• An art historian leads a walk through the Vatican Museums.

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  • Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Capitoline Museums.

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  • An art historian brings the Capitoline Museums to life as part of our Family Program

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  • The Apollo Belvedere sculpture in the Belvedere Courtyard, Vatican Museums.

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  • Photo by Luigi Scuderi

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  • Roma Antica walk led by an historian.

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  • Photo depicting our Classical Rome walking seminar.

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  • Handcrafted bags at Sirni, via della Stelletta 

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  • The Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums

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  • An art historian brings the Capitoline Museums to life as part of our Family Program

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  • Photography by Luigi Scuderi.

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  • Roma Antica walk led by an historian. 

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  • Food at the Testaccio market, visited as part of our <a href="http://www.contexttravel.com/rome/tours/rome-market-walk/PTR4374/?linked-tours=yes" rel="nofollow">Rome Market Walk</a>
  • Photo depicting our Medieval Basilicas walk.

Photo by Luigi Scuderi

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  • Docent Cecilia Martini takes clients through a seminar in the Colosseum.

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  • Located in Piazza Mattei

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  • Photo illustrating Context Rome's ,a href=&quot;http://www.contexttravel.com/rome/tours/italian-cooking/PTR4396/?linked-tours=yes&quot;Italian Cooking lesson
  • An art historian leads a walk through the Vatican Museums.

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  • Photo by Luigi Scuderi

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  • 2009 Context Travel Fellowship winner Bianca Vidales taking part in a Drawing Workshop with an artist. 

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  • The underground area of the church San Nicola in Carcere

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  • Piazza della Repubblica

Photo by Luigi Scuderi
  • Testaccio Market

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  • Photo by Luigi Scuderi

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  • Photo illustrating our Vatican for Families walk

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  • Ruins on the Palatine Hill

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  • An art historian leads a walk through the Vatican Museums.

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  • Daniela del Balzo, Context’s resident cooking maven invites people into her home for an authentic Roman lunch based on seasonal local produce.  

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  • Photo by Luigi Scuderi

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  • The Apollo Belvedere sculpture in the Belvedere Courtyard, Vatican Museums.

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Walk Description

The Vatican Museums are indisputably one of the finest collections of art in the world. Over the centuries, Papal patrons have commissioned renowned works, such as the magnificent frescoes of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel and those by Raphael in his stanze. The museums also host some of the most important sculptures from the ancient world. Context Rome now offers its clients the opportunity to see these works as they were originally viewed and contemplated by the Popes who created the museums. An after-hours visit with a Context docent is truly a once in a lifetime learning experience, a chance to have this astounding collection to yourself for two hours.

Context Rome's visit to the Vatican Museums will be led by a selection of five docents and opened to just twenty-four people. In other words, we'll be breaking everyone up into small, five-person (or smaller) seminar groups. Our visit will begin with a twenty minute introduction outside the museums and then two hours inside the museums. This is an exceptional opportunity for an intimate lecture on the Vatican without the press and chaos of the crowds.

If you have a specific date in mind and do not see it on the calendar, please let us know via email: Info@contexttravel.com, and we will request that date from the Vatican Museums. Dates often sell out months in advance, so it is recommended that you contact us at least three months before your trip.

Please note that not all galleries will be accessible to us during this after hours visit. The Pinacoteca and Egyptian collections are not available for viewing after closing hours. The Belvedere Courtyard is often not possible to visit after hours, but will be included if possible. We normally spend a significant amount of time (35-40 minutes) inside the Sistine Chapel and divide the rest of our time between the Gallery of Maps, Tapestry Gallery, and Raphael Rooms, including other collections as time and security permits.

Though this is an after hours visit, there are a small number of other groups that may be in the museums at the same time, which means one may run into other visitors while in the museum. The number of people in the museums after hours, however, is quite small compared to the regular hour crowds.

To assist you in planning your trip to the Vatican, we have created an informative resources page - How to Tour the Vatican


Duration: 2.5 hours
Category: Vatican
Venues: Vatican Museums

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  • Cecilia_thumb

    Cecilia Martini

    Cecilia Martini has a Master's degree in Medieval and Renaissance art from the Sapienza University of Rome. Although her specialty is painting and decorative arts, she has a broad knowledge of the history of Rome, and leads many antiquity-themed itineraries. Cecilia works actively as a curator of exhibitions and lecturer and is a frequent consultant with the Galleria Colonna. She also has a specialized teaching degree, and works as a visiting professor in several art institutes.

