Officials of Rome’s famed Vatican Museums may limit the number of daily visitors following complaints by tour guides of overcrowding, fainting, and possible stampedes. The Museums, which boast priceless works by Raphael, Michelangelo, and Picasso, attract a whopping 6 million people annually but do not put a cap on the number of visitors.
Licensed guides say conditions are at their worst during high season (March to October) when temperatures can soar as high as 40°C and numbers reach up to 30,000 people per day. The mile-long corridor leading to the Sistine Chapel, meanwhile, has only two exits and is often jam-packed with guests eager to take in Michelangelo’s masterpiece.
In response to the concerns, director of the Vatican Museums Barbara Jatta has stated “We are strongly working towards fixing the right number from 2019...I understand how difficult it is for tour guides but all our efforts are focused on giving them the best [conditions] in the museums, as it’s in my interest that they work well and securely.” Jatta also confirmed that a firm had been hired to improve the ticketing system and security measures and that air conditioning would be installed in the Raphael rooms and Borgia apartments.
A second entrance to the Museums is also in the works, which will offer alternative routes through lesser-known parts of the museums. For those seeking a quiet museum experience with plenty of elbow room, there’s a 6am early bird tour that brings travellers to spots like the Simonetti Staircase, Atrium of the Four Fates, and naturally the Sistine Chapel.
Established in the early 16th-century, the Vatican Museums are home to 70,000 works of art, many of which were amassed by popes throughout the centuries and 20,000 of these are currently on display.