I myself have visited a couple of times. I remember my first visit back in 1996 when on my first visit to Rome I popped in to see the Sistine Chapel and walked out with a passive smoking habit.
At the time, I couldn't believe that people were smoking cigars under that amazing ceiling. In subsequent visits I recall being horrified by the restoration that had taken place, mostly because I was so accustomed to seeing the washed out colors through the haze of tar and smoke that clung to its surface. Seeing it restored on my next visit (in 2001) left me without my bearings. It would be like seeing Rome clean and without the taint of smog that covers a lot of the city.
Anyway, back to the museum visits. The Vatican Museums offer free entry once a month if you are willing to queue for a few hours and join the throngs of others who are trying to save €15 or whatever it is they charge to get in these days. There is also a huge private industry of organised tours that sustains a lot of employment in Rome, particularly for art history graduates who can speak multiple languages.
I haven't been for two years now, mostly because I have HUGE issues with the place.
Not because its the Vatican, because, well, normally I don't give a damn about the church. Perhaps I am part of the naive but mostly I like to pretend that they don't even exist. I am so used to living in a secular nation that the only time they rile me is when they cross that line and mix into politics. The endemic corruption, closeted nature of so many of the clergy (who you can spot a mile away here in Rome) and the ridiculously out of touch nature of the organisation mostly just make me roll my eyes. My expectations of organised religion are so low that nothing really surprises me.
What I do have a huge issue with is the Vatican Museums, their general existence, their approach and the fact that they have a collection which produces eye wincing envy in others.
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