Our driver thought that we were crazy. (Pazzi!) Why would we be going to the Vatican at 6:30 AM, when the museums don’t open to the public until 9.
Why? Because, we booked a special small group tour that allowed us access to the Vatican 2.5 hours before the rest of the world was allowed to enter those hallowed halls.
We told our driver we were having breakfast with the Pope. He just shook his head and quickly took us to our requested destination. We were barely out of the cab, when he sped off, leaving us in the shadow of the great dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. I’ve seen a lot of sunrises and sunsets, but the sunrise over the rooftops of Rome that morning is one of the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen.
Imagine walking into the gilded halls of the Vatican Museums, just behind the footsteps of the guards, as they unlock the doors for the day. A quiet hush lay over the building.
I tried not to giggle, but I was giddy inside. Here were some of the greatest masterpieces of the Catholic Church (indeed, of the world), and I was able to tour them surrounded by only a few other travelers and our guide. I felt like one of the chosen few.
Having studied the Italian Renaissance Art in college, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong! Seeing everything in person, with only a few other people, added to my profound enjoyment of the experience.
There are many tours of the Vatican private, some with small groups, others with large masses of people, almost all of them during the museum’s crowded regular operating hours.
Although the private ones are reported to be great, I can’t imagine how they could be any better than the tour that I took. Arriving before the museums opened to the public, added an extra layer to the specialness of the experience. We were never rushed but moved at a reasonable pace.
Avoiding the throngs of tourists and slowing snaking their way through the exhibits was priceless.
Details: This exclusive small-group tour starts with a delicious buffet breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard before touring the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel. It may not be as private as a one-on-one with a private guide, but the opportunity to go in before anyone else, is amazing. This experience and other like it are available through a Private Access Journeys booking.