“Welcome to the Vatican!”, says the Italy with Us guide, stepping inside the massive, ninth-century walls that protect the world’s smallest country. “We aren’t in Italy anymore”. No passport required, just a desire to be enthralled by art, archaeological finds and religious objects spanning two millennia.
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.