Today we decided to start our time in Rome by visiting the Vatican. Yesterday after some research we decided to do a guided tour, it was €10 more than the unguided ticket. It was expensive but the other option was waiting in line for an indeterminate amount of time to purchase a ticket as an individual.
Our tour was at 11am but not having tried the public transport in Rome we left about 8:45 to give me some time to get lost. It turns out the trip to the Vatican was a breeze and we were there about 9:30. We used the time until the tour began to wander around St. Peters Square. The square itself is very impressive and we had no trouble killing the time we had until our tour.
We joined our tour and headed over to the Vatican Museum. The museum was fantastic but the crowds inside were incredible. I am not sure how many people they let in per day, but if today is any indication it is too many. At times you could not stop walking as you were being carried along by the crowds. We saw a lot of beautiful things that we would have liked to stop and admire but were unable to due to the crowds. It also made following the guides talk very complicated as we would frequently be separated from her by a wall of people and were not quite sure what piece of art she was talking about. We later learned that even in shoulder season Mondays and Saturdays are very crowded.
We eventually made our way thru to the highlight of the trip the Sistine Chapel. Again the place was jammed with people and you were basically herded into the middle of the Chapel and had to stop and stand in one place. There was no moving around to get a better view of a particular part of the chapel. Having complained I know why so many people want to see the chapel as it is absolutely stunning, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. In the end it was worth the trouble. Sorry there are no pictures from the Sistine Chapel allowed.
The tour finished up with St. Peters Basilica. We have visited a lot of Cathedrals during our time touring in Europe but this one is special. While the crowds were just as large, St. Peters was more than big enough to handle them. While the place is ornate it struck me as more understated, as if it has nothing to prove. We appreciated this, but the art that is in the cathedral is beautiful, and surprisingly to us from many different eras. It is not frozen in time which is also refreshing.
In the end our three hour tour took a little over four hours due to the crowd, and we emerged from St. Peters famished. Ton had picked out a place she wanted to try and following Google maps we arrived at the site, sat down and ordered some pasta, when I looked across the street and saw the name of the restaurant she had picked out, we were in the wrong place. The food was pretty good though.