Visiting the Vatican with Kids

The Vatican is the smallest state in the world, but it takes you an eternity to explore it. There are a lot of things to do in the Vatican even when you are with kids. Being with children in the Vatican has great advantages. Hundreds of other people let you skip the endless line in front of the museum if you have small kids with you. But once you enter it, the only God can help you to survive that crowd.

Vatican Museum: skipping the line

We started with visiting the Vatican museum on the last Sunday of the month because it’s a free ticket day. When something is free, the line is always very long. However, we skipped the line because we were with our kids.

The moral dilemma: should you skip the line because you are the only one with little children or you should wait with the other people for 2-3 hours? Some French guys weren’t happy seeing us skipping the line and told us we should go back and wait like all the others. What do you think? My only argument was that we were the only ones with little kids.

If I saw other people with kids waiting in line, I wouldn’t have skipped it, but there were only adults. And it was cold. Anyway, despite the long line, we entered the Vatican museum in 10 minutes.

Skip the line or wait?

The Vatican Museum has 1400 rooms and there is much to see: Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and even modern art. We didn’t know where to start.

The truth is that we couldn’t enjoy a lot of the amazing art and architecture because it was overcrowded. In such situations, you start to appreciate things you normally take for granted, such as fresh air. I would not recommend this to anyone who is claustrophobic or dislikes crowds. If you want to visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel without crowds, you need to pay a lot more money. All information about avoiding crowds you can find here.

While we were trying to admire sculptures of Roman gods, beautiful statues, paintings, and historical artifacts, the children were impressed by the collection of animals.

If you are obsessed with Egyptian civilization, the Vatican museum houses a large collection of artifacts from Ancient Egypt: papyruses, the Grassi Collection, animal mummies, and reproductions of the Book of the Dead. The kids loved the hieroglyphs very much, saying that they wish we used these characters nowadays because it looked funnier than normal letters.

Famous statues

There are thousands of sculptures in Vatican museums and some of them quite famous.

The statue of Laocoön and His Sons also called the Laocoön Group

One of the most famous is probably ‘Laocoön and His Sons’ and another sculpture we were happy to recognize was Rodin’s ‘Thinker’. Actually, we were very excited to see it, but it turned out to be one of several casts found in the world. Did you also know that ‘The Thinker’ is not its given name? Rodin originally called this pondering figure ‘The Poet’. This name supports the theory that the statue was meant to be a depiction of Dante.

Deep thoughts

Rodin explained, ”What makes my ‘Thinker’ thinks is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostril, and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.”

Sistine Chapel

After visiting the chaotic and crowded Vatican museum, we didn’t hope to find any peace in the Sistine Chapel, of course, there were millions of people inside. It is Sistine Chapel after all! It is a good thing that people don’t fly, so no-one can block your view when you look up to at the ceiling. Pay particular attention to the ceiling where you will see the wonderful work of the famous Italian artist, Michelangelo. The chapel has become famous thanks to these decorative frescoes on the ceiling. If you really want to understand the work of Michelangelo you better read a highly recommended book The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican. 

Photography is not allowed in the chapel, and you can hear guards warning tourists all the time, “No photo, no photo!” Despite the authorities, my kids took a nice photo of Michelangelo’s Sistine masterpieces.

Sistine Chapel: Photo by 5 years old kid

Before Michelangelo, God was mostly depicted as one hand that was directed toward the earth through the clouds. The Sistine Chapel is the first reproduction of God depicted with a muscular body and a face framed with a white beard, based on the Greek god, Jupiter.

No Pope at home

The opportunity to see the Pope occurs on Sundays at 12 noon, when he is in Rome of course. He appears from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter’s Square where he gives a short speech followed by the Angelus and ending with a blessing. He may also greet the crowds in various languages and the whole event usually lasts around 15-20 minutes. We were among thousands of other people hoping to see the man dressed in white, but we didn’t listen to the news and had no idea that the Pope wasn’t home that day. He was in Uganda. “I am sure that it was his voice,” I told my husband. “They must record the Pope’s voice so people can listen to it when he is not around!” Thanks to modern technology, the crowd can get a virtual blessing instead. I guess this modern kind of blessing is valuable as well. Anyway, if you want to be sure if the Pope is at home, you better listen to the news while on holiday or look for information on his official website.

Vatican square Sunday at noon

Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul

First of all, I do not think that any church should be a place where people talk, walk and shoot selfies. Churches have become museums and promenades instead of a place of silence and prayer. This is also the case with St. Peter’s Basilica which is the largest Christian place of worship in the world.

No peace in here

The construction of the Vatican Basilica took 120 years and is a product of many of Italy’s great Renaissance architects. Michelangelo painted, sculpted and designed an incredible amount during its construction. He was only 23 when he sculpted the Pieta. The Pietà represents the Virgin sitting with her dead son in her arms.

The Pietà

Admiring the Pietà

Below are the catacombs and within the basilica itself, there are over a hundred graves, among which are the graves of many popes. The Catholic church maintains that it is the burial site of St. Peter. One of the best tour guides in Rome Sergio Grom, never stops by official and common explanations, saying that the sources of time never mentioned Peter being in Rome. It is not proved by any finding or written testimony. So we can’t tell for sure.

In the Basilica of St. Peter’s, entrance is free but if you want to visit the dome, you will need to spend some money. Unfortunately, you can’t buy sin forgiveness anymore.

If you travel to Italy with kids or without kids, you might like to read more travel stories by Mom The Muse.