The Cabinet of the Masks forms part of the floor of the Pio Clementino Museum, and is a mosaic that depicts masks used in theater of ancient times. The room includes some beautiful statues such as the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and the Three Graces, and was designed by Michelangelo.
About your tour
The immense collection spread across the Popes’ former living and working quarters is seen in a new light as the sun sets. Your Italy with Us guide will blaze the trail while providing just the right amount of info – no dry lectures, no avalanche of dates, no dubious tales trotted out to impress you.
You’ll stroll onto the museums’ terrace for a dusk view of Saint Peter’s Basilica. A gilt bronze sphere glimmers atop the dome, one of the final works of Renaissance genius Michelangelo, whose presence permeates the museums. In the distance, the Sistine Chapel looms. But first you’ll walk in the footsteps of Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci to see the classical statuary that inspired this trio.
The Belvedere Apollo beckons, a second-century AD marble sculpture with a familiar face. It’s Christ in Michelangelo’s Last Judgement. Nearby, watch as Laocoön, a Trojan priest, battles sea serpents, his rippling muscles being the perfect study of marble in motion. And then examine the Belvedere Torso, a fragment of a first-century BC statue that served as a muse for Michelangelo, Raphael and even Rodin.
These marvellous marble works are just the beginning. In the various galleries, you will walk through a stone Roman Empire – statues and floors made of green marble imported from Turkey and yellow marble from North Africa as well as the extremely rare purple stone from Egypt called porphyry. But nothing compares to Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli, a brilliant blue gemstone that was more expensive than gold. Michelangelo pulverized and mixed it with blue paint to create the Last Judgement’s dramatic background.
Smaller scale art also awaits the lucky few on an evening tour. Check out the stupefying collection of micromosaics of nature and Roman monuments. And thanks Italy with Us’ special relationship with the Vatican, you will also gaze upon mosaics from Hadrian’s villa. Another must-see is the Gallery of Maps’ accurate, astoundingly beautiful 16th-century maps of Italy, particularly moving on summer evenings when the dark skies outside enhance the frescoes’ bright colours.
All this prepares you for the Sistine Chapel. In 1508, Michelangelo began work on his glorious ceiling, a fresco cycle depicting the origins of the universe, man and evil. Two decades later, he returned to create the Last Judgement, a masterpiece in which the saved and damned encircle Christ. The unconventional work garnered praise but also criticism for the nudes that were eventually covered with drapery. Yet clothes can’t hide the extensive artistic and religious symbolism as well as Michelangelo’s jab at one of his fiercest critics. Who? Discover that titbit and more during your tour.
Notice: Under 25s Discount only valid for student ID card holders (passports not accepted).
Dress code: Knees and shoulders should be covered at all times during your tour or you will not be allowed entrance.
Top tour highlights
Taking its shape from the Pantheon, the Round Room includes ancient mosaics on the floor, colossal statues, and a 13 meter red porphyry basin. The Hall of the Muses includes sculptures of Appolo and the Nine Muses which were originally discovered in the Villa of Cassius near Tivoli and date back to the times of Hadrian.
The Chariot Room contains a large marble Roman chariot with two horses, restored in 1788. The Gallery of Candelabra contains six sections of an exhibition which were arranged from 1785 to 1788 under Pope Pius VI Braschi, and also includes huge marble candelabra.
The Gallery of the Tapestries includes work by Pieter van Aelst's School in Brussels and were first shown in the Sistine Chapel in 1531 before being arranged for the Vatican Museum gallery in 1838. The gallery also induces 17th century tapestries woven in Rome for Pope Urban VIII (Barberini).
Taking its name from 40 maps frescoed on the walls, the Gallery of the Maps was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1580 and painted between 1580 and 1585, based on drawings by Danti.
Decorated by Raphael and his workshop between 1508 and 1524, the Raphael Rooms are famous for their frescoes, and consist of four rooms known as the Stanze of Raphael and form a reception in the public part of the Pontifical Palace.
The Sistine Chapel ceiling, depicting scenes from the Book of Genesis, was elaborately decorated by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. The chapel is part of the Apostolic Palace; the Pope's official residence, and includes other artworks by Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli and Domenico, as well as large tapestries by Raphael.
Built on the site where Saint Peter was buried in 64 AD, St Peter’s Basilica was built over a 4th century church taking 120 years to complete, and was consecrated in 1626. Italy’s largest basilica, until recently the largest church in the world, was Designed by Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, Donato Bramante and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The Pinecone Courtyard was designed by Donato Bramante, and was originally part of the Cortile del Belvedere. Originally the Pigna (pine cone) was stood close to the Pantheon next to the Temple of Isis. During the Middle Ages, the Pigna was moved to the Old St. Peter's Basilica, and again moved in 1608 to its present location.