I caught a bug during travel this time, a somewhat less severe variant of covid. Someone we had contact with received that diagnosis, so we all knew it would hit us within a few days. It was short-lived, but the result is fatigue and insomnia, which I felt for most of the journey.
On Monday, I had a multi-hour visit planned to the Vatican Museums. The plan was to use a skip-the-line service through a travel agency and explore the museums on my own for a few hours. This plan was made back in early October when it never crossed my mind that I would catch covid while in Italy. So, when I showed up at the meeting point, knowing that I physically wouldn’t be able to walk through the Vatican Museums all day due to my after covid weakness, and I was offered the option to upgrade to a guided tour lasting two hours with the possibility of a quick transition to St. Peter’s Basilica, I agreed. It cost me an additional 20 EUR on top of the original 17 EUR ticket plus a few extra euros for the skip-the-line option. The crowds at the Vatican Museums would have been unbearable for me all day, so I’ll listen to the guide walking around Museums for two hours and then head to the Basilica. The last time I was inside was over twenty years ago, so I was ready for a refresher.
Recently, I heard that the Vatican Museums are looking to put a stop to this skip-the-line practice. Rome isn’t the only place where this happens. I’ve seen this procedure many times in various locations, usually opting not to use it. This time, it was a deliberate choice. The outcome was even more dismal than I could have imagined. Since I take a lot of photos, far more than I show on this page, I’ve been able to recreate every trip step by step by looking at the exact timing. Because I reviewed old photos (originals made in time order) before the trip, during the guided tour, I quickly realized that the guide was leading us to the Sistine Chapel by the fastest route. First, for some reason, we spent over half an hour in front of the Sistine Chapel paintings in an internal Vatican Museum courtyard, as the guide shared rather his own reflections. Then, a quick passage through the corridors of the Vatican Museum, and after forty minutes, we were already in the Sistine Chapel. Twelve minutes to look around. Of course, in the unbearable crowd. So, if, like me, you are nearsighted and can’t take close-up photos (it is forbidden to make phostos in the Chapel), you have been alredy there a couple of times, you saw many wanders while on travel, you’re already dreaming of leaving from the moment you enter because the Chapel simply can’t make impression on you anymore. Then, more stairs, passage through more corridors, and true to the promise, the guide left us at the entrance stairs to St. Peter’s Basilica.
We were supposed to explore the museum for two hours with a guide. There were several of us in the group, from different European countries. I think, for most, it was their first time. What the skip-the-line service did to us was just plain deceit charged with more than 40 EUR for a less than an hour quick walk through main corridors. Right at the entrance, I saw how the guide exchanged greetings with one or another Museum staff member. Everyone is making a profit from it. You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. However, indeed, the Museum management could do something about it. We are living in a digital world. And the Museum is huge. With better logistics, a reservation system made directly at the Museum webpage, the crowds could have been better channelled. Similarly, with the entrance to the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Do all paths have to lead through the Sistine Chapel? Is it necessary to generate unbearable crowds there forcibly? Yes it is a treasure, but sorry not the very one in Vatican Museums. It is all just about marketing.
My day, in the end, was successful because I spent more than two hours walking around St. Peter’s Basilica. I have several hundred photos, mostly close-ups, where you can admire the craftsmanship of many already nameless artists in detail.