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Tips on Touring the Vatican Museums
Remember that the Vatican's museum complex is humongous—only after walking through what seems miles of galleries do you see the entrance to the Sistine Chapel (which, note should be made, cannot be entered from St. Peter's Basilica directly). Check out the Sistine location vis-à-vis the main church on their Web site www.stpetersbasilica.org/. Most people—especially those who rent an audio guide, who must return it to the main desk—tour the complex, see the Sistine, then trudge back to the main museum entrance, itself a 15-minute walk from St. Peter's Square.
However, there is an "insider" way to exit directly from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter's Basilica: Look for the "tour groups only" door on the right as you face the rear of the chapel—when a group exits, go with the flow and follow them. This will deposit you in St. Peter's Basilica and you won't have to take that 15-minute hike back to St. Peter's Square, nor run the gauntlet of the basilica's security line (note: the X-ray machines can prove hazardous to your camera film). Note that if you run to the Sistine Chapel, then do the "short-cut" exit into the basilica, you will have missed all the rest of the Vatican Museum collection. This means you should probably plan on touring the complete complex, including the ancient statues and the Pinacoteca painting collection, before you get to the Sistine.
Plans are afoot to broaden the sidewalk leading to the museum, to install electronic information panels, and also to build a streamlined roof to protect queuers from sun or rain (until then umbrellas are recommended). With as many as 70,000 visitors daily, the wait can be a long one. Another possibility in the future might be to visit in the evening. This experiment began in July 2009, and the Vatican hopes to open the museum every Friday evening from 7 to 11, though reservations are essential (and possible over the Internet at www.vatican.va). To date, however, no definite timetable has been fixed.
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