August 25, 2011

Vatican City. October, 1986

Yes, that ceiling, that chapel. Jam-packed with tourists who seem progressively to disregard the “Silencio” notices posted about so that the guards frequently have to “ssshhhh” them in an amusingly systematic fashion. But there is a way to have this chapel all to yourself, if only for about five minutes. I can’t remember how I learned this, but it works. Be among the first on line when the Vatican Museums open (arrive 20-30 minutes before opening time, Mon-Sat 9am), and after you’ve paid your admission fee (you can book online; or save the 15 Euros and go on the free last Sunday of the month, 9am-12:30pm), race in the opposite direction from the signs pointing to the Cappella Sistina. (To be extra sure that this route still works, check museum maps online in advance or on paper as soon as you enter.) You’ll pass through some rooms of lesser Vatican treasures (sculpture, armor, etc.), past Raphael’s magnificent School of Athens (you can go back later) and you’ll arrive at the fabled chapel through what most people use as their exit. Photography is (allegedly) no longer allowed. But if you time it properly, you’ll have several minutes there all to your silent self. Look up.

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