Not a tour for the faint hearted as it's was over three hours on our feet. However for those not skipping the queue, there would have been an additional hour and a half for the entry queue into the museum and probably the same for St Peters and a quick whisk through the Sistine chapel. Frederica, our guide was brilliant being both a friendly and jokey personality as well as providing brilliant supplementary material using her iPad where she was able to zoom to show us where to focus our attention and bringing in links between what we were experiencing and other key sights in Rome. A brilliant day
Honestly, any tour ending with the Sistine Chapel is fantastic. Luckily, we had the benefit of an amazing tour guide (Ivana from tour operator Dark Rome) who really made this tour a highlight of our time in Italy. She provided respectful, entertaining, and at times humorous context to the plethora of exhibits we observed while on our tour. We are a family of four (two young children), so we were worried about whether or not they would enjoy the long walking tour, but Ivana made this tour great for the kids and for us. A debate we had for this tour was whether or not to take a semi-private tour or a larger group tour. Our tour had 20 people in it, and we found that this was the perfect size. Although it was a very busy day, we did not get lost or fall behind- rather, the entire group stayed close together as Ivana helped us to see the most interesting sights of the worlds largest museum. All in all, this was a fantastic experience, and I fully recommend it.
Our guided tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St.Peter's Basilica was absolutely fantastic. The guide was informative and very interesting during the excitement of being in this overwhelming environment. We are so pleased that we booked this before leaving on holiday and regret not having arranged other guided tours in Rome as we found the self guided headset tours very laborious.
I can't imagine anyone coming to the Vatican without booking a tour ahead! You do NOT want to waste hours in those lines nor miss out on the expertise of a guide. You paid lot of money to get here, pay a little more and book the tour. We actually skipped the day in Rome on our cruise (a tour through the cruise line is WAY more expensive anyway) and came back to Rome after our cruise so we could have an unhurried three days to see what we wanted to. The headset/radio makes it possible to hear the guide's every word, even if you stop to snap a picture and lose sight of him for just a sec. David from Dark Rome Tours was just wonderful - a sense of humor without being irreverent, a willingness to answer any questions thoroughly, and a knowledgeable style that kept us hanging on every word. The only thing I would change is the HOARDS of pushy people inside - which would be impossible, of course. The Sistine Chapel was pretty much as magnificent as I expected, but I was not prepared for St. Peter's - WOW! No photo can do justice to it, and the crowd wasn't as big there, either, so we could relax and enjoy every corner and every detail that David pointed out. One little tip - this is NOT a tour for children. It is long, they can't see over the heads of all the people, esp in the Museum, and they will be bored. Save it for their teen years when they can appreciate it more. One couple had to be asked to leave the Sistine Chapel with their crying infant...seriously, don't take your baby!!
This was an absolutely fantastic tour. We met our tour guide, Maurizi, opposite the entrance to the Vatican Museums. He was highly knowledgeable on all matters throughout the tour; he has a degree in history and fine art, I believe. As there is so much to see in this tour (you could spend days there), he picked out the highlights and his personal favourites and gave fascinating details. He was very friendly and patient with people taking photos, etc. We were given headphones and a small device so we could hear our guide through the crowds. After the main tour, we were left to wander around St Peter's Basilica (after being provided with info on it) and the square.
I would also add that our tour guide gave us lots of religious details but in a perfect, objective way.
The price almost put me off, but for the quality and length of the tour, it's excellent value. Plus you get to walk past all the people queuing to get in and go through straight away!
A few things to bear in mind on this tour:
- wear comfy shoes and don't wear yourself out beforehand (I made the mistake of walking for about two hours around Rome before!)
- it is busy and crowded throughout the Vatican City, with few places to sit down
- there is only one public drinking tap, at the start of the tour (although there is a cafe inside, we did not stop there during the tour)
- I'm not sure if there were more places we could stop, but we only made one bathroom break about halfway through
- you cannot take pictures and have to be quiet inside the Sistine Chapel. Our tour guide helpfully gave us descriptions before we entered
- certain areas of the tour require you to cover up: no exposed knees or shoulders. I saw people being asked to cover up before entering the basilica
- you have to go through a metal detector to enter the Vatican City. Whilst you don't have to take off belts, etc., your handbags will be scanned
My husband and I had 4 days in Rome and went on the tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica and enjoyed it immensely. Our Guide was extremely knowledgible re dates, etc. and we even managed to reach the Dome! A most enjoyable afternoon.
