My only regret would be that wish I had written this blog before my visit to Vatican Museum. There is a lot to see at Vatican Museum but most of the information’s are scattered so what I have basically done is to consolidate all the information from the various official information site and combined them with my own personal experience in visiting this place. I missed clicking some important photographs since I did not have the right set of information with my on some saving grace I do have them on action camera video which I can always refer to.
A country within a country that is what people refer to Vatican as. Nestled right in the middle of Rome the capital city of Italy this micronation is the mecca of Roman Catholics. This is the country where the Pope is the head of the state and also the head of the Roman Catholic order. A trip to Rome would be honestly incomplete without an itinerary that does not include Vatican. Being a micronation has its advantages since this place is tiny you can easily cover all the important tourist attraction in a day. But to do this you must start early as this place can really get crowded, even during off season the queue can be a mile long thus the key to complete this would be to start as early as possible.
How to Reach Vatican Museum by train
Rome is well connected by Metro, there are three major lines that connect to different places in and around Rome. Metro A and Metro B are traditional lines with rail carriages operated by humans but Metro C is the most modern with driverless operations.
To reach Vatican by Metro you can get down at any of the two stoppages Ottaviano or Cipro on the Metro A route going towards Batistini. Ottaviano is closer to St. Peter’s Basilica and Cipro is closer to Vatican Museum. However, it’s a short walk between the two thus get down at the station depending what you are planning to visit first.
If you are taking Metro B then change at Termini. If you are taking Metro C then change at San Giovani (Lodi as on April 2017). When I was their metro station at San Giovani for Metro C was under construction.
Busses are plenty which travels towards Vatican and your best guide to check for the right bus would be to use Google Maps or refer to the route map at the bus stop.
Tip: When you get out of the Metro station please follow the road signs that will take you towards Vatican City, you will find many people posing as official Vatican Guide but trust me none of them are, they simply print an ID Card with Vatican printed on them.
What to See at Vatican city?
There are three main tourist attractions at Vatican:-
St. Pater’s Basilica
Apart from these three there are many smaller attractions like the parks inside and as a whole, the whole of Vatican City in itself is an architectural marvel and you can simply walk around.
It always a good idea to pre-book your tickets online to Vatican Museum, the ticket includes Sistine Chapel and will let you skip the line. Skipping the line is required since you will needlessly waste time to get in and trust me there are tons of things to see inside. You can book the ticket from here.
There are no tickets for St. Pater’s Basilica neither is there any skip the line tickets. The key factor is to arrive early in the morning and visit St. Pater’s Basilica. It’s little less crowded on the weekdays and more on weekends.
Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
There is only one single ticket for both of these sites. To enter any one of them you have to approach it from the museum entry only. After scanning your bags you have to go to the pre-booked counter and show your booking printouts along with identity documents like a passport. If you are traveling with children for whom you have purchased a discounted ticket then sometimes the ticket issuer might want to visually see them.
After getting your tickets take the stairs and you will reach a steep escalator take that and you will reach the main entry point. If you want Audio Guide then you can hire the device from the counter located at this spot. In my personal opinion these are not required coz it’s really confusing to operate and you will keep hunting for the right audio codes.
After crossing the ticket gate you will have two options either take the left towards Sistine Chapel or take right towards various museums and gallery. The way towards Sistine Chapel also makes you walk through several galleries which are also part of the museum.
Vatican Museum Entrance
Vatican Museum Ticket Counter
Vatican Museum Galleries and Museums to the Right
Ethnological Museum (Museo Missionario Ethnologico)
Carriage Pavilion (Padiglione Delle Carrozze)
Pio-Christian Museum (Museo Pio Cristiano)
Gregorian Profane Museum (Museo Gregoriano Profano)
Philately and Numismatic Museum (Museo Filatelico e Numismatico)
Vatican Museum – Pinacoteca (Gallery)
Some of the masterpiece paintings are present in this section. There are several rooms which are divided thematically and if you really want to see them in depth then can take a whole day in itself. Some rooms of this section of the museum are quite dark which I guess has been done purposely to preserve the paintings. Flash photography is prohibited; if you are having a DSLR then a prime lens would suit the best.
The building was completed in the year 1931 which was commissioned by Pius IX, his bust is present at the entrance. This section of the museum houses some of the finest and famous paintings. The collection many consists of paintings which were collected by Popes over the years.
