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 Martini

    Cecilia Martini has a master's degree in Medieval and Renaissance art from the University of Rome, "La Sapienza." 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 an 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 native English speaker, a Rome
    licensed guide, as well as an art historian and main contributor to the award-winning Eyewitness Guide to Rome. She currently teaches a course on Roman civilization at Lorenzo de Medici School in Rome, and 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 here and be Roman.

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    gregory dipippo

    Gregory DiPippo, a native of Providence, R.I., studied classics in 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 "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 University of Rome, "La Sapienza". 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.

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    Alexandra Massini

    Alexandra Massini is a native Roman who studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where she obtained her B.A. and M.A. degrees with double distinction. She is currently working on her Ph.D., writing on the role of Dionysus in the work of Nietzche. Alexandra has worked at Sotheby's Auctioneers in Rome (old master paintings and drawings) and the Thyssen Museum in Madrid. More recently she has written for Blue Guides and published her own guidebook to Rome. She has been invited as guest lecturer and study leader for such European and North American institutions as the National Trust U.S., the Chrysler Museum of Art, and a number of international universities. Since 2005 she has been teaching for Rutgers and Vanderbilt Universities in Florence, CET in Siena, and Richmond University and CEA in Rome. Her fields of specialization include Roman imperial art, 14C art in Tuscany, Italian Renaissance art, Michelangelo, the history of sculpture, and Baroque art in Rome. She is fluent in five languages including German and Italian (bilingual from birth), English, Spanish and French. In Rome, where she lives, she collaborates with the Colonna and Doria Pamphilj galleries and, as a licensed guide, conducts specialized visits for various cultural institutions.

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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 University of Rome, "La Sapienza", 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 M.A. 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 licenced 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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    Guido Airoldi

    Guido an archaeologist who did his graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. He has years of experience on major digs in Italy and throughout the Middle East, and is a specialist of Egyptology. He is a natural teacher, and has been giving detailed seminar walks in the archaeological sites of Rome as well as the Vatican and other areas for 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 University of Rome "La Sapienza," 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 guard 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 University of Rome "La Sapienza" and subsequently obtained her higher degree in Restoration and Heritage preservation. Currently she works as field director on excavations and restorations of 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 University of Rome "La Sapienza" and holds a postgraduate degree in History of Medieval and Modern Art from the same University. 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 University of Rome “La Sapienza” and is specialized in Renaissance and Baroque Arts. 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 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 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 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 University of Rome La Sapienza. 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 travelling, reading and cooking. Aurelio was born and raised in Apulia, in Southern Italy and he is of Italian-Scottish family. He is a registered tourist guide for the city of Rome and its Province.

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    Dony Ariza

    Dony holds an MA in Communication and Culture from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil and a Ph.D in Art History from the University of Granada, Spain. He has lived and traveled extensively in Greece and the UK, where he researched Ancient Greek and Roman Art, delving deeply into Aesthetics. He has taught at the University of Faesa, in Brazil. Here and in Spain he has also enjoyed working as a media journalist, including for the radio. He is now based in Rome where he is currently working on his book about historical musical personalities in Rome, which includes such characters as Nero and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Choirmaster for the Sistine Chapel.

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    Roberta Bernabei

    Roberta Bernabei is an Art Historian and Art Critic (Degree in Art History, Università “La Sapienza” of Rome, postgraduate degree at the School of Specialization in Archaeology and Art History, University of Siena), independent curator, journalist, enrolled in AICA International Association of Art Critics and authorized tour guide in Rome. She collaborates with several publishing houses (Electa, Mondadori, Poligrafico dello Stato, Editalia, Rizzoli) and she is also author of many books and articles about the Art and the History of Rome, the Italian art and the Contemporary Art and the History of American Art. She is the Curator of many Art Exhibitions in Italy and abroad and also the President of the EOS Cultural Association, pursuing and promoting the Art History and the Culture in the City of Rome. Following high school graduation she lived eight months in Boston and before the degree three months in New York to do research for the final thesis about the American Art.

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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 works and academic projects aimed to research and divulging our History. She is a licensed guide of Rome, she loves her job because she can reach a wide 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 withe all her clients. She is also a musician, graduated as Piano player.

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    Costantino D'Orazio

    Costantino D’Orazio is art historian and writer. A native Roman, he teaches at LUISS University and Link University in Rome, where he leads courses about the cultural heritage of Rome and the relationship between Ancient and Contemporary Art. He is the author of the bestselling books “the keys to open 99 secret places in Rome” and “Caravaggio revealed. The mysteries behind his masterpieces”. On march 2014 will be released his guide “The secret Rome through the movie The Great Beauty”. He is now working on an essay about Leonardo da Vinci. He collaborates with a tv program on 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. He is also 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 in History of Cinematography. For years Felix had been working for different museums and institutions of 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 happy to live and work in his favorite city, Rome.

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    Agostina Appetecchia

    Born in Rome, Agostina decided to become an archaeologist since the age of 10, obtaining afterwards a PhD in Post-Classical Archaeology from the "Sapienza" - University of Rome and a 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 for the investigation of archaeological contexts, building archaeology. Involved in several international projects (Sweden, Austria, Vatican City State), she had the opportunity to study some of the most important monuments in Rome as the Lateran Baptistery, Domitilla Catacombs or 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 could find her in the 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 should eventually combine her own love for cooking with her interest in history: she is currently working on her book "Italian Traditional mama-cuisine".