The Vatican Museums – a tale of an absolute nightmare

I am so outraged by my experience in the Vatican Museums that I cannot even start by writing a lovely post about how wonderful Rome is. This is one of those situations when it’s hard to disassociate one bad moment of the trip from the experience the trip as a whole actually was. So I will be writing and sharing my shots of Rome. But first I need to get this out of my chest.

If you are wondering if visiting the Vatican museums could somehow be the spiritual or religious experience you’re after, don’t. If you think admiring such beauty will restore the faith in men and perhaps even make you believe in God or become religious all of a sudden – believe me, it won’t. The only praying I could do was to get the hell out of there as soon as I could.

Let me tell you my experience.

I am not a religious person. Even though I am, on paper, catholic, because I was indeed baptised, I don’t believe in God, or any Gods for that matter. My interest in the Vatican was merely artistic and historical. We cannot deny the immense impact Christianity has had in History until our days, becoming the most powerful religion of all, for the best and for the worst. But I’m not here to discuss religion, which is worse than discussing politics. I’m here to tell you that all I wanted was to admire the great masterpieces that the Church so graciously (and may I add eccentrically) commissioned from some of the greatest artists of times.

So I started by buying my ticket online three months in advance. I immediately assumed it would be rough to get tickets, it would get sell out really fast. And when I got to the website, choosing the day and time of my visit, I almost didn’t make it. There were only a few places left and it was three months in advance! I did had to change the day and the time of the ticket (and this was actually a very easy and user friendly process, which led me to believe they actually had it under control).

Oh well. I naive I was. Of course when I got to the place there was a massive queue outside of people wanting to buy the ticket for that day. I breezly passed through them, carrying my voucher and getting immediate entry. In my head, I couldn’t even imagine what would be for those people to wait perhaps for one hour or more in the roasting sun (because it was really hot in Rome), and for the first time I wondered if they would even be allowed entry, as I had seen online how sold out it was already.

So, you see… the thing with places like the Vatican which will be eternal sources of income for the Church and I’m guessing, for the government, they just don’t care about your experience. They got your money. Now just enter and do your thing.

The problem is, I couldn’t do my thing. My thing would be to appreciate the beautiful works of art, taking my time in the Egyptian rooms, stylishingly walking in the direction of the much anticipated Sistine Chapel. You see, this is where I got it wrong. There was only one type of experience allowed visiting the Vatican museums.

It was like descending to hell. Ironic, am I right?

There were hundreds of people in those corridors and rooms, pushing their way through. It was so hot, I quickly started to feel claustrophobic. The number of tours they allow to enter is immense. While I was inside the Sistine Chapel – which they insist is a sacred place but for me was like reaching the insides of hell – I counted eight group tours. And you know how I was able to count? Because their stupid sticks were out there, with their stupid flags. And why this made things even more annoying? Because I couldn’t even take a proper picture without f*** sticks popping out everywhere. And one even had the flag of House Stark – “winter is coming” it said. Well, all I felt was that taste of fury of Fire and Blood. I couldn’t believe I had wasted my money expecting to enjoy art, and all I had was a Dantesque experience of Inferno.

I couldn’t wait to get out of there. It was excruciating. After the fury had passed and I was back outside, refreshing myself with cold water, I felt I wanted to cry. I felt somehow divided – because even though I’m in favor of democratising tourism, which is something that has impacted me personally, I kept wondering how much more can we handle as tourists if no controls are imposed at all.

I understood the only point of buying tickets online was to skip the line. But they still allow hundreds of people to enter everyday.

My advice? Skip the Vatican Museums. It is indeed wonderful inside, but you won’t enjoy it. Unless the Vatican does something about it. Which I deeply hope they would.

Anyone else here had a similar experience, either at the Vatican Museums or anywhere else?



11 thoughts on “The Vatican Museums – a tale of an absolute nightmare

    1. I know 😦 it is so sad that such a good thing as a more equal access to culture and art as brought upon us the impossibility to actually enjoy it!


  1. I visited the Vatican Museums in 2012, in late August, my first time in Rome. I went there with my partner-to-be, there we met for the first time after meeting online. So you can imagine how it was. 😀

    We came to the museums around 10.30 am without any online booking and it took us about half an hour to score the tickets, I can see from my photos. I remember the crowds but they were not especially bothersome. I took it all as the whole: art, riches, people, history. Like an amusement park for adults.

    I hated it much more at the Fontana di Trevi, every time I come there it’s the same. I just want to run away. Well, I have no desire to return to the Vatican museums, and no particular wish to go to any other museum, even though now I live about two hours from Rome (yes, with that same guy) and go there often.

    I enjoy just strolling around the city much more, as you say. People are incredible – the majority act like the only thing that matters is to visit all the most famous spots everybody is talking about, whereas I love to discover places not mentioned often: the top of Monte Mario, that special door that amore took me to see (well, a couple of them), the Eur district, the non-Catholic cemetery (well, this one is quite well-known).

    Thanks for the follow and see you around!


    1. I’m glad to hear at least your Vatican story had some added value 🙂 The more I travel the more I learn that tourist main attractions are becoming unbearable and just a show. I have found people who probably never cared about art would queue to see a specific art gallery just because of a famous painting. It is kind of sad, but unfortunately there is nothing I can do about it, apart from turning our backs and enjoy what the hidden gems still to explore!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Winged Bone
  3. Went to the Vatican Museum last Tuesday. Thank god for the pre-booking. After a short wait outside for the ORP guy, I was in very quickly. And there the fun began. It was like rounding up cattle and send them all in one direction through sometimes tight corridors in a humid condition. After only one hour I couldn’t enjoy the art anymore and wanted to go out. Ruined by those annoying selfie glorifying self-absorbing idiots. Excuse my language. I sometimes wondered if they even know what they are looking at. Take a selfie and quickly to the next one.
    It is just too overcrowded, too many tour groups they let in. They have to think about crowd control somehow, and less about money-grabbing.
    Also, the Sistine Chapel is not that great if you stuff it to the grim with people. It takes away the experience in my book.
    This was a huge waste of time where I could check out other historical places less known.

    Liked by 1 person

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