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Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

Toronto, Canada
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Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

Is there any advantage to one over the other? I am overwhelmed with the choices of "outside" tour guides for going through the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and Basilica and wonder if it would be simpler to just book an official Vatican Tour Guide through the Vatican Museum website. I will have three teenagers with me and do not want to overwhelm them (ie bore them) by staying longer than three hours. Which kind of tour guide would be best for a two to three hour tour with simple explanations of what we will be seeing in the Vatican, etc.?

P.S. I hope this does come across as being prickly, but I would rather not receive unsolicited advice about what teenagers can handle. I know my children best and know how long they can last in museums/galleries:)

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Shdema, Israel
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1. Re: Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

I simpathize with you totally, I'm going to be in Rome for 2.5 days with 2 teenagers, and personally would love to see all the historical attractions and museums, while they would probably moan about not going to do any action parks during this trip...

BTW, we plan to take "Rome in a day" tour of "Rome-cabs" that will include a 2 hour tour of the vatican.

Edited: 11:17 am, June 17, 2012
Toronto, Canada
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2. Re: Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

OOPS. I meant, by my post-script, that I hoped my penultimate sentence would NOT come across as prickly... :) I should have been more careful when proofreading my post before submitting!

Jackson, Michigan
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3. Re: Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

I'[m very interested in the answer to your question Frances, we're heading to Rome mid-Dec. and a tour of the Vatican museums is top of our list.

Victoria, Australia
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4. Re: Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

We did a tour of the Vatican Museums in Sept a few years ago. The guide was booked through our travel agent and was really keen on art and spent an enormous amount of time just on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It would have been great for art buffs but it meant that he rushed us through the other musuems. It was also unbelievably crowded at that time.

We visited Rome again a couple of years ago in February and visited the Vatican museums again but independently this time so no tour guide. We had a great visit, lingering where we wanted to and at that time of the year it was not crowded at all.

St Paul, MN
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5. Re: Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

it reads like you are making them go. If you are so worried about boring them, why go at all?

The official vatican tour was OK. I think it was 2 hours long. It does not cover the whole Vatican Museum. It covers the galleries on the way to the Sistine Chapel and ends just outside of it. Since I was with just one daughter and she was in her 20s we then saw the whole Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and stayed until the Museums closed at 5 pm.

Most of the time the Sistine chapel is packed with people. I have been there 3 times, twice in the off-season in the winter (Dec and Feb), and it was packed then. The rest of the Museum galleries that are not on the way to the Sistine Chapel can be almost deserted.

Charles City, Iowa
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6. Re: Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

Completely agree with EmeraldDiva. Our first trip to Rome, we took a guided tour through Vatican Museum...very rushed, minimally informative. Our last trip, we decided to go on our own. Went after lunch, no lines, and loved wandering on our own. St. Peter's requires standing in line for security check, but the lines move fast ...no big deal. Much more enjoyable and cheaper than the guided tour thing...entry was 15 euros each . You will go through the Sistine Chapel on this "on your own" tour.

Edited: 12:51 am, June 19, 2012
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7. Re: Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

I've done the tour offered by the Vatican a few times and have found it just long enough with just the right amount of information in order to not be boring. There are two tours, one that does and one that doesn't include the basilica. I would suggest taking the tour that doesn't include the basilica. It's two hours long and allows you to go directly into the basilica. Once inside the basilica you can decide if your kids want to take a tour of the basilica. There is a free tour offered by the basilica that you can join if your kids want to do it.


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8. Re: Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

I did the Vatican museum on June 2 with my 22 yr old son with a private guide. I have been meaning to post this as a separate post so I am glad your question prompts me. Doing a private tour turned out to be not just a highlight of our trip, but honestly, a life time highlight. Cecilia Martin, the guide, whose name I got as a referral from a guide Rick Steves mentions in his book, met us outside the Vatican a little before 9 that morning. (I had prebooked tickets and had my voucher with me). She whisked us inside, and we were in the painting room within moments. Neither my son nor I are knowledgeable about this kind of art, nor the history surrounding it. We were just open and interested in learning. What Cecilia was able to do in 3 hours was tie in the progression of art with the history (political and religious- in Rome intertwined as to be inseparable)-of Rome in a way that told a story and was totally absorbing to us. She led us from painting to painting, to sculpture pointing out how this one is different, why it was important, who had commissioned it, etc. We ended our 3 hours in the Sistine Chapel, having done St Peter's Basilica the day before on our own, but she would have taken us there if we wanted. The 3 hours FLEW by in such a pleasant manner and interesting manner. The morning we spent at the Vatican was a highlight of our 16 days in Europe. (By contrast, the next week we spent an aimless and largely boring couple hours in the Louvre, seeing the classic "must-see's" but having no idea of what else we were walking past.) Private guides are typically 50 Euro per hour, 3 hours minimum, and that is what Cecilia charges. Contact info: CECILIAMARTINI2004@libero.it She is Roman, does tours all over the city, and is a delightful, knowledgeable companion. I would love to return to Rome some day and do a tour of churches all over the city (which we did on our own, but man, was I missing her!) Expensive but worth every single penny.

9. Re: Official Vatican Tour Guide vs. Independent Tour Guide

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