sigh. don’t be a dumdum like i was and try to go to St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday mornings. it’s often closed due to the Papal Audience. (yes, you too can see the pope and get something blessed.) most guidebooks say that the church is open from 7 AM but forget to mention that it’s closed on Wednesday mornings (or it’s buried in some fine print that yours truly didn’t read). check beforehand if the Pope will be granting an audience on the Wednesday you want to go — it seems to be more often than not.
i got to St. Peter’s Square before 8 AM and people were already starting to file in with their tickets to the Audience. i was able to go through the metal detectors and probably could have taken a seat with everyone else but i had no desire to see the Pope. this is, however, at least your chance to go around the square (as much as you can; there are tons of plastic chairs everywhere) and get your photos done. i asked a Swiss Guard herding the flock to their seats if i could get into the Basilica and he said it’d be closed until 2.
every cloud has a silver lining
on the bright side, i was able to get into the Vatican Museum well before opening — i had an online ticket for 9:30 and they let me in at 8:30. it was also ridiculously empty. i left after 11 AM and there was no line to get in. i should also note that you do NOT need a printout of your online order confirmation as long as you can show the barcode on your phone. they will scan it at the entrance to “online ticket” line outside the entrance and again inside at the online ticket counter where they will give you an actual ticket you use at the turnstiles upstairs to get in.
that really was a silver lining. i couldn’t believe how private feeling it was. in many rooms, i was either the only or one of a handful of visitors.
Seriously love how it's empty. Wednesday pre-opening admission during low season for the m f win. pic.twitter.com/P871MqhLXx
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) February 19, 2014
in case you’re wondering, the “secret” shortcut directly to the Basilica from the Sistine Chapel was closed as well.
i’ll have to decide if i really want to go back to the Basilica — i remember enough of it from my last visit that i don’t feel a burning desire to, but it may take precedence over some of the ruins in the city center. i’ll make an executive decision later this week.