Pope addresses those who flock to listen to him. We turned around to see the balcony that he uses for those addresses and walked around the square a bit; what an amazing three hours. It was worth every penny of the $102 / person we spent and was a highlight of our trip.
When you go to Rome, you have to take the Skip the Line Vatican Tour and our recommendation is that not only you do it first thing in the morning, but that you stay close by and the Hotel Alimandi Vaticano was perfect for the location (just know it’s small).
Remember to travel more and travel often because Life is a Getaway.