Nov 15 2007

The Vatican for Cheapskates

Published by at 6:56 pm under Italy,Rome

Picture this: 1/3 of the Earth’s population, lined up in single file on a never-ending sidewalk. People of all ages, shapes, and ethnicities. Now imagine that you must wake up in the pre-dawn hours of a cold winter morning, in order to take your place in this line of humanity. At the very end. Got that? Perfect. Now you might as well say that you were with us this week when we lined up to enter the Vatican Museum.

Here’s an interesting fact: November is Italy’s lowest month when it comes to tourism. And people actually try to visit the Vatican in the summer? Actually, I shouldn’t ask questions to which I already know the answers. I couldn’t figure out why one guy in the middle of the line was wearing bermuda shorts in this weather, but his wife told us they’d joined the line in June ’05.

Emperor Nero's bathtub. This purple marble is the rarest in the world.
Emperor Nero’s bathtub of Egyptian marble

Of course, there is one question worth asking: is the line worth it? Definitely. The Vatican Museum has the most ridiculously impressive collection of art and artifacts I’ve ever seen. And I like going to museums.

We were surprised to find that the price to get in wasn’t half bad either: 11 Euros (current exchange rate = 71 US$). Then we learned the price for a guided tour: 20-30 Euros per person (current exchange rate = 1,600 – 43,000 US$). And because most pieces in the Vatican Museum aren’t labeled clearly (or at all) you need some sort of guide. We knew we’d been beat, so we shelled out 60 additional Euros, and got the guided tour.

Now, let’s treat that last sentence as a test for you. Did you really believe that we paid 60 Euros for the guided tour? If yes, then you still have a long way to go before you realize how cheap we really are. If no, then you probably read this site too much and should get back to whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing.

Even the ceilings of the Vatican Museum are art
Even the ceilings and floors of the Vatican Museum
are art!

We did not, in fact, shell out 60 Euros (current exchange rate = infinity US$) for a Vatican tour. Since we are shameless penny pinchers, we looked into Vatican tour options before ever visiting the museum, and discovered that you can actually rent a handheld audio guide inside the museum, for a mere 6 Euros. The problem is, the volume is SO soft on the handheld unit that you must hold it right up to your ear to hear it, thus forcing you to purchase one unit per person. But armed with this knowledge, we brought my iPod earphones with us to the museum, and these turned out to fit perfectly in the handset’s audio port. And by each taking one earphone in one ear, we were able to share ONE handset, rather than shell out for two. So we looked like two idiots, wandering around the museum with one earphone in my ear, one in Brittany’s, and the cord dangling between us. But that’s two idiots with 54 Euros still in our pockets, to you. Well, I shouldn’t say “still” in our pockets. Brittany found a market selling Nutella on the walk home.

We finished up our Vatican day with an afternoon visit to St. Peter’s Basilica. Verdict? Beautiful, just as every visitor expects. And I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest room I’ve ever been in. Does Wal-Mart count as one room?

IMG_1877The two coolest features of St. Peter’s just may be above and below the actual chapel. Climb a mere 550 steps, and you get to walk out on a railinged area that surrounds the dome. I can’t imagine that there’s a better view of Rome, since nothing I could see for miles in the distance was nearly as high as we were.

Sepulchrum sancti petri apostliDescend underground, and you can visit the papal crypt below the church. The popes of Christmas past weren’t getting many visitors, but John Paul II’s tomb was surrounded by a number of tearful, kneeling guests, and was decorated with plenty of fresh flowers. This meant that I didn’t have to fight any crowds to see the tomb of St. Peter himself, who is buried 50 feet below the (already underground) spot you’re actually able to visit.

Wrapping up with the Vatican meant that, for us, we had wrapped up with Rome. Yesterday afternoon we caught a train to Florence, where we’ll be spending the next week. We’ll be visiting the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, and every gelateria that I’m unable to hide from Brittany. Ciao!

NEXT: Greece: A Recap »



4 responses so far

4 Responses to “The Vatican for Cheapskates”

  1. Laurieon 16 Nov 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Popes of Christmas past! Thanks for the giggles!

    John Flood was here last weekend. Maybe you would like to visit them in the UK before the end of your trip?

  2. Tayloron 18 Nov 2007 at 11:32 am

    Yall have to climb to the top of the Duomo in Florence. It is a lot of steps, but I hear it is SO WORTH IT. Like, you HAVE TO.

    Brittany — you were there for that, right? That makes sense to you? Hopefully.

    Ben — good luck hiding the ice cream.

  3. Ginaon 19 Nov 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Something you may already have resources of, but thought of you today:

    Has discounts for tours, food and information about hostels and such. Couldn’t hurt.

    Love reading about your adventures, I check every day!

    Be safe.

  4. Ginaon 19 Nov 2007 at 12:11 pm

    You may also wish to consider convents or monasteries to stay overnight.

    Here’s another good resource rich with linkage:

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