I've studied it at school. I've read books about it. I've seen countless movies about it. So going to Rome is one of those things that is on most people's bucket list.
There are so many icons of Roman history like the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the catacombs and the list goes on. However, ever since I was a kid watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and learning about where they got their crazy names from, I've always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel.
It's one of those mythical places that you are told deserves so much awe and admiration for so many reasons so you build quite high expectations for it in your mind. Before I went to Rome, I imagined a huge, grand building that just had to be the centre of the Vatican City. I was wrong.
The Sistine Chapel is located within the Vatican Museum. All the website articles suggested that you purchase tickets online to avoid the long queues and boy I'm glad I did. The line to purchase tickets at the office literally went around the block with people lining up for hours.
We arrived 15mins before suggested and waited across the road for our 'guide'. Despite booking online to avoid the queues, it turns out that you are basically paying to go in another, shorter line. The guides enable you to jump ahead and go to the front where they get you into the museum and then basically leave you to yourself.
I was expecting inside to be different to the ridiculous queues outside. It turns out, inside is just as bad. The sheer number of people that are given entry is insane. Instead of being able to wonder around the museum to explore and look at the various displays, you are shuffled through amidst a sea of tourists & selfie sticks. If you are lucky, you might get a quick glimpse or photo of the things you want to see.
After half an hour, I was sick of people. People pushing me in the back. People standing on the back of my heals. People cutting in front of me. It got to the point where I started to skip displays just to get ahead and away from people. The only problem is, the people never end!! So you end up missing things that you want to see out of frustration only to get more frustrated when you get stuck behind the next lot of people.
I saw a lot of things. I also missed out on seeing a lot of things. When I finally got to the thing that I really wanted to see, the Sistine Chapel, it was standing room only. Literally. The chapel is a lot smaller than I anticipated and it was absolutely filled with people all with their heads tilted up to the ceiling. No photos are allowed and talking is not permitted and because it was the middle of summer, it smelled like a high school locker room, without the deodorant.
Despite seeing some absolutely amazing things, the Vatican Museum and to be honest, Rome in general, has waaaaaay too many tourists. I guess I'm in no position to complain, seeing how I'm one as well, but if you are planning on visiting Rome, try to do it in the quiet season. At least that way you will have a chance to appreciate what you see.
I may have checked Rome off my bucket list but I didn't get to enjoy it.