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Can a guided tour get you past the Vatican Museum lines?

Lines at the Vatican MuseumOne of the biggest headaches about paying a visit to the Vatican Museums is that it’s often an all-day affair – and I’m just talking about the uber-long line you’ve got to wait in! So when I saw a link for a tour company that lets you book visits to the Vatican (among other sights in Rome) without needing to still stand in an hours-long line, needless to say I was skeptical… But intrigued.

Museum Rome is a company offering guided tours of Rome’s great tourist attractions, and the front page boasts that their service lets you “enter the Vatican City without the hussle [sic] to line up at the door.” Well, technically entering Vatican City doesn’t require you to line up, but I think I get their point. You can book a tour for your group, or join a tour as an individual, depending on the attraction. The tours I was particularly interested in learning about were the ones that included the Vatican Museums, and there are two of those – both include the Sistine Chapel in the package, but one is private and the other is a group tour.

Vatican Museum + Sistine Chapel Private Tour
The tour lasts two hours (or more “on request”), and the reservation fee alone is going to set you back €50 – so this is obviously not the kind of thing that serious budget travelers are going to consider worthwhile. For those with more money than time, however, it might be euros well-spent so they don’t have to stand in the museum’s queue for five hours in the hot July sun. The website says that these private tours are available every day, save for weekend day afternoons and any holy day when the Vatican is closed.

Vatican Museum + Sistine Chapel Group Tour
This tour lasts only two hours, because it is run at regular intervals – tours leave at 11:00, 12:00 and 14:00 every day except Saturday and Sunday afternoons, or on holy days when the Vatican closes up. The reservation fee varies depending on how many people have signed up for the tour – if it’s 1-5 people, it’s €25 per person. If it’s six or more people, it’s €50 per person (which, at that price, you might as well take the private tour for the same cost and guarantee a smaller group and more personal attention).

Keep in mind that with both of these tours, the fees listed here are very explicitly “reservation fee only” – meaning that the cost of buying a ticket to enter the Vatican Museums isn’t included. Ticket prices aren’t listed on the Museum Rome website, but you can read more about Vatican Museum tickets information (subject to change).

I haven’t personally tried Museum Rome’s services, and although I’m skeptical about their ability to whisk you past the long lines at the Vatican Museum (when other tour groups have to wait) I’m willing to take them at their word. If you’ve used their services and can vouch for their insider access, please let me know!

Oh, and speaking of insider access, if you really want a special Vatican tour to brag about to the folks back home, consider their “After Hours Vatican Tour” – it’ll cost you €250 per person (though that appears to include the museum entry fee) and will get you a two-hour tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel “when they are closed to the general public.” When I saw the Sistine Chapel, it was in the middle of July and the chapel was full of noisy tourists (though you’re not supposed to talk in there) taking photographs of the ceiling (though you’re not supposed to take pictures, either), two things which just irk me in those settings. So the idea of going with a private small group when the museum and chapel are otherwise empty sounds like something akin to heaven. Now if only I didn’t have to cough up €250 to do it…

(And not even staying in cheap Italy hotels and getting discount airfare would make me feel better about that €250 After Hours tour price – that’s just too damned expensive with the euro-dollar exchange rate right now!)