There is a total of eighteen rooms with a different group of paintings from different ages. The works from the Middle Ages to 1800, are set in chronological order, in eighteen rooms.
Room 1 – 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, known as “primitives”.
Room 2 – 14th-century painters. Important ones are: Christ before Pilate by Pietro Lorenzetti, The Redeemer conferring a blessing by Simone Martini & Triptych Giotto.
Room 3 – Early 15th century. Important ones are The Madonna and Child, with St Dominic and St Catherine by Fra Angelico.
Room 4 – Works by the painter Melozzo da Forlì Musician Angels. Sixtus IV and Platina by Melozzo.
Room 5 –15th-century painting. Important ones Miracles of Saint Vincenzo Ferrer by Ercole de’ Roberti
Room 6 – Polyptychs by 15th-century artists, often with 14th-century features like a golden background and an eye for details.
Room 7 –Important one’s Madonna and Child with Four Saints by Perugino & Saint Jerome Enthroned by Giovanni Santi (Father of Raphael)
Room 8 – Tapestry of the Last Supper inspired from the work of Leonardo da Vinci & 16th-century Flemish tapestries Important paintings Crowning of the Virgin by Raphael, Madonna of Foligno” & Transfiguration by Michelangelo.
Room 9 – St Jerome in the Wilderness by Leonardo da Vinci (an unfinished work dated 1482 & Lament over the Dead Christ by Venetian Giovanni Bellini
Room 10 –Venetian painters of the 16th century. Important ones are the Madonna of St Niccolò dei Frari by Titian Saint Helen by Paolo Caliari.
Room 11 – Second half of the 16th century. Important ones are Lapidation of Saint Stephen by Giorgio Vasari, Sacrifice of Isaac by Ludovico Carracci, Annunciation by Cavalier d’Arpino, and Rest during the Flight into Egypt by Barocci.
Room 12 – Early 17th century painters. Important ones are Communion of Saint Jerome Domenichino, Crucifixion of Saint Peter by Guido Reni, Saint Matthew and the Angel by Guido Reni, Saint Peter Disclaiming Christ by the Caravaggio school, Deposition from the Cross by Caravaggio, and “Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus” by Nicolas Poussin.
Room 13 –Paintings by Van Dyck, Pietro da Cortona, and Nicolas Poussin.
Room 14 – 15 – Generic paintings from 17th & 18th Centuries.
Room 16 – Paintings by Wenzel Peter (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden).
Room 17 – Clay models of Gian Lorenzo Bernini statues
Room 18 – 15th to 19th-century Greek icons
Vatican Museum – Ethnological Museum (Museo Missionario Ethnologico)
Initially founded in the year 1884 by Gregory XVI (1831-1846) in the Lateran Palace which was later relocated in the Vatican in 1970 by John XXIII.
Over many centuries Vatican had received gifts from various empires and countries and this museum is a collection of all these gifts. Some of these are Greek & Roman sculptures dating from the 1st to the 3rd c. A.D. Models of Beijing’s Temple of the Sky, the Altar of Confucius and Shintoist Temple of Nara, Japan. Statues from Tibet, Indonesia, India, Far East, Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua etc. It also has items from Islamic and Central African culture.
Vatican Museum – Carriage Pavilion (Padiglione Delle Carrozze)
This section was inaugurated by Paul VI on 19 April 1973. This gallery as the name suggest houses all the ceremonial carriages and at a later stage with the advent of automobiles, this section also has some of the finest collection of limited edition and sometimes exclusive cars.
Graham-Paige 837, Citroën Lictoria C6, Mercedes, 460 Nürburg limousine designed by Ferdinand Porsche, Mercedes 300 Sel, Fiat Campagnola (assassination attempt against John Paul II, Popemobiles (Land Rover, Toyota, and Mercedes 230 GE), the last Beetle produced by Volkswagen in Mexico in 2003, and Renault 4 Etc.
Vatican Museum – Pio-Christian Museum (Museo Pio Cristiano)
Founded by Pius IX in 1854 this section contains Christian antiquities originally exhibited in the Lateran Museum. Some of the important items are statues, sarcophagi, inscriptions and archaeological findings dating from the 6th century. Not to forget the statue of the Good Shepherd.
