When visiting Rome it is important to do your research, to plan your trip so that you don't end up falling into common tourist traps and spending more than you need to.
We discovered first hand that with so much information on the internet and being a first time visitor to Rome, it can all get a little confusing, so we wanted to share our experience with you and hopefully it helps!
After a lot of research we stumbled across what turned out to be a GEM of a book, it was the Rick Steeve's 2016 Guide to Rome (ps. this is not a sponsored post). We were trying to do the visit on a budget and wanted to visit as many of the monuments & historical sights as possible, so we decided to do some of the main DIY guided tours that were in the book.
So here's what we did.....
Goal: Wanted to visit St Peters Basilica and Vatican City in a day!
NOTE: Check the opening times and events for St Peters Basilica & Vatican Museums before you visit, some days there are free visits, closures or there may be certain changes. Best to check before you start!
Getting to Vatican City - Transport
From Barberini Station we purchased a 24hour pass for €7.00 which is approximately $9.60 (AUD). The 24hour pass entitles you to an unlimited amount of journeys within the city of Rome for 24hours from first validation. This was very useful and allows you to see different parts of the city without spending too much on travel. For those of you who are interested, 48hour and 72hour passes are also available. You can find further ticketing info here
The metro stop for the Vatican is Ottaviano-S. Pietro and when you hop of the train and exit the station the Vatican is about 5 minutes walking distance. There are street signs everywhere and lots of people to point you in the right direction. Make sure you start your visit as early in the morning as possible,
As you approach Vatican you will know, there will be several tour guides approaching you from various companies offering you deals to join one of their tours. They will explain to you that there are long queues for the Vatican and if you book with them you can 'skip the line'. Beware, some of these tour guides that approach you will rip you off, so it is important to make sure you know what you are paying for and maybe even do a quick google search on their company before you commit to buy.
If you have a bit of spare money, a good English speaking tour may be just fine, however we decided to proceed on our own.
Our first stop was St Peters Basilica.
Before we go any further, prior to visiting the Vatican City, if you are planning to do a DIY tour then we highly recommend purchasing the ebook 'Rick Steves Pocket Rome'. Purchase the ebook and download it to your mobile device it will not only assist you in navigating the various sights across Rome but will also explain the history and meaning behind the different monuments. The book costs around $14.99 AUD on the Apple iBook store but will save you from having to purchase a guided tour and in our honest opinion the book is a lifesaver!
First stop: St Peters Basilica
Entry to St Peter's Basilica is free, although you do have to wait in queue. We visited the Basilica in late January and the free entry queue was a lot shorter than anticipated. We waited in the line for approximately 30-35minutes before going through security prior to being granted entry. It is important to remember to wear clothing which covers both your knees and shoulders or you will be denied access (check the requirements out before you go). If you do not want to wait, you have the option to purchase a "skip the line" ticket (probably useful in peak season) or pay for a guided tour - but we really did not feel like this was necessary.
The Rick Steves book mentioned above will tell you everything from which door you should use to enter the Basilica and guide you step by step through the main monuments, explaining the meaning and history behind each monument along the along the way. Everything from the flooring to the intricate paintings on the roof hold a special story or meaning and without a guide or the ebook it would be easy to overlook their meanings.
After you have admired St Peter's Basilica it is onto the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. If you did decide to purchase the skip the line tickets for the Basilica the ticket your purchase may grant you access straight into the Vatican/ Sistine Chapel. However, if you are like us and took the free entry option for the Basilica you will have to exit the Basilica and walk around to the main entrance for the Vatican Museum. This is only about a 5 minute walk as the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are only around the corner from the Basilica.
Up Next: Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
When researching online we had read that the queues for the Vatican Museum are 3+ hours long and at some times of the year and on special days I am sure they are. However, it was our lucky day. There were NO LINES at the entrance, you could just walk straight in and purchase a ticket!
The tickets for the Vatican Museum and Sistine chapel is €16.00 per person which is about $22 AUD.
Again, there are guided tour options however, we decided to do it ourselves with the help of our trusty Rick Steves book. The Vatican Museum alone is HUGE so it is very easy to get lost or go through a door which makes you miss a section of the museum, so be sure to follow the directions within the book. It will take you to all the most significant areas of the museum and explain everything along the way.
Whilst everything was extraordinary, for us the most beautiful of all was the Sistine Chapel and the work of the great Michelangelo inside. No pictures are allowed in the Sistine Chapel, so unfortunately we are unable to give you a glimpse, but it is definitely not to be missed.
That's it from us travel bugs! If you have any questions be sure to connect with us on our social channels @swankandroche.