Musei Vaticani

Musei Vaticani belongs to one of those museums where one is simply overwhelmed with all the artifacts, sculptures and paintings gathered in a relatively small space. It would be difficult to recall all of them, not to mention describing or even make photos of all of them. It would be simply too much.

In Musei Vaticani there a couple of routes you can take. Quite often the sightseeing begins with the antique section. Inside there are many sculptures, busts, reliefs, mosaics and other ancient artifacts. There are almost no paintings. That one will be however more than balanced in other parts of the museum. Walls and ceilings are of antique look. In this section of the Vaticani museum one should simply concentrate on the historical value of that, what one sees. The following sections are more about the art, paintings or frescoes as well as craftsmanship. There are a number of chambers that look like an art gallery, so the focus is indeed on the paintings on display. But there are chambers where one has to look around and look up. The most impressive frescoes are probably in the Raphael’s Rooms – a series of chambers painted by Raphael. But there are also at least two passages alongside long but long corridors with frescoes painted on ceilings. These are a couple of hundreds meters long each: one is a corridor with tapestry maps and the other one a series of consecutive corridors in the Bibliotheca Vaticana (>>>).

Visiting this museum one has to be prepared to find oneself in a crowd – there are daily hundreds of tourists, who want to visit this place. As far as the entrance is concerned: there is the official queue, in which one has to wait a longer time (around an hour or so). One can also use a quicker queue that in practice means use a service of a person (or a guide), who has a reservation. But one has to pay more for the ticket. The latter seems to be an under the desk procedure, but it works.


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Raphael’s Rooms

Some time ago during a visit in Musei Vaticani (>>>) that is totally overwhelming as far as the number of artifacts, artworks as well as handicraft all around are concerned in the second hour of a slow walk in the crowd I was simply too tired to admire that what we saw. There were moments I made photos just to be able to follow the route quietly later at home. My neck was tense because of the constant looking up onto the frescoes and other ceiling decorations. To be frank I did not prepare earlier for this visit, so I had no idea what was still ahead of us. For a couple of minutes we entered a great hall with frescoes all around. I did not want to speculate on its size, but this was altogether hundreds of meters. Then there was another room, and another. You could have only looked around, stopping for a while and catching the momentum.

We entered the so-called Raphael’s Rooms, a series of chambers decorated by the Italian Renaissance master Raphael, or his pupils. In fact the sightseeing route begins in the reverse order. Its starts in the Room of Constantine, a great hall designed for reception and official ceremony purposes. The frescoes are not by Raphael himself. Raphael died before he was able to finish them. The work was finished by artists, who worked in his workshop, upon the original Raphael’s design. The room is devoted to the Roman emperor Constantine, who was the first Christian Emperor of the ancient Rome.


Only a small fraction of a wall fresco in the Room of Constantine, showing the Battle of Constantine against Maxentius, painted by the Raphael’s pupil Julio Romano.


Later on, we visited a series of smaller chambers that had been designed to serve as pope’s private chambers that are told to be painted by Raphael himself. This can be however not fully true, as Raphael is told to have maintained one of the biggest workshops in Rome. Translated into English it means that he employed many talented people who made auxiliary work for him.

Raphael or Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520), was one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance (alongside Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci). He is one of those artists who died young but left huge art heritage.  Raphael’s Rooms are told to be one of his greatest achievements. On the picture left, you can see the Raphael’s self-portrait on display in the Louvre collection in Paris.  But artists sometimes painted their self portraits inside works for which they have been commissioned. One of them (supposedly) is in the Raphael’s Rooms on the wall with a fresco depicting the School of Athens (>>>). In the middle of it there are two masterminds of the ancient times: Plato (to the left) an his pupil Aristotle (to the right). The head of Plato is a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, and that of Aristotle is indeed a Raphael’s self-portrait.


The Raphael’s Rooms are decorated with frescoes all around. You can admire paintings on each wall and on all ceilings. Because of the crowds I made only a few photos directing my camera up from above people’s heads. However, on the Musei Vaticani web page, we can admire the empty Raphael’s rooms on pictures and in form of the virtual tour (>>>).

Below some other photo impressions.









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Enjoying my morning coffee I opened a news feed. One of the headline news was that there is a problem of overcrowding in Venice, known in winter season for its carnival festivities. And, there is a suggestion to limit access for those tourists, who do not stay overnight in the city. Whether the news is true or not, the problem of overcrowding in a number of spots worth sightseeing or spending holidays in Europe, and on other continents, rises today to a real problem both for inhabitants and for tourists. With the market liberalisation in the skies, opening of borders, including facilitation of student exchange, and probably some other factors playing the role, tourism seems to be booming.

In Europe, there are a number of major cities like Paris, Rome or Barcelona, but also many others like historical Italian cities, where day-to-day life already became unbearable because of tourists, no matter the season. But the congestion becomes a nuisance for the tourists themselves, too. Last Sunday I was on the Eiffel Tour. A cold (around 0 degree Celsius) mid-February day, not the high season. The waiting time in the ticket & safety control zone and in the queue to the lift was around fifty minutes. The next day we were at the Louvre >>>. As we were an organised group that hired a guide we entered the museum quite quickly by the back door. But still although not in the high season the museum was on the edge of overcrowding. As most of the exhibition rooms are huge with quite good acoustics, there was a moment I caught myself at barely hearing my own thoughts. As we reached the room (or a hall) were the famous Mona Lisa is displayed my only thought was to photograph the audience.




A bit over a year ago in October 2015 I had the same experience in the Vatican Museums >>>. As the majority of exhibition rooms were smaller, there was not as much noise as in the Louvre, but still walking around was not possible in the most parts of the museum. The only way to move in the museum was to march together with the crowds. 



One of the ways to avoid crowds is to get up early and reach the place before it crowds up to just contemplate the art or the place. But still with limited holiday time it is usually many spots we want to visit at one day, so it is only one that we can visit each morning. And still even when on spot in the morning, we are among those few for only half an hour or so … Or we can look for interesting places to visit that are not that popular with tourists. As the overcrowding does not consider only historical objects but also popular sea and mountain resorts, when not ready for crowds one has to be indeed very selective and make proper research in the internet before planning a trip.

The other solution is simply accept the fact and think of proper logistics like visiting a restroom ahead and carry little food and water as well as plan the day so that a part we spent in the crowds but later on we visit a less attended place to keep balance.

A way to cope with overcrowding is of course imposing some kind of limitations. I have my doubts whether a regulation limiting access to Venice only for those who stay overnight would pass. But still there are popular galleries that did so. My favourite example is the Galleria Borghese in Rome (>>>), on an absolute must-see list for an art fan visiting Rome. To get there you have to apply for reservation and be strictly on time. In exchange, you can visit it for two hours being one of only two hundred visitors allowed in the same time to the building. The only disadvantage is that if taking a spontaneous trip to Rome that we decide on a week ahead or so, we would probably not get the ticket in right time.

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