Photo diary: Vatican tour

The morning of our early Pristine Sistine Vatican tour we awoke to pouring rain that luckily subsided after our breakfast espresso and croissant. We walked from our hotel over to meet our tour guide, dodging puddles and sprinkles and got ready for our 7:30am start time. It was a wet, slightly chilly day, but we were pumped. 

St. Peter's

Upon entering the Vatican, we made our way straight to the Sistine Chapel so we could have some elbow room while admiring Michelangelo's masterpiece. No photos can be taken in the Chapel, and silence is strictly enforced, which actually made it all the more special. 

We felt a little funny rushing to the chapel and bypassing the beautiful works of art in the hallways, but after the tour was over, we understood how important it was to do this. We were in the chapel with maybe 40 other people. It was serene, and we could really appreciate where we were. After that, we circled back through the Vatican museum for nearly three hours of impressive art, ending once more in the Sistine Chapel. By late morning, the chapel was PACKED. It was hard to make it through the crowd, and despite the enforced silence, there was still a slight hum from the crowd, making it a far different experience from earlier in the morning. If you're considering the Vatican tour, we strongly encourage the early tour for this very reason. 

As a side note, in addition to the rain, we were also a little worried about bringing too much stuff with us, including our camera, unsure of how security would be in the Vatican. In hindsight, we could have brought our small bags and camera along, as security was a breeze. So, pardon the iPhone pics below...

 A selfie with a Vatican statue. 

A selfie with a Vatican statue. 

 The weather cleared, giving us a nice walk through the Vatican gardens.

The weather cleared, giving us a nice walk through the Vatican gardens.

 The  Sala degli Animali  or, Hall of Animals, contained countless statues.

The Sala degli Animali or, Hall of Animals, contained countless statues.

 Our tour guide explained how important this statue of Hercules was. It's one of the few remaining bronze statues in Rome.

Our tour guide explained how important this statue of Hercules was. It's one of the few remaining bronze statues in Rome.

 While nearing the end of our tour, we were getting a little punchy...and hungry. This hallway had exquisite and old maps.

While nearing the end of our tour, we were getting a little punchy...and hungry. This hallway had exquisite and old maps.

 A better look at one of the maps, with Paul getting engulfed by the crowds. It was at about this time that we were so thankful that we signed up for the early morning tour...we certainly avoided huge crowds this way!

A better look at one of the maps, with Paul getting engulfed by the crowds. It was at about this time that we were so thankful that we signed up for the early morning tour...we certainly avoided huge crowds this way!

 We caught a glimpse of where the cardinals meet during the conclave to select the next pope.

We caught a glimpse of where the cardinals meet during the conclave to select the next pope.

 On the day of our tour, it was a youth jubilee day, and our guide told us at the beginning of the day that St. Peter's Basilica would be closed for a private jubilee mass, and our tour wouldn't be able to include the basilica. Instead, we spent extra time in the museum. Upon exiting the museum, we were met with two mini miracles; blue sky AND word that the event was over and we could indeed tour the basilica! 

On the day of our tour, it was a youth jubilee day, and our guide told us at the beginning of the day that St. Peter's Basilica would be closed for a private jubilee mass, and our tour wouldn't be able to include the basilica. Instead, we spent extra time in the museum. Upon exiting the museum, we were met with two mini miracles; blue sky AND word that the event was over and we could indeed tour the basilica! 

 Inside St. Peter's was beautiful!

Inside St. Peter's was beautiful!

 To cap off our tour of the Vatican, we sent a couple postcards home in the  Poste Vaticane , complete with the official stamp.

To cap off our tour of the Vatican, we sent a couple postcards home in the Poste Vaticane, complete with the official stamp.

The Vatican was mind blowing, and as we said, the Walks of Italy tour was wonderful (no affiliation). We saw and learned so much and were satisfied with our choice to pay a little more to get ahead of the crowds. If we did this tour again, we would bring a bag with our camera, and perhaps a snack, too. It's a long tour, but worth it :)