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vatican tours



We didn’t know what to expect and having already arranged many tour options of the Vatican Museums, we thought it would have been another similar experience. We were going for a survey of a new experience.

The Early, the Super-Early, the VIP, the Fast track and Skip the line Vatican Museums tour…. all these tours are fine, good, great, but you cannot compare the Good Morning Vatican Museums with anything else, ever. The feeling isn’t anything you have tried so far. It feels a little bit like the Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller and, a little bit, like Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise. At 6am, while it’s still dark, you access the Museums through the magnificent door, under the sight of two statues of Raffaello and Michelangelo.

We were accompanied in an ancient-like decorated elevator to the level where the visit would start. Everything was dark.  Il Clavigero, the keyman of the Vatican Museums, Gianni Crea, has welcomed us at the door of the terrace (at the Corrazze Atrium) that looks over the St Peter’s Basilica.

The pale day-light, that was struggling with the dark of the previous night, illuminated enough just to see the silhouette and the lights of the St Peter’s Dome. We were there alone, overlooking the garden and the biggest church in the World, all of this just for ourselves.

We went back into the darkness of the Museums, where we felt the thrill of being alone inside the walls that contain so many centuries of history and art. In the past centuries the Museums have been used as Popes’ apartments. That’s why we felt a little bit like intruders, but mostly like hidden treasure seekers or adventurous explorers. In all that obscurity and silence, broken only by clavigero’s keys’ rattling, you felt like you could spot a ghost or hear some whispering echoes.

Gianni, il Clavigero, the Keyman of the Vatican Museums

Gianni would allow us to try to open some of the doors, by giving us the keys. Just to hold one of nearly 2700 keys of the most important collection of art in the World, was worth the experience (and wakening up at 5am!). The Pio Clementino Museum and the Octagonal Courtyard statues were wrapped up in silence of the courtyard and tranquility of the morning.

We arrived to the door that will eventually bring us into the Galleries of the Vatican Museums. The pitch dark around us was cut only by the torch-light. Gianni opened the door and let us into the darkness of the Gallery of Tapestries that, after the usual “switch-sound”, was illuminated in all its beauty. We opened all other Galleries, opened the window covers in the Gallery of Maps, watched from the window at 6.30am toward the Pope Ratzinger’s house, admired the Vatican Gardens from the balcony with the first, shy sunrays, opened the Raphael Rooms for other nearly 30.000 visitors who will enter the Vatican Museums on that day from 8am on… We were opening the Vatican Museums that day.

You really feel in symbiosis with the art, with the world that produced that art, you feel closer to the artistic expression displayed in front of you and you feel peace. After this experience, I would never ever enter a Museum for a visit with all the crowds. Only in this way you understand what’s the best way to appreciate the artworks.

We arrived to a double side, not big, wooden door, where Gianni stopped by and handed one of the three big rings with all the keys. He said “who finds the right key, he or she will open the Sistine Chapel today!”. It looked like hundreds of keys on one big ring and we didn’t have a clue how the SISTINE CHAPEL KEY could have looked like!!!! It felt like we were searching for a 1 billion dollar worth key. If you find it, you can really have the once-in-a-life time honor (and unique thrill!!!) to open the Sistine Chapel!!
We are not sure if it will give more value to your CV, but for sure you won’t forget the shiver you get of holding the keys of the Sistine Chapel!

The Key!!! The one that opens the Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel gets illuminated by ALL of the lights and that happens only in the occasions like the Pope’s ceremony, the Conclave and the 6am tour! (Yes, you understood well!).

You cannot take pictures, but also try not to cry overwhelmed by all the emotions.

We left the Museums initially full of unexplainable emotions. Afterwards, we started to realize what this experience brought us: you feel like winning a lottery as you were one among millions of people who got a chance to experience something unique. And this is one of those things that you buy and it makes you richer!

And for the rest of your life you will have a vivid memory of something extraordinary and unique you were part of.

This tour was available on request for 2019 and now bookable for the most part of 2020. If you would like to join this experience that you will remember for the whole life, please check here for more details.

