There are always huge lines to get into the Vatican Museums – and no wonder; it's one of the most exclusive places on the planet, packed to the rafters with spectacular art and cultural treasures. And behind the museums is one of the most private backyards in the world – the Vatican Gardens.
Awash with fountains, sculptures, and shady trees, this is where the Pope goes when he needs a little 'me time'. Sidestep the long lines, and enjoy a fix of papal-watching and heavenly art appreciation.
Built in the 13th century, the Vatican Gardens are nearly 23 hectares of flower fields, sculptures, fountains, and medieval buildings. Legend has it that when the gardens were first built, they were covered with sacred soil from Mount Calvary – so it really is hallowed ground. In the past, this garden of earthly delights was only accessible to those with power and influence. These days, all you need is one powerful ticket!
After you stroll the lush lawns, orchards, and botanical wonders like a pensive pontiff, get right to the front of the queue for the Vatican Museums – one of the elite art museums on the planet. Boasting works by a host of Renaissance luminaries, including Raphael and Michelangelo, along with the spectacular Hall of Maps, the Courtyard of the Pigna (Pinecone), the winding Spiral Staircase, and the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, it's a breathtaking sanctuary of art, history, and culture.
That's before you even mention the mesmerizing frescoes Michelangelo painted in the Sistine Chapel. Widely regarded to be one of the highest artistic achievements of all time, it's even more impressive considering Michelangelo was a sculptor, not a painter. All in all, the Vatican Museums comprise an earth-shaking journey into the world of high art. Avoid the queues, and get special access – all without needing to spend years in a seminary school? How divine!