A trip to the Vatican is a must for me. I know there are a lot of places of interests and famous landmarks to see when in Rome but to me, I need to set my feet inside the Vatican – no matter what! It probably stems from the fact I grew up reading and seeing famous artworks by Michelangelo inside the Sistine Chapel from books and dreaming that one day, I’d personally see it for myself. So on our Christmas holiday trip to Rome, the Sistine Chapel tour was the only pre-planned trip we made for our family.
As expected if traveling with a little person, things didn’t go smoothly and my son even made some drama when we didn’t allow him to touch the shiny Sphere within the Sphere on display in the middle of the Vatican Garden! We were almost ready to simply cut short the guided tour and find the nearest exit when my son fell asleep a few minutes before we made our way towards the Sistine Chapel – thank goodness for naptimes!
Looking back, we were really lucky my son slept the entire time we were going through each tiny Raphael Rooms (Stanze di Raffaello) filled with fresco-covered ceilings (and walls), the small hallway for the Gallery of Tapestries and the breathtaking Sistine Chapel, home to Michaelangelo’s world-famous fresco. We failed to listen as attentively to our tour guide as we liked but by simply laying our eyes upon these amazing works of art in person – was something I never thought I’d be able to do. We weren’t able to capture as many photos as we wanted but at least we didn’t have to deal with an awake (and more likely fussy) baby!
Taking this tour with our little boy was challenging, no doubt. Our bodies ached as we alternately carried our 22-month old throughout the 2-hour guided tour. In fact, my husband badly needed a pint of beer after (no joke) but the experience we had of the Sistine Chapel will stay with us forever. I look forward to coming back again in the future when my son is bigger so we (my son included) can appreciate the artwork, the ambiance, and just be able to take it in, have some time to process the things we see before heading to the next masterpiece – not just simply to pass by to get over it.
And for parents contemplating on taking their little ones inside the Sistine chapel, here are some tips you may want to consider.
Don’t even think of taking the pram with you
We didn’t bring the pram and just took our son with a carrier. It was a bit difficult (and painful at the back) walking throughout the 2-hour tour with my 22-month old alternately strapped to our bodies. But it was the “better” option especially as it was extremely busy and crowded at the time we went there. Prams aren’t banned inside. In fact, we saw a couple of families with prams but with the amount of people getting in and the Raphael Rooms we passed by en route to the Sistine chapel too small – prams just take space. There was even a family we saw going the opposite direction of the queue when they can’t stop their baby from crying (and had to get out) having a difficult time passing through the crowd because the pram was too big!
Spend a couple of extra bucks for the Skip the Line tour
We still queued for a good 30-45 minutes to get through the gate and I can’t imagine how much worse it can get if we didn’t buy the Skip the Line option. So if planning to go the Sistine Chapel, especially with small kids, the extra money you pay for is totally worth it. Save your energy walking on the entire tour instead of feeling tired just from queuing outside.
Visit the Sistine Chapel during baby’s naptime and/or after feeding
Once you start the “route” towards the Sistine Chapel, it is a lot harder to go back. The Raphael Rooms and Gallery of Tapestries are not meant for two-way traffic so going against the tide can be challenging, especially if traveling during peak season. Make use of the opportunities to feed the baby before heading towards Raphael’s Rooms. In fact, a little bit of time is spent within the Vatican Gardens so take that chance to make sure your little one is fed.
It is also a lot better if you get on with the tour during or around the baby’s naptime. That way, you can hope he/she sleeps on the entire duration (or even half) of the tour so you can worry less and appreciate the works of art around you more. Book your tickets in advance so you have more control on the time your tour starts and ends.