Want the Sistine Chapel All to Yourself? A Travel Company Is Pricing Private Tours at $5,558 Per Person
Here's your chance to see Michelangelo's famed fresco without every tourist in Rome breathing down your neck.
On any given day, as many as 30,000 tourists—six million a year—line up to see the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums. The average visitor will be herded through packed hallways before entering the space alongside as many as 2,000 other souls who are also straining to get a glimpse Michelangelo’s famous ceiling frescoes and monumental The Last Judgment.
But that’s not the only way. A new offer from True Luxury Travel allows true Michelangelo fans to tour the site alone at the crack of dawn with an art historian as a private guide. But this exclusive experience does not come cheap. It will run you a cool $5,558—per person.
Starting at 6 a.m., the tour begins with the arrival of the Vatican’s official clavigero, or key keeper. His daily ritual is to unlock the museum’s 300 doors each morning with his ring of antique iron keys. As you follow him through the facility, you’ll visit the Vatican’s Raphael Rooms, the Room of the Immaculate Conception, the Pio Clemtino Museum, the Geographical Map rooms, and other highlights.
Finally, you’ll reach the Sistine Chapel, still in darkness until the key keeper turns on the lights (special LEDs installed in recent years that don’t emit UV rays or cause the paintings to fade). To take in this marvel of Renaissance art and architecture in near-complete solitude is a pleasure historically available to just a select few.
Completed in 1512, the Sistine Chapel is home to the work of such Renaissance greats as Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, and Domenico Ghirlandaio, in addition to the famed Michelangelo frescoes. Preserving these historic works is a massive challenge, requiring a special HVAC system that keeps the temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide percentages at safe levels despite the constant crush of visitors.
As the museum prepares to open for the day, having already checked one of the Eternal City’s most famous sites off their list, guests on the private tour are treated to breakfast in the museum’s cafe.
You can also book an early morning visit directly with the Vatican, which began offering this exclusive access last April, according to Lonely Planet. The True Luxury Travel itinerary adds a full day’s worth of activities in the Vatican after breakfast, including a three-course lunch and a tour of Saint Peter’s Basilica. But cutting them out as the middle man will save you a lot. The Vatican charges a flat fee of €3,500 ($3,830) for the early access and €170 ($186) for the tour guide, plus €21 ($23) each for museum entrance and €17 ($18.60) per person for breakfast.
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