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    Sara Magister

    Sara Magister has a master's in art history and a doctorate (PhD) in archaeology from the University of Rome. A native Roman, Sara has worked as the archaeological editor for the Italian national Encyclopedia. She also works as a consultant for the Vatican Museums and the former minister of culture, designing museum exhibitions and supporting the restoration of monuments with archive research. She is also currently working as a professor in the American University in Rome, teaching Baroque Art and Subjects and Symbols in Art. One of Sara's interests is the political use of ancient art during the Renaissance and Baroque and Pope Julius II's collection of ancient art, which forms the core of the Vatican's collection of ancient statuary.

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    olivia ercoli

    Olivia Ercoli is a Rome licensed guide and an expert art historian and worked as a main contributor to the award-winning Eyewitness Guide to Rome. She combines this with teaching and leads a course at the the Lorenzo de Medici School in Rome on Roman civilization. In addition she has contributed to the National Geographic Lost Cities of the Ancient World. Olivia infuses her discussion of Rome with a sense of what it's like to grow up in the city and be Roman.

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    gregory dipippo

    Gregory DiPippo, a native of Providence, R.I., studied classics at high school and as an undergraduate at McGill University. He has completed coursework for a Master's degree in theology at the Pontifical Institute for Patristic Studies, or the "Augustinianum," in Rome and is currently waiting to take his comprehensives and defend his thesis on the church fathers. Gregory leads walks of the Vatican and other religious sites in Rome, but he is also a superb classicist and one of the few Context:Rome docents who can hold a conversation in Latin.

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    Richard Bowen

    Originally from England, Richard Bowen has lived in Rome for the last fourteen years. He holds a Master's degree in medieval and twentieth-century history from London University and, as this might suggest, has a broad-minded and synthetic approach to understanding Rome. Richard works quite frequently with institutional travel organizations, such as museums and church organizations, and as a result spends much of his time traveling all over Europe. He brings this cosmopolitan and pan-European experience to bear on his work with us in Rome, constantly making connections to other cities and countries in the course of his lectures and seminars.

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    Francesca Barberini

    Francesca Barberini is an art historian with a degree in modern and contemporary art from the Sapienza University of Rome. She specializes in the art and culture of the Baroque period, a subject on which she has published several essays. She is a licensed guide and leads itineraries all over Rome, a city she truly loves. She has worked for many Roman museums, such as Galleria Doria Pamphili, Galleria Colonna, Galleria Spada, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in Palazzo Barberini and the Corsini Gallery. She is an officilal guide of the Vatican Museums and Vatican City

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    Valentina Follo

    Numbered among the city's contagious enthusiasts, Valentina is also a native Roman who trained as a classical archaeologist at the Sapienza University of Rome, before joining the University of Pennsylvania's graduate group of art & archaeology in the Mediterranean world. At present, she is conducting her doctoral research on the Capitolium, one of ancient Rome's most sacred and civically significant hills, which today exhibits Michelangelo's urban marvel. Valentina has written and published on a variety of topics spanning the ancient, early modern, and modern periods, including: papal designs to re-purpose the Baths of Diocletian, Etruscan forgeries from the nineteenth-century, Italian legislation on the protection of cultural patrimony, and Mussolini's imperial models for Fascist Rome. Valentina possesses years of experience engaging University of California students in the discovery of Italy's multi-layered past in Florence, Rome, and Pompeii.

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    Agnes Crawford

    Brought up within sight of London's Roman walls, Agnes then strayed north of Hadrian's Wall to Edinburgh University. After graduating with an Master's in Architectural History, with a specific focus on the Early Renaissance, she came to Rome drawn by warmer climes, ruins, and the prospect of a Vespa. Eleven years, and one Roman husband, later she's still here. As well as being a licensed guide for the City and Province of Rome, she contributes to numerous guide books, and every so often translates academic art historical and archeological papers from Italian to English.

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    Alessandra Poli

    Alessandra is a native Roman and art historian with a Master's degree in art history from the Sapienza University of Rome. Her specialization is Modern and Contemporary art and she has a deep-rooted love for the city where she lives with her two children. Alessandra is fluent in Italian, English, and French, and has a great interest in Mannerism, Baroque art, colored antique marble and decorative arts. Due to her broad knowledge of the history of Rome she leads a wide-variety of antiquity-themed itineraries. Since 2001 she has been a consultant at the Galleria Colonna in Rome.

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    Guido Airoldi

    Guido is an archaeologist who completed his graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He has years of experience in major digs in Italy and throughout the Middle East, and is a specialist in egyptology. He is a natural teacher, and has been giving detailed seminar walks in the archaeological sites of Rome as well as the Vatican for years.

