Its amazing how much I learned on this tour - as the only non-Catholic of a group of 4, I was astounded on what Chiara, our tour guide, educated me on but also pleasantly surprised that my friends and husband learned a lot as well. Chiara was so entertaining and wonderful that I almost didn't want to the tour to end. For those of you going to Rome - it's worth the skip the line and get your own tour guide; you won't learn or understand nearly as much on your own .
This tour was packed with a ton of things to see and learn. However, the crowds were immense and the negotiating through them was a challenge. It seems to be par for the course, so don't expect time to contemplate much...it's like a drive by...on foot! The Vatican and Vatacombs were awesome. I would offer that there is probably little that can be done about viewing them without the wall to wall crowds. That said it is important to note that our guide did not speak English well or clearly...this added to frustration in getting information that we were sure he had a lot of but could not effectively pass on. We were all English speaking in this particular tour and expected a more clear speaking guide for sure. He was gracious and attentive but the job is monumental with all the crowds...kinda have mixed thoughts about whether it was worth it or not in retrospect. You want to see these sites, you want to learn from guides but you sure don't want to be herded through the massive venue either. Jury is out on my final verdict . You finally surrender to it all and make the best of it and try to be in the moment. Hard to imagine visiting Rome without seeing these sites. Don't think other guides were having an easier time than ours...it's just what is. Just be patient and prepared.
With the Vatican being so busy, a tour is mandatory. The guide did a great job highlighting the key aspects of the Vatican and museum. We had friends book the last tour of the day, which gave them a more private experience and were able to take pictures in Sistine chapel. DEFINITELY go to the Rotunda! Incredible views of Rome!
Mis-leading description - the tour does not include the Vatacombs!! We were left very disappointed with this tour. After searching through all the different Vatican tours on Viator and other websites, we chose this one as it stated that Your guide will also lead you through the underground level referred to as the Vatacombs, a rarely seen area of the Vatican where tombs of the former popes are located, before your tour ends. However, this was not actually included! Our tour abruptly ended whilst still inside St Peter's Basilica. When another guest asked about the Vatacombs part of the tour, our guide simply pointed at the entrance and said we're free to go down there if we want to, as they are open to anyone to visit, and we don't need a guide for it!! She then left! This is despite us PAYING for a guided tour of the Vatacombs!! Furthermore, the tour advert makes it sound like the tour is providing special access to this area, stating it to be a rarely seen area. This is simply not true. It is open to the general public!! Anyone can simply wander down there from within St Peter's Basilica! It is not rarely seen - thousands of visitors will go down there every day! In addition to this very misleading tour advertisement, the general logistics were poor. You are told to be at the tour operators offices for 10:30am, where you then sit around for half an hour, twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the tour to start at 11am. At 11am, you then walk as a group to the entrance to the Vatican. After queuing to go through the security checks, there was some confusion, with the guide taking us to various desks before we finally got access into the Vatican - by which time it was now about 11:30am. The guide was very knowledgeable, but because of the vast quantity of people also touring the Vatican, especially within the museums section, it was difficult to concentrate on what she was saying, as we were constantly being bumped into, trying to push past other groups, fighting to keep up with our own guide, and struggling to see the museum artifacts because of so many other people being in the way. I have to say, the best part of the experience was once the tour had ended, the guide had left, and we were able to go and explore St Peter's Basilica, the Vatacombs and St Peter's Square by ourselves. It's well worth paying to go up to the top of St Peter's Basilica 10 euros by lift, 8 euros by stairs, which you pay at a little booth in the courtyard. Up there, you get incredible views across Vatican City and Rome, and there's even a gift shop and cafe up there, which were both fairly quiet. You can even send a postcard from the shop up there! But, as I said, this was NOT part of the paid tour. Beware though, that the lift only goes half-way. You still need to climb a lot of spiral steps to the top, which get very steep and narrow. Also, beware that once your guide leaves you in St Peter's Basilica, if you leave the church and go out into St Peter's Square, you cannot get back into the Vatican! You'd have to start again and queue, go through security, etc, as a regular visitor. So as you are fighting to keep up with your guide on the tour, don't think maybe we can come back here later, because you can't! Overall, a very misleading and disappointing tour. The best part of the day being once the tour had finished says it all! We wish we'd booked one of the other tours instead now, and not wasted our money on a tour that completely misrepresents what it includes. AVOID!!
Truly stunning. Given the huge numbers of visitors pouring in to the Vatican every hour, our tour guide, Christina, managed to keep us all together whilst explaining, in detail, the history of each area, including humour where appropriate ensuring everyone enjoyed themselves. It is quite a spectacular place to visit and see first-hand, the amazing architecture, sculptures, paintings and so much more. Many thanks Christina.