Construction of a second entrance to the Vatican Museums is currently underway in an attempt to alleviate queues for one of Rome’s most iconic sites. The home of the Sistine Chapel and other priceless masterpieces receives roughly 25,000 visitors a day, many of whom wait in lines that stretch back and around the Vatican walls for hours.
As a result, not everyone is admitted. “It is inconceivable that people can’t get in,” Vatican Museums chief Barbara Jatta recently commented. The additional entrance will offer alternative routes through lesser-known parts of the museums, like the Ethnological Museum.
The famed Museums – which attracted a staggering 5.89 million people last year – have long grappled with a solution to their soaring numbers. Jatta’s predecessor Antonio Paolucci had proposed that only those with reserved, pre-booked tickets be granted access and also envisioned a digital reproduction of the Sistine Chapel, plans she has since shelved. “If you were a visitor wishing to see the Sistine Chapel and you got to Rome and were told that it couldn’t be seen, what would you do?” she asked. “We are also a museum with moral and spiritual value. The Sistine Chapel is also a chapel, and that’s something that cannot be forgotten,” Jatta told The New York Times in 2017. Instead, the Museums’ first woman director has pitched a second route to the Sistine Chapel around the Apostolic Palace and extended opening hours. A high-tech, multimedia show based on Michelangelo and produced with the help of English superstar Sting is also in the works.
Founded in the early 16th century by Pope Julius, the Vatican Museums display some of the most renowned pieces of classical and Renaissance art in the world, including first century BC sculpture Laocoön, Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th century painting St. Jerome, and frescoes by Raphael among thousands of others.
If you’re planning on visiting the Vatican Museums before the additional entrance debuts, never fear: lines can be avoided by booking a ticket well in advance here. Tuesday through Friday at lunchtime (noon-2pm) tend to be the quietest hours. Only around on the weekend? Skip Sunday and Monday when the Museums are at their most packed and opt for Friday.
Words: Alexandra Bruzzese