This was my second time in Rome and seeing the Vatican but the first time I didn't do a tour. Save yourself any hassle and just book this tour. its fun, educational and our tour guide (I really wish I could remember her name) was very knowledgeable. She was an archaeologist! and you could just tell she loves Rome and all its glory and history. When in Rome you can't miss the Sistine Chapel or St. Peter's Basilica. Seriously, do this tour and avoid fighting with the tourist crowds and wasting a whole day waiting in lines. It's convenient and worth the money.
It was absolutely worthwhile to book this tour and skip that unbelievable line up! I happened to visit on a particularly busy weekend due to holidays and events in Rome. The tour guide Nicola was excellent at keeping the group together and focused so I found the whole experience to be interesting, particularly as he shared little known insights about Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel. Time and money well spent.
Outstanding tour! Our tour was Holy Saturday (Saturday befor Easter) afternoon and everything was extremely busy. Our Guide was great, she had us pass the regular line and into the Vatican Museums more quickly than I thought possible. She was extremely knowledgeable about everything throughout our tour. Only downside was that because of the crowds, we were stuck in some places (Sistine Chapel was elbow to elbow) without being able to take it all in but our guide did everything she could to keep us engaged in the tour. This was my first experience with the small radios and ear pieces so we could hear our guide and they were great. This was an English speaking tour and our guides inflection, volume, and cadence were all perfect to help us experience everything even with the crowds. I would definately recommend booking the Dark Rome Tours through Viator for this and other tours in Rome.
It was difficult to get specific directions to the meeting place but I can help! It's at the NE corner of Via Germanico and Via Leone IV. There is a sign on the SE side of the building that says "Enjoy Rome" and the door is right next to the sign on the ground floor. Backpacks will have to be checked at the door of the museum and it's a good 10 minute walk to get back to your possessions after the tour. Don't go without taking a tour! You will have long waiting lines and won't understand much. As for the tour, our guide was Valentino and we absolutely LOVED her. She was fantastic! There were 23 in our group and she kept us with us all beautifully. The tour was 3 full hours. You do get a shortwave/earphone to hear the tour guide. The crowds were incredible - 20,000 people a day makes it very crowded and very loud. I would NOT go in the summer as there is no air conditioning. We saw one museum, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. No talking and No photos in the Sistine Chapel. It was all fascinating and beautiful. A definite must-do on your trip to Rome! One suggestion - go eat at Ristochicco Restaurant after - make reservations!
I'm writing this the day after our VIP tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. My head still feels like sensory overload. It was brilliant. But a bit more about where I'm coming from so you'll know why I was so blown away by this tour.
This is my 11th trip to Rome. I come almost every year, for a week, just to walk around and take pictures and sit in cafes and to disconnect from everything. I love this city. I've been to the Vatican Museum 3 times in the past, and honestly, each time felt like torture. God help you if you're trying to get into that museum between March and November: prepare for 2-hour lines and thousands of people. And when you finally get to the Sistine Chapel at the end of your visit, you will be herded in along with the 400, 500, 600 other people in there that are shuffling about shoulder-to-shoulder, while guards hiss "Silencio!" and "No Photos!" I remember my first time in there: I was expecting this miraculous, overwhelming, powerful moment -- and instead I was overcome by a feeling of "oh my god I have to get out of here." I say all of this so you can get a grasp of how special this VIP tour was that my mom and I were on yesterday.
Here's what the website promised: a private tour of secret, closed-to-the-public rooms of the Vatican Museum, ending with 30 minutes spent in the Sistine Chapel, completely alone: just your group of a max of 10 people. And you know what? They delivered, tenfold. It was SPECTACULAR. So, the details:
Our guide Shannon was wonderful. She is an American transplant in Italy and had her degree in art history so she knew this stuff inside out, but her presentation was friendly and informative and never dry or boring: it was the insider scoop. It wasn't "and then Raphael painted this painting in the year ___" -- no, it was the backstory about the rivalries between these famous artists, how they lived, what influenced them -- it was the stuff that you never hear about in stuffy, stodgy old history books. And we had a guard who accompanied us on the tour, unlocking secret rooms along the way, like the Bramante Staircase and one of the pope's private chapels. The tour started around 3:15 as the museum was already emptying out, and by partway through the tour you noticed that the place was empty except for the cleaning people and the guards locking things up. You hit a few of the major attractions in the museum that are open to the public, but by the time you get to them they're empty. The Raphael Rooms? Empty. It was breathtaking. We were literally walking down empty corridors, and if you've ever been to this museum before, you know that it sees a good 15,000 people per day. The other thing I liked: the Vatican Museum is 9 miles of museum. It's filled with amazing things, but not all of these amazing things are significant. Sure, that statue might be 2000 years old and it might be pretty, but it's not "important" -- and you could spend days in this museum -- so Shannon took us to the major things worth seeing, so you know that you leave the VM having seen what you should've seen.
