There’s plenty to see at the Vatican Museums. Most people go here to see the Sistine Chapel but there’s more to Michelangelo’s frescoed ceiling. Famous artists like Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Boticelli has paintings here that are equally worth a visit.The statues, sarcophagi, tapestries and other artifacts are impressive too. The rooms and halls are extraordinary; most places are decorated from floor to ceiling.
I went to Vatican Museums on a Monday, hoped to avoid the crowds but as expected, weekdays are still jam-packed. I started exploring the museums and the basilica at 9:00 and ended around 15:00. I didn’t realize that I spent 6 hours immersing myself in art and history. My mind was craving for more but my tummy had other plans and requested for pizza napoletana.
Before giving into my Italian food craving, here are some museums, halls and courtyards that I found interesting:
Pinacoteca /Art Gallery has 18 rooms with various paintings set in chronological order from 12th to 19th century. Room VIII houses Raphael’s paintings and tapestries.
Pine Cone Courtyard was named after the huge pine cone that’s on display.
Museo Chiaramonti/ Chiaramonti Museum houses statues and busts that are lined up along the long corridor.
Museo Pio Clementino/ Pio Clementino Museum has number of halls, rooms and a courtyard. There are lots of must-see pieces here like Laocoön and His Sons at Octagonal Courtyard and Torso Beldevere at Salle de Muse
*Square Vestibule and Cabinet of Apoxyomenos. Apoxyomenos is a Greek word meaning to clean oneself.
*Sala Rotonda/ Round Room is similar to Pantheon, the top of the dome has a glass window to light up the place. The room has gigantic statues around it and the flooring has mosaic designs.
*Sala degli Animali /Room of Animals has a collection of sculpted animals
*Sala delle Muse/ Room of the Muse houses one of the must-see masterpieces in Vatican Museums. Beldevere Torso, is a Greek sculpture that rest in the center of the room. If you look up, you can see the Apollo and the Muses, a fresco designed by Tomasso Conco.
*Cortile Ottagono/ Octagonal Courtyard has fascinating statues and sarcophagi.
Galleria degli Arazzi/ Gallery of Tapestries has a collection of huge tapestries
Galleria delle Carte Geografiche/ Map Gallery has large topographical maps of Italy; the frescoed ceiling is well lighted that makes it more stunning.
Stanze di Raffaello / Raphael Rooms has four frescoed rooms that were designed by Raphael and his assistants/students. These are Sala di Costantino/ Hall of Constantine, Stanza di Eliodoro/ Room of Heliodorus, Stanza della Segnatura/Room of the Signatura and Stanza dell’incendio del Borgo/ Fire in the Borgo.
Capella Sistina/ Sistine Chapel is covered with frescoes painted by genius artists. The ceiling is filled with biblical scenes painted by Michelangelo. The Creation of Adam is the most famous fresco. Other masterpieces on the walls were decorated by Sandro Boticelli (trained by Leonardo’s teacher), Pietro Perugrino (Raphael’s teacher), Domenico Ghirlandaio (Michelangelo’s teacher) and Cosimo Rosselli.
Michelangelo also painted the wall behind the Altar called the Last Judgment.
For €16, you can visit the Vatican Museums. I purchased my ticket online at the official Vatican Museums site and paid extra €4 for the pre-sale fee which also allows you to skip the long queue at the museum entrance. I didn’t get a tour guide as it would cost me another €12. So I secretly joined different group tours, stood next to them and listened to their guides discretely. 🙂