Vatican Museum – Gregorian Profane Museum (Museo Gregoriano Profano)
Initially, it was founded by Gregory XVI in the Lateran Palace in 1884 and later in the year 1970 was relocated by John XXIII.
Some important works include Greek original works, Roman copies, and sculptures dating from the 1st to the 3rd c. A.D. The most famous group is Athena and Marsyas, a copy of a Greek original by Myron (c. 450 B.C.).
Vatican Museum – Philately and Numismatic Museum (Museo Filatelico e Numismatico)
Vatican being an independent country issues its own stamps and this museum has a vast collection from its archive. The collection dates from 1929 to date, including a wide selection of postmarks, sketches, typographic plates, plasters, bronze casts, stamps, coins etc.
Vatican Museum – Square Garden (Giardino Quadrato)
A little up ahead there is a small open green space with a fountain known as Square Garden (Giardino Quadrato). If you are tired its best to take rest here, there are several benches all around this garden. The fountain in the middle really cools off the surroundings.
This garden area also serves another important purpose, all around you will see several information boards with photographs and descriptions. These are nothing but photographic copies of the interior of the Sistine Chapel. Inside Sistine Chapel, there is no detailed signage and that small chapel is surrounded by frescos so to understand the significance of each of the sections with Sistine Chapel you would need to read all the display boards here.
Vatican Museum – Galleries and Museums to the Left
Coming back towards the main entrance (ticket checkpoint) you can now proceed towards Sistine Chapel. Let me remind you here that Sistine Chapel from this place is quite far as you would need to cross several rooms with exhibits and a few courtyards. Adding tourist to these rooms will make your journey time a lot less slow so expect some time to finally reach Sistine Chapel.
However Sistine Chapel is not the only point of interest during this walk through, each of the rooms has its own significance and do go through them slowly else you might miss something really important.
You will pass through the following sections:-
New Wing (Braccio Nuovo)
Chiaramonti Museum (Museo Chiaramonti)
Pio Clementino Museum (Museo Pio Clementino)
Gregorian Egyptian Museum (Museo Gregoriano Egizio)
Gregorian Etruscan Museum (Museo Gregoriano Etrusco)
Chariot Room (Sala Della Biga)
Pinecone Courtyard (Cortile della Pigna)
Candlestick Gallery (Galleria dei Candelabri)
Tapestry Gallery (Galleria degli Arazzi)
Geographical Map Gallery (Galleria delle Carte Geografiche)
Apartment of San Pio V (Appartamento di San Pio V)
Sobieski Room (Sala Sobieski)
Vault of the immaculate room (Sala dell’Immacolata)
Raffaello’s Rooms (Stanze di Raffaello)
Borgia Apartment (Appartamento Borgia)
Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina)
Chapel of Saint Peter Martyr (Cappella di San Pietro Martire)
Hall of Addresses (Sala degli Indirizzi)
Room of the Aldobrandini Wedding (Sala delle Nozze Aldobrandine)
Hall of the Papyri (Sala dei Papiri)
Christian Museum (Museo Cristiano)
Vatican Museum – New Wing (Braccio Nuovo)
Napoleon had over the years looted, confiscated and sometimes demanded the handover of many collections from the Vatican which this section of Europe was under his rule. After his demise Vatican sought out different channels to retrieve all those from France. When these were finally returned to Vatican some of the collection were placed in the new section under the guidance of Pope Pius VII. The architect of this section was none other than Raffaele Stern.This section of the museum has a good collection of sculptors and busts.
Vatican Museum – Chiaramonti Museum (Museo Chiaramonti)
The Chiaramonti Museum is part of the Vatican Museums and is named after Pope Pius VII (born Barnaba Chiaramonti), who founded the beginnings of the nineteenth century. It was set up and commanded by Antonio Canova and is composed of three galleries:
The Chiaromonti Gallery: Where numerous sculptures are exposed, friezes and sarcophagi.
The Lapidary Gallery : (Limited access) Which contains more than 3,000 pieces of inscriptions, epigraphs, and monuments, representing the largest collection in the world of this type of artifacts.
