Sistine Chapel, Vatican Gardens & Castel Gandolfo Day Trip

Travel to the Pope’s summer residence by train after an in-depth Vatican Gardens and museums tour

Travel Flexibly 5 / 5 See All 32 Reviews · 11.00h · Rome, Italy

Ever wanted to see what the Pope’s life is really like? Then take a trip to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, and enjoy a papal feast in the beautiful Barberini Gardens! This full-day tour shows you the best of the Vatican City too, with a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and exclusive Vatican Gardens, before you hop on the Vatican Railway for a journey to the peaceful town where centuries of Popes have spent their summers. It’s the ultimate VIP Vatican experience!

  • Skip-the line Vatican Museums tour
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Vatican Gardens
  • Ride the Vatican Railway
  • Barberini Gardens tour
  • The Pope's Summer Residence
  • Papal Pinacoteca
  • Papal Audience rooms
  • Pope's personal office
  • The Pope's bedroom
  • Lunch fit for a Pope!
  • A miniature Colosseum
  • The first post office in the world
  • The Pope's costumes
  • A secret tunnel for the Pope
  • Return to Rome by train

You'll meet your local guide near the Vatican Museums entrance, where your skip-the-line early access tickets allow your small group to enter before the general public. With a far quieter and more peaceful Vatican City than most tourists will experience, you'll take a tour of the iconic artwork and artifacts held in the Vatican Galleries and gaze in awe at the magnificent Sistine Chapel. Next, you'll have rare access to the beautiful Vatican Gardens for a stroll around the perfectly manicured grounds—only accessible to a small number of tourists each day.

After exploring the Vatican City, you'll board the exclusive Vatican Railway for a journey into the hills and the Pope's summer residence—the tiny town of Castel Gandolfo. Your guide will lead you round the stunning Barberini Gardens that surround the residence, and a delicious buffet lunch will be served. Afterwards, you'll have free time to enjoy the town, gardens, and enter the Papal Palace where Pope's actually stayed.

This tour only runs on Saturdays, since this is the only day the Vatican Railway operates. For other in-depth tours that run through the week, take a look at our Vatican Tours page.

Castel Gandolfo and Vatican Tour Description

Your full-day Vatican tour includes: 

  • Skip-the-line early entry to the Vatican Museums

  • Guided Vatican Museums tour

  • Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of the Tapestries, and the Gallery of the Maps

  • Entry to the Sistine Chapel

  • Round-trip train tickets to Castel Gandolfo on the Vatican Railway

  • Guided tour of Barberini Gardens (bus and walking tour)

  • Delicious buffet lunch with local produce

  • Free time to explore Castel Gandolfo and tickets for the Pope’s summer residence

  • An English-speaking guide with expertise in Vatican history

  • Maximum group size of 14

Skip-the-Line Early Vatican Entry

Your day begins early in the morning, as you meet your guide in front of the Vatican Museums. After you make introductions with your small group, skip the regular line and enter the Vatican Museums before the general public are allowed inside. See the best of the Vatican Galleries and the Sistine Chapel without feeling overly crowded.

The Vatican Museum's Best Galleries

After strolling through the grand and near-empty courtyard of the Vatican, you'll visit the main galleries of the Vatican: the Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of the Tapestries, and the Gallery of the Maps. These galleries are home to some of the Vatican's finest sculptures, paintings, tapestries, and maps, and your guide will talk you through the history and meaning of each piece as you pass.

Our personal favorite is the Gallery of the Maps. Predating unified Italy by almost 300 years, the frescoes reveal the Italian peninsula's geography circa 1580. Painted between 1580 to 1585, the maps are based on drawings by famous geographer Ignazio Danti.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel

One of the top things to do in the Vatican City is visiting the Sistine Chapel. Only when you are inside is it clear why the Sistine Chapel is one of the most celebrated works of art in Western civilization. Michelangelo painted more than 600 figures in all, and the sheer magnitude of his endeavor is mind-blowing. Since the Sistine Chapel is a place of worship, speaking inside is not allowed. Your guide cannot explain the frescoes while you are inside, but we provide you with a map/handout for reference before you enter.

The Sistine Chapel is a place of worship, therefore, speaking inside is not allowed. Since our guide cannot explain the frescoes while you are inside, we explain the Chapel in advance and provide you with a map/handout for reference before you enter. Men and women must cover their knees and shoulders before entering. We understand the summers in Rome get hot, a good alternative is to bring a scarf or shawl to cover up with before you enter.

An Exclusive Stroll in the Vatican Gardens 

Only certain tour groups are allowed to visit the Vatican Gardens, and thanks to our 10-year relationship with the Vatican, you can join this exclusive experience. This full-day tour to Castel Gandolfo includes in-demand Vatican Gardens tickets. Breathe in the fresh air and enjoy this oasis of peace and tranquility right in the busy heart of Rome. Take a stroll with your expert Vatican guide and pass hidden grottoes, antiquities, world-class landscaping, and countless ornate fountains.

The Vatican Gardens are never crowded since very few visitors are allowed inside. Prepare yourself for some incredible views of St. Peter's Basilica. Your Vatican Gardens tour ends as you reach Stazione di Città del Vaticano, Vatican City's only train station.

