Our Day Tour of the Vatican

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Our day tour of the Vatican. What we saw in the Vatican, our tour guide and what to expect with a tour, photographs of inside the Vatican complex, as well as a detailed explanation of our Vatican tour experience.

Our Day Tour of the Vatican

Hubby and I took a 17 day trip to Europe last month. We landed in Rome intending to spend two days there before moving on to Sorrento, Italy. Due to an “issue” we missed our flight and were rebooked for the next day. Since we only took carry on luggage, the rebook went smoothly. However, as all our trains, hotels, guides, etc were booked for our week in Italy, our flight mishap meant we would miss the day in Rome that we had planned on spending at the Colosseum and Forum or the Vatican.

We had booked both tours with Through Eternity Tours. Their no refunds policy on 48 hour cancellation notice is clearly stated on their website. That meant we could have lost both tours- the Colosseum and Forum as well as the Vatican early morning tour, and they would have been perfectly within their rights to make us rebook and charge us for a new tour. However, they were very accommodating, and allowed us to take the 5 hour (it was actually 5 1/2 hours) Vatican tour later in the day at no extra charge.

Our tour guide Francesca Romana Valente, is a licensed tour guide (a must in Italy), with a degree in Archaeology, and an advanced degree in the Vatican! As I understood it, she studied there for 3 years and basically earned a PhD in… the Vatican. Anyhoooo she was super duper knowledgeable and able to easily communicate her knowledge to us in English. I must say that we got a whole lot more out of our tour due to her than I ever expected!

The Vatican entry hall

The lines to get into the Vatican were crazy long. I took a photo, but it did not do justice to the wait. Let’s just say… get a tour guide. It is worth it. We stood in line at the tour entrance and were inside within 10 minutes. Once inside, we went through metal detectors. We then had to wait for our admission tickets (we entered, then Francesca went to get her free ticket (guides get free entry), and our groups tickets). This took as long as the wait to get to the metal detectors! A few members of our tour group (there were 10 of us) took the opportunity to use the facilities. Not a bad idea!

That is the entry hall where people were milling about waiting for their guides to return.

We received transmitters to hear our guide. They worked a fair distance… I’d say close to 20 feet. Francesca would explain a room, the artwork, historical objects. While you couldn’t see everything (she told us it would take 4 years just to stand in front of each painting for one minute), she hit the historical high-points.

Hubby wanted to add that while all the art isn’t always aesthetically pleasing, it is very much intertwined in European history, specifically how art was used as a teaching aid. Early 10th-14th century artwork would tell a bible story via artwork in a time when people could not read.

I would also like to add: this is not a trip for the elderly or infirm. Those old cardinals have got to be in fantastic shape to do the Vatican stairs daily! Either that, or they know where the elevators are and they aren’t sharing with the rest of us. There are stairs, stairs, and more stairs on the journey. Hubby and I thought we’d be fine with working ourselves up to 2-3 miles daily walking before the trip (we got close to two), but forget that! 10,000 stairs on a stair-stepper would have made more sense.

I took hundreds of photos of the Vatican. NO flash is allowed. In light of that (ha! get it!?) I was pretty pleased with the results. No photographs are allowed in the Sistine Chapel. Heck, you are not allowed to talk in the Sistine Chapel. The best use (ok, the ONLY good use) of a selfie stick I ever saw was in the Vatican. People would attach the selfie-stick to their phone, lift the phone over everyone’s head, and take a photo of the high-wall-artwork. The Vatican was the only museum/church we visited that allowed a selfie-stick, however.

In St. Peter’s Basilica, there are a lot of embalmed Pope’s in glass sarcophagi. It kinda creeped me out. The most current one was from the 1960s, and he has a wax overlay on him. We saw a Pope from the 1500s and he was overlayed in silver.

St Peter's Basilica

This is St. Peter’s Basilica from where we entered.

Unfortunately, there is no particular order to these photos. Enjoy:

Vatican water god statue

An outdoor water god sculpture (possibly Neptune).

The Apollo Belvedere

The Apollo Belvedere

Nearly all the statues were er, mutilated. Apparently there was a pope that took exception to the male body, and decided to make the statues less “offensive”.

Bronze statue at the Vatican

This is a bronze statue. We were told that not that many still exist as originals. Art historians can tell originals from reproductions. Obviously, I cannot.

Papal Coat of Arms

This is a Papal coat of arms… I don’t recall from what Pope. Apparently, they all have one!

Michelangelo's The Pietà

Michelangelo’s The Pietà is located in St Peter’s Basilica. It is amazing! Even a Philistine like me can understand why this is one of his four masterpieces (the others are the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, the Last Supper in the Sistine Chapel, and David – in Accademia Gallery Museum in Florence (photos to come!))

The Fontana della Pigna

The Fontana della Pigna. This was once decorated a fountain in Ancient Rome next to a temple of Isis.

The Fontana della Pigna courtyard

The Fontana della Pigna courtyard.

Everywhere you went there was art on the ceiling.

The Gallery of Maps ceiling at the Vatican

Click for larger size

This is the ceiling in the The Gallery of Maps at the Vatican. The maps were commissioned through the years by various popes, but this ceiling, to me, was the wonder in that room. I left the large sizes for you to click on so you can get a feel for the splendor.

The Gallery of Maps ceiling at the Vatican

Click for larger size

The Gallery of Maps ceiling at the Vatican

Click for larger size

ceiling at the Vatican

Click for larger size

Nearly all the ceilings we encountered were some sort of artistic marvel!

ceiling at the Vatican

ceiling at the Vatican


ceiling at the Vatican

More artwork. The breath of art, and the places where it was – ceilings, doorways, floors, monuments, crypts… truly astounding.

ceiling at the Vatican

The ceiling in St Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter's Baldachin

St. Peter’s Baldachin – a large sculpted bronze canopy over the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica.

I am not religious. I have no artistic training (or even an artistic eye), and I found the Vatican well worth the time and money to tour. If you are in Italy, anywhere near Rome – GO! But take a tour to avoid the lines and get the explanations of what you are viewing. You will be glad you did.

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  1. Tamona Valentine says

    Popes with penis issues. Tiny penises on statues. A coat of arms with fruit carefully placed to look like men’s fruit. Yep, I am not missing the irony anywhere! I love love love love love these pictures. My kids are having a ball looking for all kinds of clues in the statues and wondering why a Pope would have a statue of a God. I feel like I was there. Thank you for saving me the trip and all those steps oy vey!

    • LOL Our tour guide told us with Pope ordered them lopped off, T, but I forgot who it was. I am sure a therapist would have a fine time with him today. I actually thought all the pagan art (and there was LOADS of it!) spoke well of the church. They didn’t dump the stuff just because it was a different belief system.

      I took over 1800 photographs on our trip. Don’t worry, I won’t subject you all to that!


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