During your vacation to Rome, you can’t miss a visit to Vatican Museums: they display works from the immense collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries, including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. As seen today, the Vatican Museums are a complex of different pontifical museums and galleries: there are 54 galleries, or salas, in total, and the notably Sistine Chapel is the very last sala within the Museum. Take a look to our Vatican Tour!
- The famous Sistine Chapel is one of the highlights of the Vatican Museums, with Michelangelo‘s magnificent ceiling, which depicts scenes from the Old Testament, and is one of the world’s most famous works of art, that attracts up to twenty thousand people every day. The atmosphere in the Chapel is something mystical: so many people looking up, noses in the air, open mouthed, almost in silence, and the feeling of being very little in the presence of such wonderful and huge masterpieces. It’s good to have binoculars for a better view of the ceiling and of the fresco on the altar wall, Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment.
- The Museums include, besides the Sistine Chapel, the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms and Loggia (the most famous fresco in these rooms is the “School of Athens”, a masterwork of perspective painting), the Borgia Apartment, the Gregorian Egyptian Museum (with stelae and hieroglyphics from around 2500 AD, Roman replicas of Egyptian statues and a collection of mummies from around 1000 BC that were found in Thebes); the Gregorian Etruscan Museum (here you’ll find utensils from the pre-Roman era such as terra-cotta vases, and a series of objects found in a necropolis, among them a throne and a carriage); the Vatican Pinacoteca, one of the newer museums (technically is a picture gallery: paintings from the twelfth to the nineteenth century, that include works of such greats as Raphael and Caravaggio; there’s also a unique display of religious icons); the Missionary Ethnological Museum, that features objects of a religious nature from four geographical areas (Asia, Oceania, Africa, and America); in addition you can find a very large collection of ancient Roman and Greek art, such as the famous Laocoön statue, and then Tapestries, Ceramics, Candelabra, Maps, Miniature Mosaics, the Carriage Pavillion and the Vatican Historical Museum, which provides a fascinating look at the long and sometimes turbulent history of the Vatican.
At the beginning of the visit, you can choose to follow one of four color-coded itineraries, that range from 1.5 hours to more than 5 hours. All itineraries end in the Sistine Chapel. Even with a five-hour tour, it’s impossible to see everything there is to admire, but you’ll get a good overview and hit the most well-known highlights of these magnificent museums.
Before exiting the museums you can admire from above one of the world’s most famous staircases: designed in 1932 by Giuseppe Momo, inspired by the revolutionary spiral staircase designed by Donato Bramante in 1512 for Pope Julius II. The staircase consists of a double helix, one leading up and one leading down. The beautiful bronze staircase is decorated with papal coats of arms.
From 1 March 2014, you can cross the threshold of the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo to visit the exclusive Barberini Garden. Accompanied in a multi-lingual guided tour, visitors will have access to the botanical and architectural wonders of the pontifical residence, known by now as the “second Vatican“.
The Vatican Museums are open from Monday to Saturday: the Ticket Office is open from 9 am to 4 pm. Here the online ticket office. Check also Vatican Museums special openings: free admissions and nocturnal openings.