Sneaking Behind the Scenes in Vatican City // The Roman Guy
If you’ve been to Rome, you know. You know the crowd of tourists clustered around Trevi Fountain and you know about the long zigzagging lines to visit just about anywhere indoors. As a visitor, Rome is one of those cities that you have to go in totally prepared for or else you’ll get washed out with a tide of travel brochures. These days though, things have improved. Hey, we’ve got our beloved TripAdvisor! If you’re like me, it’s fun to speed through reviews ferociously until we settle on sights, restaurants and tours that fit the bill, figuratively and literally.
During our visit to Rome there were numerous items on our bucket list but at the tippy-top sat a place not in Rome at all, but Vatican City. After performing my standard TripAdvisor vetting, I reached out to The Roman Guy to learn more about their attention-grabbing tour titled ‘Privileged Access Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica Tour‘. Privileged Access, you say?
Instead of bumping through the halls with the masses, we wanted a unique experience that would give us an opportunity to breath and enjoy the famous Papal haunt. As directed, we met our guide, Nina, and fellow guests at a zingy 7:45AM, have grabbed espressos en route. It was one of those crisp mornings with lots of bright light, admittedly a perfect start to the day. Nina introduced herself and almost immediately we were all entranced. Nina is one of those people you cross paths with that you’d love to have as a relative- sweet, fun and totally endearing. As a guide though, her credentials may have out-weighed her spunky, lovable personality. She had received her doctorate in Art History and had even held a position in art preservation at the The Vatican itself. For me the icing on the cake though was Nina’s helpful iPad, which she frequently referenced detail-shots of various works of art and even a diagram of our route for the day. Safe to say, we were in great hands.
As the tour got quickly underway, we passed through a security check and made our way into the Vatican Museum. And what did we find? Nothing. As in… no one whatsoever. The place was totally ours. I had a hay day taking pictures of the beautiful open hallways with their intricately carved ceilings. The Hall of Tapestries came alive with only the quiet shuffle of feet in the distance. And for me, it was the Gallery of Maps that stole my heart. While Nina explained the beautiful details of each, I was totally mesmerized – what a place!
After exploring the Vatican Museum we proceeded on to the absolutely breathtaking Sistine Chapel. Photography isn’t allowed (sorry!) so I sat quietly for 15 minutes in the Chapel quite literally just staring at the ceiling. Can you imagine the skill to create something so beautiful? It was truly the most moving piece of work I’ve ever laid eyes on.
We continued on to the Vatican galleries and then to St. Peter’s Basilica all the while Nina provided a unique, colorful perspective on what it was that we were seeing. With the help of her iPad and stories, everything totally resonated unlike any other museum tour I’ve taken part in. (Fair warning to future museum guides: I’m prone to getting very distracted.) She even pointed out one very curious painting that features Sly Stallone’s 16th century doppleganger- see him with the red hat on the far left in the painting below?
Nina is one of my favorite guides to date – and there wasn’t even food involved, which says quite a lot! Also, big hats off to The Roman Guy for constructing a well-thoughtout backstage tour. In my book, they are definitely the way to go when in Rome.
Of course, all the touring did leave us ready for lunch. Following Nina’s recommendation we headed to Hosteria Dino e Toni not far from Vatican City for a quintessential Italian street-side feast. The restaurant has been run by Dino and Toni for years and is a favorite with locals. After savoring each and every bite, we couldn’t have been more happy to be in on the scoop!
Kudos to The Roman Guy for the superb tour and Dino and Toni for capping off the morning with a bang!