Italy: Day Three, Part One ~ The Vatican Museum

We ended up staying out until 2 a.m. on Wednesday night so when my 5:30 a.m. alarm went off to get ready for our early morning Vatican tour, we were hurting. (I might have been a little hungover too.) We booked our Pristine Sistine Tour through Walks of Italy and we were supposed to meet at 7:15… it was a rough start, I’m not going to lie. But we made it!

Curtis got the first few shots of the morning. Here I am waiting for our tour to start. We about a dozen people in our group and Claudia was our tour guide. The group was from all over the world.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/13 | 1/400 | ISO 4000

Walking with our tour group up the hill to the Vatican. There was a lot of walking in Rome!

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/16 | 1/800 | ISO 4000

A view of the crowd waiting to enter the Vatican… it was just after 7:45 and these are all private tour groups. Yikes! So many people!

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/22 | 1/500 | ISO 4000

Sunrise over the Vatican

It was just before 8 a.m. when we made it into the official entry line to go into the Vatican, even though our tour was supposed to start at 7:30. The sun was just beginning to peek over the top of the building. Claudia, our guide for the Pristine Sistine Tour, told us that Sundays are free to enter and it can take up to three hours to just get in the building.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/8 | 1/320 | ISO 200

Vatican Entrance

I was surprised by how nondescript the Vatican is from the outside. This is the entrance to the Vatican Museum.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/8 | 1/320 | ISO 200

Facebook Check-in at the Vatican

Once we were inside, we had to go through security and have our bags x-rayed. Women were to have knees and shoulders covered as a sign of respect. Here we are waiting on our tour guide to get our tickets, so we did a quick check-in on Facebook with my phone.

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iPhone 6S+

Before the Herd Comes

A lone security guard walks to his post at the Vatican before the herd of people start moving through. The early morning sunlight provides a golden glow to the space.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.8 | 1/320 | ISO 320

Hall of Tapestries

We start our tour in the Vatican walking through the Hall of Tapestries. Claudia, our Walks of Italy tour guide, strategically chose this as a starting point because the other tour groups hadn’t filled this space yet.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/1.6 | 1/160 | ISO 3200

Those Shadows are Painted

Yes, the title is correct… those shadows are painted! This ceiling is all paint. Even though it looks like marble and looks three-dimensional, it’s just paint. Wow.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/1.6 | 1/160 | ISO 3200

The Biggest Tapestry I’ve Ever Seen

This tapestry is massive. I couldn’t even fit it all in the frame, even with my widest angle of 20mm. The Hall of Tapestries is gorgeous.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2 | 1/160 | ISO 3200

Gallery of Maps Entrance

We are entering one of the most beautiful spaces of the Vatican, the Gallery of Maps. This is looking back at the entrance, just after entering the hall.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.8 | 1/250 | ISO 1600

Gallery of Maps

This space literally took my breath away. The glow of the ceiling is just spectacular. As we walked through the Gallery of Maps, Claudia showed us the ancient maps and how Italy has evolved. I was so grateful we were here before the crowds. Look how I was able to be patient and wait for just the right shot!

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.8 | 1/250 | ISO 1600

Selfie in the Gallery

Two of our tour mates were on their honeymoon from Samoa and had to take a selfie in the Gallery of Maps. Aren’t they cute?

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.8 | 1/200 | ISO 1600

Our Tour Group

Here’s a shot of our tour group in the Gallery of Maps. Since we spent four hours with this little group, we learned a little about everybody. Claudia is on the left, in the striped shirt, with the blue backpack. All of the tour guides carried some sort of stick with some eye-catching on top so we could see them as we moved through the crowds.

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/17 | ISO 80

Curtis’s shot of the Gallery of Maps. What a beautiful space, right?

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/4 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Curtis Listening to our Guide

As we walked through the Vatican, Claudia shared many interesting details about each space. We had headphones so we could hear everything she said.

