When you only have 3 days in a city like Rome, time can be more valuable than money. I couldn’t imagine wasting 1/2 of my days in line (in August heat no less) to see the highlights. So of course my first priority in tours was special access. While researching options for touring the Vatican, I came across many companies advertising “early entry” to the Museums. My first thought was “if so many companies have ‘early entry’, how much less crowded than normal can it be?” Turns out I was right: the “jump the line” passes just put you in a shorter line with everyone else who bought a pass.
Then I came across the Breakfast at the Vatican Museums Tour by City Wonders. At first it sounded too good to be true, but City Wonders has negotiated a special partnership with the Vatican that grants their tours both a specific physical entrance and the ability to start the breakfast at 7AM…so you get a jump-start on everybody!
Of course this access does not come for free: The breakfast is $135 (current exchange rates), compared to $75 for the standard City Wonders early access tour. I had to know what made up the $60 difference so contacted City Wonders. I was invited to join a breakfast tour so I could see the difference between the two.
Breakfast at the Vatican Tour
At 6:50 in the morning our group (which is capped at 20) met our guide, Michaela. She was personable, friendly and beyond knowledgeable about the topic of Renaissance intrigue. Her passion for the soap opera rivalry between Michelangelo and Raphael was contagious. I had no idea their paths had crossed at all, let alone in such a dramatic fashion! Art is so “up there” (for lack of a better term) but Michaela brought the intrigue to life.
I let City Wonders when I know I was skeptical that any breakfast food was worth $60…and I was right. Not that the breakfast isn’t lovely- it is. The buffet matches that of a 4 star hotel. But no buffet breakfast is worth $60…until you factor in the setting. The Breakfast at the Vatican tour is not about the food:
I was able to enjoy my breakfast with the above view and take a leisurely stroll around the Pinecone courtyard before the tour even began. And Michaela was able to talk while we strolled the courtyard so we were already prepared for what we were going to see.
The 15 minute jump start makes all the difference
I will say that the other groups caught up quickly once the doors opened as the City Wonders jump-start into the buildings is only 15 minutes. Soon enough flags started popping into view and groups started snaking through at warp speed to reach the Sistine Chapel. Because we had time to prepare, we felt no need to rush and were able to enjoy all the wonder in between.
Once you get to the Sistine Chapel, crowds bother you a lot less than you think they will because you are looking up. Tours get a solid 20 minutes in there, which I felt was definitely enough time. Again I was so grateful for Michaela’s time at the beginning of the tour as it helped me pick out details I would have never found otherwise…such as the fact that Michelangelo was basically teaching himself how to paint and felt he painted the first scene (which is the last scene chronologically-The Drunkenness of Noah) too small to be seen well from the floor. Tip: I was so grateful to have packed a cheap pair of binoculars!
Only once I exited the Sistine Chapel and we were on our way to the St. Peter’s Cathedral did the full value of the City Wonders tour sink in:
Worth. Every. Penny.