The Pinecone Courtyard, designed by Donato Bramante, was once part of the Cortile del Belvedere. The famous Pigna (pine cone) originally stood close to the Pantheon next to the Temple of Isis, then during the Middle Ages it was moved to Old St. Peter's Basilica, and then moved again in 1608 where it currently stands.
About your tour
Italy with Us’ daytime tour transports you into this artistic and spiritual paradise. The Vatican Museums, located in the popes’ former living and working quarters, allow you to enter in His Holiness’ kingdom, even if you aren’t wearing red shoes. To fully enjoy this labyrinth of interconnected rooms, a seasoned, official Vatican guide is necessary. Italy with Us’ guides are experts not only in art history but also in avoiding the crowds that justifiably flock to this bucket-list destination.
From the mosaic-covered floors that look like paintings to the painted ceilings that appear to be bas relief, the Vatican Museums are jam-packed with priceless art collected by the popes. Marvel at a rare gilded bronze statue of Hercules dating from the first century. Admire the Raphael-designed tapestries depicting Christ’s life (and some mind-blowing optical illusions). In the stately Gallery of Maps, your guide will take you on a journey through Italy. Forty glorious blue and green maps frescoed on the walls in the late 16th century astound with their beauty and seriously pre-GPS accuracy.
Just when the crowds are becoming too much, your guide will lead you into some rooms that are off-limits to the general public. The Hall of Animals offers almost a Noah’s Ark-sized collection of animals sculpted in marble, bronze and alabaster.
Just like you, Michelangelo walked these halls some 500 years ago to gain inspiration. You’ll gaze upon his marble models for the Sistine Chapel – the Belvedere Apollo, the muscular Laocoön and a stark, perfectly proportional torso, all around 2000 years old. The stunning culmination of your visit will be the Sistine Chapel.
“The truths of our faith speak to us here from all sides”, Pope John Paul II said about the chapel. Your guide will have opened your ears – and eyes – to its artistic icons. See the work of a dream team of Renaissance artists who depicted the lives of Moses and Christ on the side walls. Even more remarkable is Michelangelo’s ceiling. Tilt your head upward, just as the artist did when painting the ceiling, and you’ll be amazed by these legendary scenes from the book of Genesis, which resonate far more in person. Ponder Michelangelo’s encore, the monumental Last Judgement. Those destined for heaven and hell swirl around Christ in the moment before he declares their fate. At least you’ll have seen the paradise that is the Vatican.
Top tour highlights
The Round Room takes its shape from the Pantheon, and includes colossal statues, a 13 meter red porphyry basin, with ancient mosaics on the floor. The Hall of the Muses shows sculptures of Appolo and the Nine Muses, dating back to the times of Emperor Hadrian, and discovered in the Villa of Cassius near Tivoli.
The Chariot Room shows a huge Roman chariot with two horses made of marble, and was restored in 1788. The Gallery of Candelabra has six sections of an exhibition arranged from 1785 to 1788 under Pope Pius VI Braschi, and contains huge marble candelabra.
This gallery includes Roman works originally woven for Pope Urban VIII (Barberini). The Gallery of the Tapestries also includes a Flemish collection by Pieter van Aelst's School in Brussels, first shown in the Sistine Chapel in 1531, and later arranged for the Vatican Museum gallery in 1838.
Based on drawings by Danti, the Gallery of the Maps was painted between 1580 and 1585, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII.
The Sistine Chapel is part of the Apostolic Palace; the Pope's official residence. The Chapel's ceiling was painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, and also contains works by leading artists of the late 15th century, including Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino and Raphael.