All-Stars In The House!!

Famous basketball players from the Italian League, Maarten Lennen and Marques Green, joined our Vatican Tour this week with their family and friends!

Book with City Lights Tours to “skip the lines” and get VIP treatment too!

basketball players

Funday Friday with City Lights Tours!!

It’s Funday Friday with City Lights Tours!   Guests from five different countries are joining our “Skip The Line” tour with Emanuele, our guide,  into the Vatican Museums with special passage into St. Peters Basilica.

Emanuele group

“Secrets & mysteries” of the Vatican Museums and Vatican Tours

In our long carrier as tour operators we have often noticed that, when visiting the Vatican, many tourists actually are not aware of some important facts about the place they are going to visit. Some of these “secrets” concerning the Vatican Museums visit might be very surprising in case you’re not well informed.

  • International border. First of all, Vatican is an independent state. By entering the Vatican Museums you will leave Italy and will enter another country where Vatican law is enforced. Vatican state has its own law, police and army. So you will cross an international border while entering the Vatican Museum, but, don’t worry, nobody will ask you to show your passport.
  • St Peter’s and Vatican Museums. While approaching the Vatican you might see lines everywhere, but you might not be sure which line is for the Vatican Museums and which one is for the St Peter’s Basilica. At the St Peter’s Square you will find the line for the metal detectors, after which you will be allowed to enter the St Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican Museums entrance is on the almost opposite side of the Vatican City.


  • Lines. Once you get to the Vatican Museums entrance it might be tricky to understand which “line” you should join. While approaching the main entrance you will probably pass by a long line that runs along the wall of the Vatican. That line is for those who are waiting to enter and buy tickets on their own. That line can take sometimes 2 or 3 hours and probably it’s not the best way to spend a part of your holiday. In case you already bought your tickets you should pass by the line, get to the guards that are staying at the main entrance and show your tickets.

Line for the access to the Vatican Museums

Line at the St Peter’s Square leading to the entrance of the Basilica


  • Tickets. If you have already purchased your Vatican Museums tickets (20€ adults and 12€ kids, teenagers and students under 26 yrs old) you will be able to visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. However, this ticket does not give you the chance to skip the line for the St Peter’s Basilica; and the line for the security check at the Basilica is sometimes hours long, even if the entrance is free of charge.


  • Tours. In case you join a tour you will meet a guide in an office or at a meeting point. From there the tour leader or just a guide will lead you toward the entrance where you will be obliged to go through the security check. Even if you will skip the line for the tickets, some days the security check can take up to 20-30 minutes. Probably you will be asking your self “why am I staying in the line if I paid for the skip-the-line”. Remember, you cannot skip the security line. Also, remember, you are entering another state and nor you nor a tour company can do anything about that issue. The Vatican City has its own rules and this access is not a simple access to a museum, but it is a frontier between two countries.

The positive sides of taking a tour are numerous:

  • you skip the line,
  • you don’t have to wonder around trying to figure out where and how to enter the museums.
  • Most of all, you will have a guide who will lead you through one of the BIGGEST museums in the WORLD (9 miles long). Especially the guide can make a difference, so be careful when you are about to choose the company you are booking with.
  • Another big difference can be the size of the group. Semi-private group is normally up to 13 people maximum. However, depending on companies the meaning of the “group” can vary: it can be 20 – 25 people and it can reach up to 60 people. That makes a huge difference. Considering numerous visitors and the crowd entering (20.000 to 40.000 visitors each day) it is much more enjoyable visiting the Museums within a smaller group. So, when you see “group tour” advertised just check what these guys mean by the group. In case of City Lights Tours our groups are max 24 participants.
  • Another positive thing about joining the tour is that your guide is allowed to bring the group through a privileged passage inside the Sistine Chapel that will bring you directly toward the St Peter’s Basilica. After seeing the line for the Basilica, you will realize that this is also one of the greatest points in favor of getting the tour.

If you have any additional curiosities about visiting the Vatican don’t hesitate to contact us!!


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