As we approached the finish line - the Sistine Chapel - Shannon told us what to expect: she said there was another private tour group ahead of us but that they would be ushered out as we entered, and then we'd have 30 minutes alone in the chapel. Just our group of 10. If you've been to the Sistine Chapel before, you know what it's like to enter it: it's like Grand Central at rush hour, but worse. So bad, in fact, that when friends have visited Rome and asked if they should see the Vatican Museum, I normally tell them "don't do it, you'll regret it." So I want you to imagine what we saw: we entered a quiet, empty room with a little group standing in the middle chatting as they walked out. There was silence, and the room was empty. THE SISTINE CHAPEL WAS EMPTY. Our guard closed and locked the front door and exit, and it was just us and our tour guide. A completely empty Sistine Chapel. I looked around at our group and we were all staring, slack-jawed, at what was around us. Shannon gave us a few minutes to just sit and take it all in before she started the tour-guide portion of the details of the chapel (which is another great thing, because tour guides aren't allowed to talk in the chapel, but on this VIP tour, they ARE allowed to talk -- and you'll learn more info in this 30 minutes than you will in any history class.) I can't stress enough how amazing a moment that 30 minutes was: that alone was worth the cost of the ticket. For people who appreciate art or beautiful things, this actually delivers that "oh my god" moment that you hope to experience when you see something as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel. As we entered, I think I heard 9 other audible gasps.
So let me just say that if you've never seen the Vatican Museums before -- or even if you have, but were frustrated by the experience -- this is worth the price of admission. SO worth it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience that so few people ever get to have. We were all giddy by the time we left: it felt like we had just shared something really special. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 20 and that's not hyperbole: it was A-MA-ZING. Already looking forward to my next Rome trip so I can do it again!!!
Amazing tour and one thing you will appreciate after a few days in Rome, a tour away from the crowds. I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to sit in The Sistine Chapel for an hour with eight other people admiring the artwork. Also enjoyed relaxed viewings of the other amazing displays in the Museums such as the Hall of maps and Raphael Rooms. Expensive but absolutely worth it.
our guide was franchesca (so sorry if that is spelled wrong). she was great. we went on a not so busy day. so we didnt have to stand in a horrible long line like many have posted in reviews, i was also warned about an additional fee? we never paid for anything extra. so im not sure what that was about in previous reviews. i really enjoyed the tour it was amazing to see the history behind each art piece. though i was extremely upset about idiotic people taking pictures and talking and taking pics with flash in the sistine chapel. it saddened me because it clearly states no photos and to be silent. and flashes from cameras ruin the old paint. some people just have no respect. other then that our tour was amazing and so was our guide. i highly recommend going and taking this tour! the meeting place was easy to find and is if you know how to read road signs and a map. we walked to everything in rome including our visit to the vatican.
Worth the cost for beating the LONG line-ups alone! Our guide was fabulous you will see all the high-points along the way. To enhance your experience, read / study the Sistine chapel artwork before your trip. You will really enjoy it so much more. Earlier in the day is best for this trip. I will do it again. Next time, I'll break from the tour after seeing the Sistine chapel, and return to the museum to visit even more rooms. I think that this is a must-do tour for anyone who visits Rome for the first time.
We caught the wrong bus and were running late so it was nice to find that I had actually booked a PRIVATE tour and that our guide was still waiting for us! I had forgotten that I had booked a private tour. Our guide was excellent. An easy going 'go with the flow' kind of person which made the experience so much better since the place was swarming with tourists.
They locked the door between the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's while we were in the Sistine Chapel due to some procession in St Peter's. We were happy to wait as we will probably never get back to Rome and our guide used that time to show us some pictures and explain a few extra things to us.
She was open to suggestions of anything we particularly wanted to see and welcomed questions.
The day before our tour we went past the Vatican while on the 'hop on hop off bus' and saw the queues. I'm so glad I booked before we left Australia.
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