Insider Tips for Visiting the Vatican

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Visiting the Vatican while in Rome is one of the main agendas for most travelers to Italy. Vatican City is its own independent city-state and the smallest in the world, both by population and area. Established in 1929 as part of the Lateran Treaty, this walled UNESCO World Heritage site is actually within the city limits of Rome, on the left bank of the Tiber River.

St Peters Square Vatican City, ItalyAlways crowded with tourists, the Vatican takes up the better part of a day for a visit.  Having visited the Vatican on five separate occasions, I have learned a few things. These insider tips can make the most of your time at the Vatican, and hopefully will make your day more enjoyable.

The Pieta, Virgin Mary holding JesusKnow the best times to go

Crowds Inside Vatican Museum Vatican City, ItalyWhen planning your time in Rome, try to plan to visit the Vatican when it is less crowded. The fall and spring are the best seasons as far as crowds are concerned. Stay away on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, and also Wednesdays if the Pope is in town. The weekends are always very crowded and especially the last Sunday of the month because the entrance is free.  You still will likely pay a price, however, in the 2 or 3 hour wait you will have on those Sundays.

It is a good idea to arrive either first thing in the morning, or between 11 and mid-day. It seems that by then the crowds have dissipated, but then soon afterwards they start lining up again.

Buy advance purchase tickets and skip the line

The Vatican has been selling tickets on their website so that you can purchase these in advance and skip the long lines for the museums. The entrance fee is 15 euros and there is an additional fee of 4 euros to purchase tickets online. Students with ID get a reduced rate. You may find however, that despite having advance tickets, many other travelers have done the same thing, so there are two lines, one for those with tickets and one for those who still need to buy tickets. Remember nothing happens fast in Italy.

Adhere to the dress code

The one place in Italy where the dress code is strictly enforced is the Vatican. Security personnel keep a close watch on the crowd, and there are big signs informing everyone of the rules. On more than one occasion I have seen them turn away women with tank tops until they can find a way to cover their shoulders. (A scarf will do).

Even in the heat of the summer, shorts are not allowed. Miniskirts or bare shoulders for either men or women are definitely not acceptable. This is particularly enforced in St Peter's Basilica, although the Vatican website indicates the dress code also is meant for the Vatican museums.

Guards at Vatican City, ItalyNo photography in the Sistine Chapel

The Vatican museums encompass many different museums and it actually can be overwhelming. The final room is the one everyone wants to see, the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo's frescoed ceiling. Security is tight in this room and absolutely no photography or video is allowed. The authorities are continually announcing "silenzio, no foto, no video," and they are serious. They will confiscate any cameras they see being used here.

Bring a snack and some water

A day at the Vatican can be a long day and there are no places to buy food or beverages inside. It is wise to bring a few snacks or protein bars and some water as well to get you through the day. There are places outside of St Peter's Square but once you are in line, you'll be glad you brought something of your own.

Enjoy this day at one of the most visited places in the entire world. I can almost guarantee that you will want to return one day.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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