Many of us have seen the Sistine Chapel. It welcomes about seven million people a year. But few have witnessed the masterpieces it holds, like The Last Supper and The Creation of Adam, without the presence of crowds.

Ceiling of the Sistine chapel in the Vatican museum
Ceiling of the Sistine chapel in the Vatican museum ©S-F/Shutterstock

The Sistine Chapel, where cardinals meet to elect a new pope, is one of the world's most frequented museums. Painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, it's arguably the most famous and valuable work of art in the world too. Its monumental frescoes, which depict a number of different Biblical scenes, attract about 25,000 visitors per day. As anyone who has visited the chapel knows, there's usually an endless line of tourists waiting to get in. And the hopes of experiencing an inspired or spiritual moment can, more often than not, end up being dashed amid the rush for seats or as guards shout: "no pictures" before you're moved on on to make way for the crowds behind you.

Aerial of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican in Rome, as seen from the dome of St. Peter
Aerial of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican in Rome, as seen from the dome of St. Peter ©Vadim Bochkarev/Shutterstock

If you want to experience it without the crowds you can, but it doesn't come cheap. True Luxury travel company has announced a new private Sistine Chapel tour that allows visitors to experience the artwork without the crowds. Private tours are usually reserved for royals, politicians and celebrities but for the hefty sum of $5558 (€5098) per person (based on two people), guests can have the chapel all to themselves. Well, along with a private art historian who has been personally appointed by the Vatican City State to lead the tour.

Busts on display inside the Vatican museum
Busts on display inside the Vatican museum ©Mistervlad/Shutterstock

The experience includes access to the Upper Galleries and the Pius-Christian Museum (which houses the largest collection of early Christian sculptures in existence) and the passage through the Immaculate Conception and Sobieski Rooms. The tour will start at 6am, as visitors accompany the Vatican's “clavigero”, or key keeper, as he passes through the halls performing the “solemn rite” of unlocking the 300 gates to the museum and switching on the lights to the Sistine Chapel. Guests will enjoy a breakfast in the Courtyard of the Pinecone, before then spending the entire day exploring the Vatican with their private art historian guide. The tour also includes a break for three-course lunch at an Italian restaurant before continuing on towards St. Peter’s Basilica and more of the Vatican museums.

If you don't have a few thousand euro to spare, there are small groups (usually limited to between six and 15 people) available with various tour operators at a lower cost.

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