We are standing in the centre of the Sistine Chapel gazing up at the hands of God. There are less than 20 people in the room.

It’s as if we are alone with Michelangelo and God.

We aren’t of course, but our Walks of Italy Pristine Sistine tour group is so small (there are 7 of us in total) that it feels that way.

We move to the side of the chapel to sit on the wooden benches and stare up in silence as our Walks of Italy guide whispers in our ear via a headset explaining the extraordinary images that cover the ceiling above.

(Taking photos inside the Sistine Chapel is strictly forbidden – unless of course you are the Pope!)

*EN: So often we forget about beauty! Mankind thinks, feels, makes, but is in such need today of beauty. *PT: Muitas vezes esquecemo-nos da beleza. A humanidade pensa, sente, faz, mas hoje há muita necessidade de beleza *ES: A menudo nos olvidamos de la belleza. La humanidad piensa, siente, actúa, pero hoy tiene mucha necesidad de belleza. *FR: Tant de fois, nous oublions la beauté ! L'humanité pense, sent, agit, mais a tant besoin de beauté aujourd'hui. *IT: Tante volte noi ci dimentichiamo della bellezza! L’umanità pensa, sente, fa, ma oggi ha tanto bisogno di bellezza. *DE: Oft vergessen wir die Schönheit! Die Menschheit denkt, fühlt, macht – aber heute braucht sie dringend die Schönheit. #CappellaSistina, #CapelaSistina, #SistineChapel, #CapillaSixtina, #ChapelleSixtine, #SixtinischeKapelle

A photo posted by Pope Francis (@franciscus) on

There is so much to see when you visit Rome that you need weeks not days to do this amazing city justice. But days are all we had and we had to make the most of it.

What makes Walks of Italy Pristine Sistine Tour unique?

My (Almost) Private Tour of the Vatican with Walks of Italy - Vatican Ceiling

  • Our entrance into the Vatican Museums occurs 1 hour before the general public.
  • There is no waiting for hours in a long queue in front of the Vatican Museums.
  • We were able to “skip the line” to enter St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • Our guide is an expert in art history and religion; explaining the history of the Papal Palace, and symbolism of the artwork and architecture. She told us engaging stories about the Popes and the artists and was always available to answer any question we threw at her.
  • Small groups, never more than 12 people in a tour.
  • We were each provided with a headset so that we were able to hear every word our guide was saying — an important thing considering that since we were in a place of worship, she was often whispering so as not to disturb others.

My (Almost) Private Tour of the Vatican with Walks of Italy - Raphael Rooms

The Pristine Sistine Tour by Walks of Italy

After our short wait outside, where our guide gave us an introduction of what we were about to see, the doors opened and we quickly walked through the halls of the Vatican Museums to our first stop, the Sistine Chapel.

The 3+ hour tour starts at the Sistine Chapel so that we can have our private moment without the crowds, exits, and then re-enters the building again with the rest of the general public.

The amazing thing was that as we were hurrying through the hallways, there was no one in the halls except the odd security guard.

My (Almost) Private Tour of the Vatican with Walks of Italy - Vatican Museums

I’ve heard stories of people inching along the halls of the museum shoulder-to-shoulder trying to get a look or take a photo and I couldn’t imagine this scenario at the time until we re-entered the building in the midst of the crowd. We had visited off-season, and the crowds were just a fraction of what it would look like during the summer.

See the difference here in the Gallery of the Maps? Yikes!

My (Almost) Private Tour of the Vatican with Walks of Italy - Gallery of Maps

Sites visited on the Pristine Sistine Tour

  • Sistine Chapel (twice)
  • Raphael Rooms
  • Belvedere Courtyard with Apollo Belvedere & Laocoön & His Sons
  • Pinecone Courtyard
  • Gallery of the Candelabra
  • Gallery of the Maps
  • Gallery of the Tapestries
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • St. Peter’s Square

My (Almost) Private Tour of the Vatican with Walks of Italy - St. Peters

Pristine Sistine Tour Tips

  • The meeting time is at 7:30 am. So plan to be early just in case you have problems finding the meeting location.
  • There is a lot of brisk walking and you will need to keep up, so it’s best to tour with very few belongings and comfortable shoes.
  • Only small bags can be brought inside the museum. Large handbags and backpacks must be checked.
  • Dress modestly with knees and shoulders covered.
  • Photography inside the Sistine Chapel is strictly not allowed.

My (Almost) Private Tour of the Vatican with Walks of Italy - St. Peter's Basilica by Calculated Traveller

My (Almost) Private Tour of the Vatican with Walks of Italy - St. Peter's Basilica by Calculated Traveller

Granted, we didn’t see every piece of art and statue in the Vatican Museum Collection — that would take days — what we did see was the best of the collection, and I can truly say it was magnificent.

I plan on visiting the Vatican Museums again to see the things that I missed. At least I know I did my first trip to the Vatican the right way and will use it as an introduction to my next visit, and the next one after that!
 

Have you visited the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica?

We were guests of Walks of Italy. All opinions, as always are our own.