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/17 | ISO 80

Curtis made me pose in the Gallery of Maps.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/5.6 | 1/400 | ISO 4000

Then he caught me photographing this beautiful space.

Nikon D700 | 66mm | f/8 | 1/100 | ISO 4000

He then took a series of me in the next room, getting closer and closer… I told him I was only sharing one image though!

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/8 | 1/100 | ISO 4000

Open Window Means No A/C

That’s right… just like much of the rest of Rome, the Vatican is not air conditioned. I have to say though that I loved the soft early morning light coming in through the window.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4.5 | 1/320 | ISO 1600

Next we headed to the Sistine Chapel. Some of the hallways we walked through were small and plain. Curtis took this shot.

 Nikon D700 | 28mm | f/8 | 1/100 | ISO 4000

Curtis got this shot of an inscription above a door.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/8 | 1/100 | ISO 4000

And he got this statue on the way to the Sistine Chapel. He loves statues.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/8 | 1/200 | ISO 4000

The Dome of St. Peter’s

We were not allowed to take any photos inside of the Sistine Chapel. They want to preserve the paintings and to show respect. It was not as moving as I expected. The room itself is much taller than I expected and overall a small space. It was dark inside and was crowded with people. After we finished there, we headed outside to head to the other part of the museum and saw the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/6.3 | 1/320 | ISO 50

Square Garden

There are many gardens inside of the walls of the Vatican. This square garden had a large green expanse of lawn with a metal sculpture anchoring the center.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/5.6 | 1/320 | ISO 50

Curtis got a good shot of the metal globe… it’s called Sphere Within Sphere.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/22 | 1/800 | ISO 4000

So Crowded

We head back into the Vatican to see the pope’s apartments. There are so many people now that is is extremely crowded. These are still all private tour groups.

So Crowded

iPhone 6S+

Curtis loves sculptures. He took many beautiful photos of them. Here are a few of my favorites. Look at all the people and all the cell phones in the way… I’m so glad I’m not a wedding photographer these days.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/18 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Curtis waited and waited for the crowd to clear to get this image. Way to go, baby!

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/18 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/18 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Belvedere Torso

This famous sculpture is the Belvedere Torso. It is believed to be a copy made in the first century BC with the original dating back to the second century BC.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.2 | 1/320 | ISO 2500

Curtis’s shot of the Belvedere Torso… he got a great position for his shot!

Nikon D700 | 44mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Vatican Museum Dome

One of the rooms we were in (Nero’s Bathtub was the main exhibit) had this beautiful dome in the ceiling.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.2 | 1/320 | ISO 2500

One of my favorites of Curtis’s from the Vatican Museum… I love the other tour group’s guide’s gesture to the large sculpture.

Nikon D700 | 92mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

These statues were huge, it’s hard to put into scale without any people in the picture.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Nero’s Bathtub

This is one large piece of stone! Measuring 25-feet across, Nero’s Bathtub is made from a deep red porphyry stone and was quarried from a single source in Egypt. This stone has not been found since.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.5 | 1/320 | ISO 2500

Leaving the room with Nero’s Bathtub, Curtis got a shot of the crowd. You can barely see Claudia’s little yellow fabric flower that she’s holding up so that we can keep her in sight.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Curtis also got this cool shot of St. Helen’s Sarcophagus.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Even the floors are cool! I didn’t get a shot of this, so I’m glad Curtis did.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Curtis’s shot of the Egyptian Room.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

This room was closed to the public and Curtis got this awesome image of this room of sculptures.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/8 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Ancient statues also fascinate my husband.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/4 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Salla dell’Immocolata

We finally made it to the pope’s apartments and the Raphael Rooms. The room of Salla dell’Immocolata was painted by Francesco Podesti.

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 Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.5 | 1/320 | ISO 2500

Leaving the Vatican to head to St. Peter’s Basilica. My knees took a pounding with all the stairs!

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/4 | 1/250 | ISO 4000

Next week we will share our images of St. Peter’s Basilica. Thanks for looking!

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