It was wonderful to have the time and space to appreciate the Sistine Chapel before the hordes of other tourists came pouring in. The tour guide took our group of about 20 straight to the Chapel which we entered at 8.00am. He left us at this point and we spent a good 50 minutes soaking up the amazing frescoes in peace. We listened to Rick Stein's audio tour of the Sistine Chapel on our phones; the app is free and is very good. Once we were finished, we were free to leave for the Basilica or return to the entrance hall, without leaving the building, to visit the Vatican Museums. We wanted to see Raphael’s rooms which are located just before the Chapel before it became too busy. To do this you have to exit the Chapel through the small door at the back and walk all the way back to the entrance hall via another corridor and walk back up the corridor towards the Chapel again. By this time, the general tours were in and it was very crowded and slow going, which made me realise how lucky we were to have had this corridor and the Chapel nearly to ourselves. After seeing Raphael’s Rooms, the only way out is to go through the Chapel again. It was a totally different experience seeing the Sistine Chapel again, crowded with so many people inside and the guards shouting at everyone to be quiet. By this time, I was pretty tired, so we headed back to the entrance hall (again!), did a quick walk through the Pinacoteca and headed out. All in all, we were there for about 3.5hours and we didn’t even go into the many museum rooms along the way. When I stepped outside and saw the long queue winding around the wall I was so grateful I did it this way. I strongly recommend this tour if you want to enjoy the full splendour of the Sistine Chapel.
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