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    Fiorenza Mancuso

    Fiorenza Mancuso holds a Master's degree in art history from the University of Rome, and an additional graduate degree in the management of cultural events. A native Roman, Fiorenza possesses extensive experience doing on-site teaching for a variety of cultural associations in Italy, and is an expert in the art and patrimony of Papal Rome.

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    Annalivia Villa

    Annalivia Villa holds a Masters in art history from the Sapienza University of Rome, with a specialization in Renaissance painting and history, including daily life in the 1600s. She wrote her thesis on Raphael's decoration of the Papal bathroom in the Vatican residence. Annalivia is a native Roman whose roots go back decades. Her grandfather was one of the Palatine honour guards of the Pope. In addition to teaching (in which she holds an additional graduate degree) and lecturing, Annalivia also works for the Modern Art Gallery of the Municipality of Rome.

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    Simona Pellegrini

    Simona Pellegrini is a Roman archaeologist specialized in the Late Imperial and Middle Ages periods. She graduated in Archaeology and Ancient History from the Sapienza University of Rome and subsequently obtained her higher degree in Restoration and Heritage preservation. Currently she works as field director on excavations and restorations for the Superintendency of Rome and Latium (Ministry of Cultural Heritage). She is also deeply involved in an international project (CNR) the scope of which is the application of high technology to artefact conservation and ancient structure preservation.

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    Sabrina Spinazze

    Sabrina graduated in Art History at the Sapienza University of Rome and went onto complete a postgraduate degree in History of Medieval and Modern Art. Since 1993 she has worked for some of the most important art museums in Rome, such as the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. She is very active on the publishing side; her papers and books focus on 19th and 20th century Roman art, in particular on the history of female artists and art’s politics of Fascism. She is vice president of Ottocento Romano, a cultural association pursuing and promoting scholarly research on the Roman artistic production of the XIX century.

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    Ludovica Candrilli

    Maria Ludovica Candrilli has a Master’s degree in Art History from the the Sapienza University of Rome and is specialized in Renaissance and Baroque Art. She is a licensed tour guide in Rome and is also an official guide for the Vatican Museums. She co-operates with the Galleria Borghese Superintendency Educational Service by guiding tours for adults and students. She prepared for her phd-thesis by studying the manuscripts of the Vatican Library and is specialized in Vatican Art and History.

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    Antonella Merletto

    Antonella holds a Master's Degree in Baroque Architecture and a three year Post Graduate Specialisation in Ancient Greek and Roman Architecture. She is currently completing her PhD at Bath University in the UK on Ancient Roman Sanitation Buildings. Since 1989 she has worked on many archaeological digs in Greece and has published archaeological drawings of many notable buildings and historical areas such as the Serapeium, the Canopus and the Cento Camerelle of Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, the map of Late Antiquity Athens, mosaics and buildings of Kos (Greece) and Gortys (Crete-Greece). From1997 she has worked on educational projects in Rome and in the Middle East, where she worked as Archaeological Tour guide up to 2003 in Lybia, Jordan, and Iran. She has published academic articles on Ancient sanitation and translates academic archeological papers from Italian to English. She settled in Rome and fell in love with its beauty, its art, architecture and historical complexity in the mid1990's and became a Licensed Tour Guide of the Eternal City in 2001. Since 2003 she is Adjunct Professor at American Colleges in Rome, teaching History of Art, Archaeology and History of Architecture.

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    Rossella Licata

    Maria Rossella Licata, originally from Rome, holds a history of art degree from the University of Rome, and a Master's in conservation and cultural management from the University of Siena. She has worked as a researcher, historian and conservator at a number of prestigious institutions around the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In addition to English and Italian, Rossella speaks Spanish and is studying Portuguese. Her interests encompass Restoration to medieval illumination to the effects of time on patina. Although she never tires of talking about artists and paintings with enthusiastic visitors, her passions now include taking care of her six-month-old baby.

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    Simona Olivetti

    Simona is a native Roman. She holds a Master's degree in Art History and a PhD in Medieval and Modern Art from the University of Rome. She is a licensed tour guide of Rome and she has worked as a teacher in many Italian High Schools. She is a consultant and a tour guide for various cultural organizations, companies which organize art exhibitions and some Italian Ministries. Simona lived in Finland for three years and cooperated with the Italian Cultural Institute of Helsinki. She is mother tongue Italian and fluent in English and Spanish. Simona really feels at home at the Vatican, having always studied there and published about it, focusing on the XV and XVI centuries of art.

