Travel tips: the Vatican city


Dress code and photography

If you are planning a visit there prepare yourself to go through security checks as you leave the country! (Italy)

No sharp objects (pocket knives, scissors and the like). Water is allowed as long as it’s in plastic, positively no glass bottles. Restrictions for long umbrellas with tips (you must check them!).

You should bring your camera, pictures are allowed (with a few restrictions) but no tripods.

There will be a dress code:  shoulders and knees must be covered so no tank tops, mini skirts or  very short shorts. Sandals, flip-flops are fine, no restrictions for the shoes.

Pictures are allowed  on the outside with no restrictions, while inside the Museums cameras and videos are fine without the flash. In the Sistine Chapel positively no pictures or filming whatsoever. In St. Peter’s Basilica pictures are fine with the flash, while down the Vatican Grottoes pictures are again not allowed. Confused? Well the signs in the different wings will remind you the rules.


Best time to go. Prepurchasing tickets.

Museums are generally busier on Saturdays and Mondays since  they are normally closed on Sundays.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays are much slower.

On the last Sunday of the month the Museums are open and free but from 9 to 12,30  only so the lines are generally very thick ! Inside there is a lot of noise and confusion which is the reason why I’d avoid a visit to the Vatican Museums  on Sunday unless you have no other possibility.

What about Wednesdays? In springtime, summer and fall the Holy Father gives a morning  audience in St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica won’t be open to the public until the end of the audience (approx. 1 pm). So if you intend visiting the museums there won’t be large crowds  since many will attend the papal audience but if you want to see the Basilica exiting from the Sistine Chapel it will be closed. In the  early afternoon instead a lot of the groups attending the papal  audience will go to the museums.

It is true that it is difficult to predict lines, on a cruise day for example there will be  busloads of visitors from the cruiseships or in case of religious ceremonies.

Are you visiting Saint Peter’s? (during the busy season)

If  you decide to visit Saint Peter’s Basilica only, without the museums, expect to wait in line in the square if you get there too late. I suggest going to the Basilica before 9 am or after 4 pm. Normally guides can give tours in the Basilica from around 10 am to 5.30 pm so this is when the line in Saint Peter’s square gets very long.

Do you want to see Raphael’s Rooms?

Well then don’t do the mistake many do!

When you exit the Gallery of the Maps, there is another short gallery with some tapestries and then if you turn LEFT you’ll go to the Raphael Rooms. If instead you’ll go STRAIGHT you’ll take the stairs that lead directly inside the Sistine Chapel. At that point once you get in the Sistine Chapel  it will be impossible  to climb up the same  stairs and go to Raphael’s Rooms since it is a one way stairway. So if you do not want  to miss Raphael’s masterpieces in the Vatican remember to turn left (there is a small sign). After  the Raphael Rooms you’ll be able to reach the Sistine Chapel with a rather long itinerary  through the collection of Modern Religious Art in the Borgia Apartments.

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