Navigating Vatican City and attempting to have mass with the Pope in Rome can be tricky. There are massive crowds of people walking the streets snapping photos and recording videos of the ancient sites, quaint side streets, and Swiss Guards in their costumes. There are long queues stretching as far as the eye can see for the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica, the awe-inspiring Sistine Chapel and Vatican museums, tour guides offering their services and “skip the line tickets” at every corner, and local business owners standing outside their storefronts hoping to sell a rosary, a slice of pizza or a cappuccino to a passerby. Vatican City is a city within a city. If you are lucky like we were, you may even get to attend mass with the Pope in Rome during your stay.
We spent 2 days in Rome before we headed to India so we could visit St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums and attend mass with the Pope in Rome. Prior to visiting Rome, we purchased our tour of the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel online. Our ticket price was €20 (€16 for the ticket and €4 for an online booking fee) that allowed us to “skip the line”. The extra €4 for an online booking fee was well worth it considering queues for the museum lines can be several hours long. In 2018 the ticket price will increase by €1.
We did, however, have to wait in line for approximately 10 minutes with other people who held similar “skip the line” tickets as us, but this was just to get through a ticket scan/ security check before we entered the museum.
Tip: You can either print your ticket or show your email confirmation with the barcode to be scanned at the museum entry point. ID will only be checked if you paid for a discounted ticket online.
Finding the entrance to the Vatican museums was not very easy despite asking several tour guides and designated Vatican volunteers along the way. After backtracking and walking nearly 2.5km from St. Peter’s Basilica (our starting point) we finally arrived at the “main entrance” of the Vatican Museums.
Tip: If you are using Google maps or any type of GPS on your smartphones, the “main entrance” to the Vatican museums is located on Viale Vaticano (search for the cross streets Viale Vaticano and Via Leone IV on your GPS).
On Sundays at noon, the Pope appears at the second window from the top right of the Apostolic Palace and will usually pray the Angelus (if he is in town/ weather permitting) and bless the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. This typically lasts 15-20 minutes. No ticket required. On Wednesdays at 1000 the Pope will also have a general audience mass in St. Peter’s Square. This mass typically lasts 1.5-2 hours. Tickets are required for this mass with the Pope in Rome but can be obtained easily by going to St. Peter’s Square, finding the Bronze Doors to the Apostolic Palace and requesting tickets from the Swiss Guards no less than 3 days before the desired mass (for groups of 6 persons or less). For groups larger than 6 persons, tickets can be requested by writing/ emailing the Vatican. The calendar of events and schedules of mass with the Pope in Rome can be found on the Prefecture of the Papal Household’s website, the office responsible for organizing all audiences for religious ceremonies conducted by the Pope.
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We attended a Sunday Angelus at noon, arriving 1.5 hours early. We stood in the middle of St. Peter’s Square, with a near perfect view of the top right window from which the Pope gave his blessing in Italian over a loudspeaker. There were tens of thousands of people in attendance. There were people standing, sitting, and kneeling. There were people praying in silence and people cheering as the Pope spoke. There were people waving flags from their home country and wearing matching outfits representing their hometown pride. The atmosphere was electrifying.
Note: All tickets are free of cost. You should never pay a fee to attend a mass with the Pope in Rome. During the winter or bad weather, the mass with the Pope in Rome is held in the Paul VI Hall located just to the left of St. Peter’s Square. I would also suggest arriving early to St. Peter’s Square so that you are able to see the Pope during the Angelus/ mass. Gates open at 0800. You will have to go through security scanners similar to the airport. Small bags are allowed. If you are traveling during the summer months to see mass with the Pope in Rome I would suggest you bring water, sunscreen, and a hat as it can get quite hot and you will be standing in the direct sunlight.
Traveled September 2017