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    Aurelio John Patierno

    Aurelio John Patierno is an art historian and has lived in and around Rome for the last 10 years. He obtained a Master’s degree in Heritage Studies and Conservation from the University of La Tuscia, Viterbo, and a postgraduate specialization in Ancient Building Conservation from the Sapienza University of Rome. Meanwhile, he trained as a conservator/restorer. His interests range from Flemish painting to the Renaissance in Southern Italy, to frescos and other wall painting techniques, to the Renaissance in Rome.
    While not studying or working, Aurelio loves traveling, reading and cooking. Aurelio was born and raised in Apulia, in Southern Italy and he is of Italian-Scottish decent. He is a registered tour guide for the city of Rome and its Province.

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    Roberta Bernabei

    Roberta Bernabei is an Art Historian and Art Critic. She has a Degree in Art History from the Sapienza University of Rome and a postgraduate degree from the School of Specialization in Archaeology and Art History at the University of Siena. She is an independent curator and journalist and is enrolled in AICA International Association of Art Critics. As well as this she is an licensed Roman tour guide. She collaborates with several publishing houses including Electa, Mondadori, Poligrafico dello Stato, Editalia, and Rizzoli. Sheis also an author of many books and articles about the art and the history of Rome, Italian art, contemporary art and the history of American art. She curates many art exhibitions in Italy and abroad and is also the President of the EOS Cultural Association, pursuing and promoting art history and culture in the city of Rome.

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    Giulia Facchin

    Giulia is an archaeologist, she earned a PhD in Archaeology and History of the urban landscape of Rome. She regularly takes part in archaeological field work and academic projects aimed to research and discover our History. She is a licensed guide of Rome. And loves her job because she can reach a wider public, she enjoys explaining and sharing knowledge and ideas about the past and the present Human condition. As an Historian she is fascinated by the city of Rome, and how with its 3000 and more years of history, it grew and expanded over the centuries, re-using, transforming and destroying its past. She likes to share this passion and knowledge with all her clients. She is also a musician and graduated as pianist.

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    Costantino D'Orazio

    Costantino D’Orazio is an art historian and a writer. A native Roman, he teaches at LUISS University and Link University in Rome, where he leads courses about the cultural heritage of the city and the relationship between Ancient and Contemporary Art. He is the author of some bestsellers which include: “The keys to open 99 Secret Places in Rome”, “ Caravaggio Revealed" and " The Mysteries behind his Masterpieces." His guide book “The Secret Rome through the movie The Great Beauty” was released earlier this year. Currently he is working on an essay about Leonardo da Vinci. He also works as a collaborator for Italian National TV (Rai 3). His research focuses on the exciting history of the artists that worked for the Popes during the XV, XVII and XVII century such as Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Caravaggio, Bernini and Borromini. As well as this he is specialized in teaching Art to children and teenagers.

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    Felix Monguilot

    Felix Monguilot is an Art Historian and he is now in the final stage of his Ph.D program, as he is completing his doctoral thesis. He is specialized in Education and he also has a Master's in History of Cinematography. Felix has worked for many different museums and institutions within the Italian art world, as a researcher, an art project coordinator and a docent. He has published and presented widely in a number of different countries and at a variety of institutions, also receiving several fellowships and awards in Europe and the United States, where he worked for many years.
    He is now happily living and working in his favorite city, Rome.

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    Agostina Appetecchia

    Born in Rome, Agostina knew she wanted to become an archaeologist when she was just 10 years old. Since then she's gone on to obtain a PhD in Post-Classical Archaeology from the Sapienza University of Rome and an MA in Christian Archaeology from the Pontifical Institute for Christian Archaeology, the most important Vatican authority in this field. Her professional background in archaeology and history has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics such as monastic archaeology, digital methodologies in the investigation of archaeological contexts and building archaeology. In addition she has been Involved in several international projects in Sweden, Austria and the Vatican City State. She has studied some of the most important monuments in Rome including the Lateran Baptistery, Domitilla Catacombs and St. Paul's Basilica. Her articles have appeared in a number of selected scientific journals. She is currently working as a field director for the Italian "Soprintendenza" and publishing her PhD Dissertation on the first Benedictine monasteries in Italy. When she's not leading tours you can find her in her family farm where she produces organic olive oil, wine (she is a fine wine connoisseur), honey and jams. With an Italian grandmother who was a great chef, it was perhaps inevitable that she would eventually combine her own love for cooking with her interest in history: she is currently working on her book "Italian Traditional Mama-Cuisine."