The Sistine Chapel and Pietà by Michelangelo, and the frescoes by Raphael in the Stanze, are just some of the many artistic treasures we visit in this four-hour, in-depth Vatican tour. Led by a trained theologian or art historian, our critically acclaimed Arte Vaticana walk visits both the Vatican Museums and the Basilica of St. Peter’s and is conducted more like a walking seminar than a normal tour: by limiting our group size to no more than six people we are able to take a deeper approach to the Vatican collections as we explore papal history and the role of art throughout the history of the Catholic Church.
Armed with reserved entry tickets, which guarantee a quick entry into the museums, we begin with the Vatican art collection, one of the world's great repositories of ancient and Renaissance works. Although each walk evolves differently depending on our docent's area of expertise and the interests of the group, we generally start with a thorough overview of papal history and the construction of the palace. Depending on the party's interests, we may then veer off to the chronologically-arranged picture gallery known as the Pinacoteca, which forms the perfect backdrop for a seminar on the history of painting from the late medieval to high Renaissance periods.
From here we will traverse the halls of the museums, visiting the most important rooms including the ancient statuary collection of Pope Julius II and his personal apartments decorated by Raphael. By the time we reach the Sistine Chapel, we will have set the context to appreciate the cultural and artistic climate in which Michelangelo worked when he frescoed the ceiling and later the Last Judgment on the altar wall. The final forty to sixty minutes of this walk cover St. Peter's Basilica, a vast church and the symbolic center of Catholicism. Our docent will navigate the enormous interior and discuss works by Michelangelo (the dome and the Pietà) and Bernini (the Baldacchino), fixing the church and its artworks in a social and historical context. Finally, we will emerge into St. Peter's square.
Note: While our visit includes advance entry reservations, the Vatican Museums are extremely crowded. We organize this walk to take place at the most opportune times. However, we may yet spend a few minutes at the beginning of the walk waiting in the reserved entry line, during which time our docent will provide an overview and contextualization for the walk. No time will be wasted. Please keep in mind that the museums are generally more crowded on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. If you can organize your visit for a Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday, that is best. We also recommend either an 8am start, before general admission to the public, or later in the afternoon when the morning crowds have thinned out.
Our Arte Vaticana walk is one of two approaches we take at the Vatican. For travelers looking for a more in-depth approach we suggest splitting the Museums and Basilica into two separate itineraries, our Vatican Collections and our St. Peter's Symposium, which deal with each site in separate three-hour segments. These itineraries can be linked together into a single, six-hour walk (with stop for lunch) or booked on successive days to allow more time between.