When in Rome it feels a bit foolish not to visit Vatican City. After all, its officially a country with its own separate government. It’s a trove of ancient artifacts and art. It’s home to the Pope and is the birthplace of Christianity.
On paper, it sounds like the perfect location to visit. The problem is too many people have the exact same idea.
If you decide to visit the museum in the Vatican the best piece of advice I can give is to purchase a ticket in advance. The queues are legendary and people camp in line for many hours for the privilege of buying a ticket.
You can bypass these ridiculous lines by buying the ticket in advance.
Once you arrive at the Vatican and even if you are lucky to bypass the queue the crowds still manage to make this an uncomfortable experience.
You’ll feel yourself herded through the museum. While no one is forcing your movements, the problem is the lines behind you are so thick that there is literally no time to stop to enjoy a specific piece of art. Everyone walks at the same speed and you need to keep moving if you do not want to get trampled or have an angry mob glare at you.
There’s also too much of a good thing. There’s art stacked everywhere so that the pieces’ begin to blend into one another. There’s no possible way to enjoy each piece for what it is. I appreciate the effort that went into this art, and I wanted to appreciate it and to absorb it. Instead it felt like a chore, an obligation to glance quickly at each piece without really it meaning anything.
I also started having a sick feeling in my stomach that this entire museum was nothing but compounded greed. So much of the worlds art is stored here, and most of it is out of view as it’s stacked everywhere, impossible to be truly enjoyed. How much greed went into hoarding the world’s treasures into one location? I also had the sinking realization that I was contributing to this greed with my ticket fee.
I looked at each piece and could only think that one of these could feed a village in Africa for a month. If this was the case, why was the Church hoarding all this wealth? These are the types of questions I asked myself.
There were no answers from above to my questions.
Afterwards, exhausted and relieved to be escaping the museum I headed to St Peters Basilica. At this point I didn’t really want to go, but I was committed.
I did find visiting the Basilica a more positive experience. It was a spectacular church, but again I was bothered by the fact that it felt like too many resources, and too much wealth was concentrated in this small area. While the Church was stunning I have taken far more joy from smaller and less touristy churches all over Europe.
The exception to my misery was visiting the Sistine chapel. The Sistine Chapel is most famous for its fresco works by Michelangelo, particularly the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling. It’s a spiritual sight to take in. If you are going to the Vatican for only one reason, this is it.
Would I return to the Vatican?
If I had to, but I would fight tooth and nail to avoid it. Is it worth going? I think it’s worth spending a day and that’s coming from someone who did not enjoy it. Sometimes traveling is not about loving a specific destination, instead its about expanding your horizons. Nonetheless, I think one day here is more than sufficient, just make sure you take off early and on a full stomach.
And purchase your tickets in advance.