The Vatican’s divine frescos and sculptures from Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bernini draw visitors from around the world. Be unlike the 25,000 tourists visiting the holy enclave per day: have the Vatican all to yourself in the morning, and relax at the pope’s summer palace in the afternoon. For those wanting to unlock the Holy See, this is how to best see all things Vatican in one day:
Private time at the holiest of holy places
The very best way to explore the Vatican is without anyone in sight. And you know what? On Saturdays, we can get you access to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums before they open to the public.
This does mean getting up early, and arriving at 07:45. It also means you’ll have none of the infamous queues, there will be no rubbing shoulders with hordes of tourists – and you’ll have alone-time with a few of the greatest artworks of human history. Who else can say that?
Touring the Vatican Gardens
After your encounter with the divine art of the Vatican, it’s time to head out and reflect on what you’ve seen. Popes and cardinals have used the Vatican Gardens for contemplation and prayer since the 13th century. And, starting at 10:00, you’ll get to linger in their auras during a one-hour tour of the lush Vatican Gardens.
After your walk through the Vatican Gardens, things only get more special. There’s a private train running between Vatican City and the Pope’s summer palace — and you’re getting on it.
Roundtrip to Castel Gandolfo
The popes knew how to enjoy their summer holidays. Seated atop the Alban Hills, the charming lakeside village of Castel Gandolfo — widely considered to be one of Italy’s most scenic towns — has been under jurisdiction of the Vatican since the 16th century.
Arriving at the train station, you’ll hop on an open eco-friendly shuttle bus to tour the Gardens of the Pontifical Villas. With blooming flowers, well-trimmed bushes, and terraced slopes, this is horticulture at its best.
Visiting the Apostolic Palace
After experiencing the papal equivalent of a zen garden, you can opt for a visit to the Apostolic Palace. The summer residence was only opened (in a very limited fashion) to the public in 2014, making this a special opportunity for you to see what a papal holiday look like!
Explore Castel Gandolfo
After touring the palatial grounds, you’ll have some free time in Castel Gandolfo — offering you the opportunity for a stroll through the lakeside town. Quench your thirst with a glass (or two) of local wine at Antico Ristorante Pagnanelli. Not only is this the best wine bar in town (and a great restaurant!), it also has a lush green interior — and stunning views of Lake Albano.
Alternatively, at Il Grottino you’ll find the most delicious mushroom fettuccine available on the slopes of the Alban Hills. Here, too, striking views are included.
If you have time (and energy) left, head into town for a souvenir hunt. The Gandolfinis are an artistic bunch, as you’ll notice from the souvenirs they sell — their hand-painted ceramics make for a great gift for anyone!
Finally, having spent your day like a royal (or a pope), you’ll be back to St. Peter’s Station in Rome at 18:30.
Tip: Springtime blossom
Blossoming flowers, buzzing bees, and chirping birds — with two of the most beautiful gardens in all of Italy (and a green lakeside view!) your Vatican day trip is most special during spring.
- 08:00: Tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel + audio guide
- 10:00: Tour of the Vatican Gardens + audio guide
- 11:00: Train from the Vatican station to Albano Laziale and transfer to the Pontifical Villas by shuttle
- 12:30: Tour of the Gardens of the Pontifical Villas by eco-friendly bus + audio guide (if you booked the tour of the Apostolic Palace, you’ll do it first)
- 13:30: End of the tour and exit from the Gardens of the Pontifical Villas
- 17:10: Meeting at Castel Gandolfo’s train station
- 17:24: Departure from Castel Gandolfo
- 18:39: Arrival at St. Peter’s Station (Rome)
See everything Vatican
We’ve just showed you the best way to see everything Vatican in one day — Saturdays, that is. For more ways (and other days) to go about exploring Vatican City, have a look at our website.
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