During our time in Italy, we decided to go to the smallest country in the world. So while walking around Rome, we took two steps and, voila, we were in a new whole country-the Vatican!
We decided to order our tickets to the Vatican museum ahead of time and upon arriving, realized this was an excellent idea! A line wrapped around almost the entire country’s wall as visitors waited to enter the Vatican museum. Our tickets ensured we were guaranteed a visit and made it in to the city with little wait time.
After our perilous journey into a new country two steps away, we wound our way through the entrance to the beginning of the museum. The museum is quite large and has many different wings. We were able to see most of the museum, but it might be prudent to look through the different exhibits beforehand to decide what you most want to see. There were several different art galleries containing both older and more modern art, tapestries, maps, and other antiquities. There were also some cultural and anthropological exhibits. As expected, much of the art was religious.
There were several highlights. Micah enjoyed a room filled with ancient Christian tomb inscriptions and several rooms that highlighted some of Raphael’s frescoes, including his famous “The School of Athens”. Margaret particularly enjoyed the diversity throughout the museum. We both enjoyed the rooms filled with maps. The last part of our museum trip was perhaps the most famous-the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s ceiling painting. This was perhaps the most disappointing part of the museum. The chapel was extremely crowded, and there was a loudspeaker constantly telling the crowd inside to be quiet. While the crowd was quiet, the incessant noise from the loudspeaker had the exact same effect that a talking crowd would. The crowd was constantly pressing on us, so we spent more time trying to find a spot to stand and gaze up than actually staring at the ceiling. The ceiling was stunning, but the circumstances of the visit were less than ideal.
Overall, the museum was enjoyable. We spent much of the day visiting it, so budget several hours unless you only want to see a few parts of the gallery. However, our trip to the Vatican wasn’t over. After the museum we walked over to St. Peter’s Square. We immediately got in line to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica. The line was long, but moved quickly. Once inside, we were able to stroll the basilica at our leisure. We were moved at St. Peter’s tomb (while it’s inconclusive, it’s probable that St. Peter is buried there), and Margaret especially loved the Holy Spirit inspired stained glass window at the front of the basilica. Once we were done, we walked through St. Peter’s Square, enjoying the views of the basilica and the square. We took a few pictures, and then slowly walked back to the train station.
Our visit to the Vatican was an all-day affair, but we enjoyed our time at the world’s smallest city. We didn’t like the crowds, but we expected them since we were there in August (we recommend going sometime other than July or August). We also avoided long lines by buying tickets early (we highly recommend this). Despite the crowds, it’s worth visiting the Vatican if you find yourself in Rome. The museum contains incredible historical information and art and, however you feel about large churches, St. Peter’s Basilica is quite a sight to behold.