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The Vatican Museums

The first time I went to the Vatican Museums, back in July 2011, our tour guide was nearly arrested... I better take you back a few hours before that.

When we arrived at the Vatican, there was a 4-5 hour queue to get in, so we decided to employ the tactic we had used the previous day at the Colosseum. Tour touts line the streets towards the Vatican and hang around the Colosseum to lure in tourists who can't be bothered to wait. You'll pay double what you'd pay if you queued, but you won't be hanging around for hours.

It worked splendidly at the Colosseum; at the Vatican, disaster struck. We got through security, around twenty of us, and our guide went off to buy our tickets. She handed them out, except two of our group didn't get theirs. Whether this was a scam or a genuine mistake, who knows, but two of our group were understandably annoyed that they had paid for a ticket, yet a ticket had not materialised.

We spent a lot of time sat around waiting whilst people in our group argued back and forth with the tour guide, the Gendarmerie Corps got involved, and they were going to arrest our tour guide for fraud. At the last minute an American couple, who were angry we'd now wasted an hour of our tour, paid for two new tickets. Crisis averted!

Nowadays it's much easier to skip the queue with online booking. We booked our slot online, and within ten minutes of arriving at the Vatican Museums, we were through security and on our way to explore. The folks who were queuing outside had three hours to wait in the heat, poor sods.

Filled with priceless sculptures and artwork, there really is too much to tell you about what's at the Vatican Museums. Wherever you go though, don't ignore the special exhibitions or lesser known museums. We enjoyed the Philatelic and Numismatic Museum, which contains all the stamps and coins of Vatican City. Ditto for the Ethnological Museum. They give a better sense of the Vatican itself than a room full of Renaissance paintings or marble statues ever could.

One thing that we found was we ended up getting stuck behind massive groups of people, which meant we shuffled along with these zombies whose blood lust had been replaced by photo lust. 

Cameras were randomly pointed at frescoes and masterpieces, without them actually looking with their own eyes at what they were seeing - it was a pretty uncomfortable experience.  

There are going to be crowds of people, of course there are, but towards the end of the day we found that the rooms and galleries were much quieter. The 2pm entry slot we had booked seemed to be the time that all the tour groups descended on the Vatican Museums. 

The most famous part of the Vatican Museums is probably the Sistine Chapel. Whilst a lot of it was painted by Michelangelo, it's not all his work in the chapel. Michelangelo's ceiling and fresco of The Last Judgement are what people crowd to see, ignoring the other frescoes in there by the likes of Botticelli, Perugino and Rosselli.  

You can't take photos in the Sistine Chapel, but I think Raphael's Rooms, which are just before the Sistine Chapel, are far more impressive.

Do go and see the Sistine Chapel but, likewise, have a proper look at everything else, and don't rush through to get to the Sistine Chapel as it's the last bit of the Museums.

Look up, look back and look all around you - you'll probably spot something amazing that the zombie tour people haven't seen! x

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