Why you'll love this tour
Fresh spin on art and history – beyond the facts
Though small in size, the Vatican City State is impressively big on sights, boasting both the world’s largest Christian church, as well as one of the finest (and most extensive!) art collections on the planet. And with a past as compelling as it is long – it’s a dream land for the history buff and culture vulture alike. On this Vatican VIP tour, we’ll piece together the complex puzzle which makes up the Vatican’s millennia long existence and get you acquainted with some of the larger-than-life popes, artists, and martyrs that made this fascinating holy country what it is today.
Naturally, we have fast-track entry to the Vatican Museums, which gives us more time to enjoy their marvels! So while most other groups blaze through the Vatican galleries and make a beeline for the Sistine Chapel, we’ll take the scenic route and truly savor the world-class art on display. Amongst the multitude of masterworks adorning the Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, we’ll lead you on a carefully crafted route to only the most curious and jaw-dropping pieces. From cornerstone classics to tucked away jewels most visitors never get the chance to see – this afternoon stroll is an in-depth exploration of the best the Vatican has to offer.
Feast your eyes upon iconic art and architecture
At What a Life Tours, we know that a guide can make a tour go from ‘blah’ to ‘aha!’ Over the last 11 years, we have organically built a dynamic team of only the most passionate, fun and engaging guides in the business (and while we may be biased, the thousands 5-star reviews from our customers certainly are not!). From power-hungry popes to bad-humored artists (and all the enthralling drama between them), our animated raconteurs will spell-bind you with stories that make the museums and its treasures come to life right before your eyes. With a group size limited to 12 guests or fewer, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to pick your guide’s brain with your curiosities.
As you explore all the nooks and crannies of the Papal Palaces, new surprises will be revealed at every turn. Go agog over the vivid frescoes in the Raphael Rooms, gawk at the gorgeous (and amazingly accurate) 16th century renderings of Italy in the Gallery of Maps, and be astonished by optical illusions in the Tapestry Gallery. Of course, the main attraction – and rightly so – remains the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Get the inside scoop on the four years of backbreaking (literally!) labor it took Michelangelo to transform this once blandly-decorated vault into the magnificent nine-panel showpiece it is today.
Explore St. Peter’s Basilica independently – and queue-free
Breezing into St. Peter’s Basilica through a special ‘groups only’ backdoor, you won’t even see the queue snaking around the square outside (let alone stand in it!). Due to Vatican regulations, touring is not allowed inside ithe Basilica itself after 4:30 pm but your guide will provide you with a quick orientation of its highlights before parting ways so that you can explore this ever-enchanting superstructure on your own. Adorned from top to bottom with intricate mosaics, massive marble sculpts, and hundreds of gilded ornaments – you’re sure to realize that we may just have saved the best for last.
Unsurprisingly, it took over a 100 years (120 to be exact!) to create the incredible basilica and a number of the most esteemed Renaissance artists have left their own illustrious marks on the church along the way. Bramante made the first draft of its layout, Bernini chipped in with his gargantuan bronze Baldachin over the main altarand Michelangelo wrapped everything up – crowning the sanctuary with his massive, 138-feet wide dome. Most impressive of all, however, is yet another of Michelangelo's masterpieces – the Pietà. With all of these astounding works in one place, you’re sure to leave with a newfound appreciation for all that the Vatican has to offer.
What you'll experience
When entering the Vatican Museums, one of the first vistas the visitors come across is the stupendous “Cortile della Pigna”. The court was designed by Renaissance genius Bramante and its architecture became a model for garden design in Western Europe for centuries to follow. This grass covered patio is the perfect place to escape the buzzing galleries for a moment and soak up the magnificent view of St. Peter’s dome, which appears to be only a stone's throw away. The courtyard also serves as a mini-museum, boasting both antique sculptures and a highly contemporary piece in the form of a cracked metallic globe.