Vatican Museum – Pio Clementino Museum (Museo Pio Clementino)
This section can undoubtedly be called one of the most important collections of Vatican. This collection mainly consists of donations from collectors and antiquaries. This section of the museum was overseen mainly by Clement XIV Ganganelli (1769-1774) and Pius VI Braschi (1775-1799) thus the name Pio Clementino. This is the largest of all sections and consists of many rooms. This room also has artifacts which were earlier taken by Napoleon which was later returned back the Vatican.
Vatican Museum – Gregorian Egyptian Museum (Museo Gregoriano Egizio)
This section was started by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839. This section has nine rooms, which were originally the rooms, taken from the former apartment and retreat of Pius IV. A huge collection of Egyptian artefacts are present in these rooms.
Vatican Museum – Gregorian Etruscan Museum (Museo Gregoriano Etrusco)
Inaugurated in 1837 this museum was founded by Pope Gregory XVI. This museum is dedicated to Etruscan antiques, which were unearthed during various excavations carried out in ancient Etruria, then part of the territory of the Papal State. This museum has collection of bronze, glass, ivory, terracotta and ceramics from Rome and Latium, including former Etruscan cities such as Vulci. There are also frescoes by Federico Barocci and Federico Zuccari (1563) and by Santi di Tito and Niccolò Circignani delle Pomarance (1564), as well as mural works in tempera of great interest dating from the end of the eighteenth century.
Vatican Museum – Chariot Room (Sala Della Biga)
This room is famous for its large marble Roman chariot drawn by two horses created around 18th there is also a copy of the famous Discobolus found in Villa Adriana at Tivoli, from a bronze Greek original by Myron.
Vatican Museum – Pinecone Courtyard (Cortile della Pigna)
The reason it is called so is due to the presence of a large bronze pinecone fountain located at one of the sides of the courtyard. This place also has some Egyptian stone structures on one side.
Vatican Museum – Candlestick Gallery (Galleria dei Candelabri)
This was originally built as a lobby with side arches built in 1761. This section was covered up and the roofs painted to make it into a gallery. This section is named Candelabri which means Candle Stick due to the massive marble candlestick columns located at the entrance. This section was arranged by Pope Pius VI Braschi between 1785 and 1788. However, this was renovated over the years and very recently went through a massive restoration process.
Vatican Museum – Tapestry Gallery (Galleria degli Arazzi)
This gallery was set up in the year 1838 and it contains Flemish tapestries, made in Brussels by Pieter van Aelst’s School from drawings by Raphael’s pupils, during the pontificate of Clement VII (1523-1534).
Vatican Museum – Geographical Map Gallery (Galleria delle Carte Geografiche)
This section has forty maps which are present on the wall as frescoes. These show the Italian regions and the papal properties at the time of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585). These maps were painted between 1580 and 1585 on drawings by Ignazio Danti. Personally, for me this was the most visually stunning room.
Vatican Museum – Apartment of San Pio V (Appartamento di San Pio V)
This apartment was originally built for Pope Pius V and this room has two frescoes by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari. This place also has some Flemish tapestries of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Vatican Museum – Sobieski Room (Sala Sobieski) & Vault of the Immaculate room (Sala dell’Immacolata)
This room gets its name from the painting Sobieski’s victory over the Turks in Vienna in 1683 by Jean Matejko. The other room gets its name from a big showcase, a gift from the French company Christofle, full of books given to Pius IX (1846-1878) by kings, bishops, cities, and dioceses, when the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was promulgated.
Vatican Museum – Raffaello’s Rooms (Stanze di Raffaello)
The below information is from the Wikipedia.
The four Raphael Rooms form a suite of reception rooms in the palace, the public part of the papal apartments in the Palace of the Vatican. They are famous for their frescoes, painted by Raphael and his workshop. The Stanze, as they are commonly called, were originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II. He commissioned Raphael, then a relatively young artist from Urbino, and his studio in 1508 or 1509 to redecorate the existing interiors of the rooms entirely. It was possibly Julius’ intent to outshine the apartments of his predecessor (and rival) Pope Alexander VI, as the Stanze are directly above Alexander’s Borgia Apartment. They are on the third floor, overlooking the south side of the Belvedere Courtyard.
Vatican Museum – Borgia Apartment (Appartamento Borgia)
The below information is from the Wikipedia.
