I don’t like crowds. Or queues. A few years ago, I looked at the line of people outside the Vatican Museums and decided to forget about the artworks and walk around the walls instead. But I was determined that I was going to get to the Vatican Galleries and Sistine Chapel one day. So I was very happy when LivItaly Tours offered me the chance to try an Early Entrance Vatican Small Group Tour. This turned out to be a wonderful experience: not just beating the crowds, but also an in-depth look at one of the world’s great art collections.

LivItaly Vatican tour
Luca, our LivItaly guide, greets us outside the Vatican Museums

Why Take a LivItaly Early Entrance Tour?

The Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist attraction. As such they can get very crowded, and there are always long queues outside. Even on a December morning the queue had started to form by 7.30, although the museum wasn’t due to open until 9. But our early entrance tour got us in without queuing, and allowed us to start our exploration at 8 am, an hour before the regular opening time.

Vatican Gardens
Looking out over the Vatican Gardens

For the first hour it was just us and a few other tour groups. We were able to stand on the normally crowded terrace and look out over the Vatican Gardens. We could walk down the long corridors and appreciate the grandeur of the buildings. And as a photographer I welcomed the freedom to walk around and take pictures of the galleries and the artworks.

Vatican Map Gallery
I have the Map Gallery almost to myself!

LivItaly offers small group tours in Rome and throughout Italy. You can get a 5% discount on any of their tours by using booking code WORLDWIDEWRITER.

Exploring the Vatican Museums With an Expert

Taking a LivItaly tour isn’t just about beating the crowds. It is also about discovering a place with the benefit of an expert guide. I’m not always a fan of guided tours, sometimes finding them packed with indigestible information, but this one was different. We were a small group and our guide, Luca, was excellent. He tailored the tour to our interests, and encouraged us to ask questions as we went along.

Vatican Galleries
We could appreciate the size and grandeur of the Vatican Galleries

We got some fascinating insights into the workings of the Vatican State and the history of Catholicism. And Luca had lots of tips for other places to see (and eat at) in Rome. But what I enjoyed most was the way he showed us things we wouldn’t have spotted for ourselves. In particular, he pointed out the way that various items in the collection had influenced Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican Museums
Pinnable image of the Vatican Museums

Inside the Sistine Chapel

Guides aren’t allowed to address their groups once they get inside the Sistine Chapel. So Luca spent some time explaining what we were going to see before we actually got there. I found this a great help in understanding what we were looking at.


Photography isn’t allowed inside the Chapel, either. So if you want to admire Michelangelo’s paintings you’ll have to go and see for yourself! Have a look at the website for details of this tour and LivItaly’s wide range of small group tours throughout Italy. (Readers of this blog can get a 5% discount on all tours by using booking code WORLDWIDEWRITER.)

I went on the Early Entrance Vatican Small Group Tour as a guest of LivItaly Tours.

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