The Borgia Apartments are a suite of rooms in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, adapted for personal use by Pope Alexander VI (Rodrígo de Borgia). In the late 15th century, he commissioned the Italian painter Bernardino di Betto (Pinturicchio) and his studio to decorate them with frescos.
Vatican Museum – Sistine Chappel (Cappella Sistina)
The below information is from the Wikipedia.
The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in Vatican City. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the frescos that decorate the interior, and most particularly the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment by Michelangelo.
During the reign of Sixtus IV, a team of Renaissance painters that included Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Roselli, created a series of frescos depicting the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ, offset by papal portraits above and trompe l’oeil drapery below. These paintings were completed in 1482, and on 15 August 1483, Sixtus IV celebrated the first mass in the Sistine Chapel for the Feast of the Assumption, at which ceremony the chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Between 1508 and 1512, under the patronage of Pope Julius II, Michelangelo painted the chapel’s ceiling, a project which changed the course of Western art and is regarded as one of the major artistic accomplishments of human civilization. In a different climate after the Sack of Rome, he returned and between 1535 and 1541, painted The Last Judgment for Popes Clement VII and Paul III. The fame of Michelangelo’s paintings has drawn multitudes of visitors to the chapel ever since they were revealed five hundred years ago.
Vatican Museum – Chapel of Saint Peter Martyr (Cappella di San Pietro Martire)
After you come out of Sistine Chapel you will first see the chapel of St. Peter Martyr. The room has frescos by Giorgio Vasari and his student Jacopo Zucchi. There is also a glass-fronted cabinet to the left of the altar contains the precious relics of the Sancta Sanctorum, the ancient chapel of the Palace of the Popes in the Lateran dating from the pontificate of Leo III (795 – 816).
Vatican Museum – Room of Tributes (Sala degli Indirizzi)
This room has exhibits silverware, ivories, enamels, vestments, chalices, crosses and religious objects from every era and of all types, documenting the varying tendencies and preferences in papal patronage throughout the centuries.
Room of the Aldobrandini Wedding (Sala delle Nozze Aldobrandine)
This room has frescoes in the ceiling by Guido Reni narrating the Stories of Samson. In this room, you will find the Aldobrandini Wedding, the group of the Heroines of Tor Marancia and the female figure from the estate of St. Basil on the Via Nomentana, to which the Odyssey cycle of Via Graziosa was added in 1853, and the Ostia frescoes from 1968 onwards.
Vatican Museum – Hall of the Papyri (Sala dei Papiri)
This section was originally conceived and started by Clement XIV but was ultimately finished by Pius VI. This room contains homonymous documents of the Church of Ravenna (sixth to ninth centuries). There is also a display cabinet opposite the windows exhibit a precious selection of terracotta works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini & Alessandro Algardi.
Vatican Museum – Christian Museum (Museo Cristiano)
This section of the museum was established in 1757 by Benedict XIV. The collection includes Latin papyri of the Church of Ravenna (sixth to ninth centuries), the so-called Room of the Tributes “Sala degli Indirizzi”, a rare and important collection of Christian paintings from the beginnings of the art.
Vatican Museum – Gift Shop
Right at the end of the tour is the official Vatican Gift Shop so for the last minute gifts this is the best place to look for them. However, I would recommend to buy them outside from the several street vendors as it would be much cheaper there and the quality of the products are almost similar.
Vatican Museum – Bramante Staircase
To exit the museum you have to use a spiral staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932. This is a very iconic structure as these features in many photographs. At some places, the spiral staircase can be really steep thus watch your steps.
Hope you have enjoyed touring around Vatican Museum with me. This blog was specifically created to be used as a travel guide inside the museum, I had faced some difficulties while visiting this museum thus wanted to create an easy room by room guide highlighting the key things to see in each of them. In my next blog, I will take you to Naples more specifically Pompeii.
Action Camera Footage of Vatican Museum
Book tickets to Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel Online (Skip the line)
Food and Water are expensive inside the premises. It’s economical to buy them from a supermarket of a store and bring them along with you.
The walk to Sistine Chapel can be really long and slow, take it with ease and rest in between.
You do not need to hire a guide just walk along a group which already has a guide in your preferred language. It’s usually very crowded and no one will notice. This actually works everywhere in Italy. The guides are loud and can be easily heard