Catch the Train to Castel Gandolfo

Only special guests of the Vatican are permitted to board the train that departs from Stazione di Città del Vaticano. Today, that's you! You'll depart straight from Vatican City for a relaxing and scenic ride through the Castelli Romani hills.

After a busy morning, this is an excellent opportunity to rest and recharge for the second portion of the day's activities. After an hour, your train arrives at the Castel Gandolfo Train Station. From here, board a bus that takes you up the hill to the Barberini Gardens and the Pope's summer residence (the Apostolic Palace). 

Barberini Gardens at Castel Gandolfo 

Now it's time to experience the enchanting Barberini Gardens by bus and by foot. Built over the ruins of Emperor Domitian’s Villa, the gardens are now open to the public as a gesture of goodwill by Pope Francis. These incredible landscaped gardens are filled with carefully tended hedges, fountains, flowers, and ancient Roman ruins.

Stop to view specific points of interest and hear stories from your guide about the history of your lush surroundings. You'll also walk inside the ruins of a Roman amphitheater that dates back to the first century.

A Feast Fit for the Pope Himself

Are you hungry yet? It's time for a buffet lunch comprised of organic cheeses, meats, bruschetta with olive oil and fresh tomatoes, and locally sourced pasta from the surrounding area. These delicious foods are fit for the Pope himself, so you know everything is top quality. If you want, you can also purchase some of these exclusive organic food items to take home to enjoy later. 

Explore the Pope's Summer Residence

After lunch, you're free to explore the picturesque town of Castel Gandolfo situated at the top of the hill that overlooks the pristine Lake Albano. There are shops, restaurants, art galleries, bars, and cafes here, and this is also your opportunity to take a self-guided tour of the Pope's summer residence. It's now a museum, and you can wander in and out of rooms that include the Pope's office, bedroom, and numerous galleries of artifacts related to the Vatican.

There is even a collection of cars driven by former popes in the courtyard. When you've finished taking in the splendor of Castel Gandolfo, board a bus back down to the train station and cruise on home to the San Pietro train station in Rome. This is located just south of Vatican City.

What you get with this tour
Skip-the-line early entry to the Vatican
Guided Vatican Museums tour
Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of the Tapestries, and the Gallery of the Maps
Silent tour of the Sistine Chapel
Round trip train tickets to Castel Gandolfo on the Vatican Railway
Guided tour of Barberini Gardens (bus and walking tour)
Delicious buffet lunch with local produce
Free time to explore Castel Gandolfo and tickets for the Pope’s summer residence
An English-speaking guide with expertise in Vatican history
Maximum group size of 14
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See what people are saying

32 total reviews

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4.9/5 (based on 32 reviews)
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1 stars
Great sites included, guides make the difference!
08 October 2023
S
Reviewed by
Stephanie Hulse

Would be 5 stars if our tour coordinator would have communicated with us confidently. The tour itself of the sites and personalized guides at the sites were all amazing. However our tour coordinator was - we think - brand new, lacking in communication skills and left us feeling like we were not in good hands. No taxis available at the drop off as we were told so we walked an hour to our lodgings, there were no well communicated/planned restroom stops except for our lunch stop - and it was an 11 hour tour! I don’t blame the tour coordinator Svetlana - she was young, shy, and not really a qualified tour leader., however - The Tour Guy company should send more experienced coordinators for such a long day with so many travel parts - we had trains and buses and over 4 miles of walking. There was a family with a stroller that had a really tough time - so more details on what this tour entails would help alleviate those challenges for people trying to decide what tours are appropriate for their situations. We still enjoyed the day, the learning and the sites…. but being new to Italy we were very nervous and would have appreciated a more knowledgeable leader.

Mrs. Christine McMurray
14 September 2023
C
Reviewed by
Christine McMurray

Although a long day we thoroughly enjoyed all the aspects of the day, with an excellent guide, as well as the local guides in the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo being very knowledgeable .

Fabulous
09 September 2023
C
Reviewed by
Carol Alexander

We had terrific and knowledgeable guides and saw remarkable sites. Lunch was included and was delicious with a number of different passable dishes on a lovely patio. We had a nice walk thru the gardens overlooking the area as well. I could not have asked for a better day.

show more reviews

Frequently Asked Questions

What to bring?

The Vatican dress code dictates you cover your knees and shoulders. If you do not meet the dress code, you may be denied entry! No need to dress like the people living there, covering your knees and shoulders is sufficient. Wear comfortable shoes too, since there's a fair amount of walking on this tour.

Why doesn't this tour run every day?

This tour only runs on Saturdays, since this is the only day the Vatican Railway operates. For other in-depth tours that run through the week, take a look at our Vatican Tours page.

What is a Vatican skip-the-line tour?

As an accredited Vatican tour operator, we get to go directly inside the Vatican Museums without waiting in the general public line.

Does this tour include the Sistine Chapel?

Yes! The Sistine Chapel is attached to the Vatican Museums. Your tickets include a visit to Michelangelo's masterpiece.

Does this tour include St. Peter's Basilica?

This tour will not include a visit to St. Peter's Basilica. If you want a guided tour of St. Peter's Basilica, we offer several other Vatican tours that include a visit to the church.

What to bring?

The Vatican dress code dictates you cover your knees and shoulders. If you do not meet the dress code, you may be denied entry! No need to dress like the people living there, covering your knees and shoulders is sufficient. Wear comfortable shoes too, since there's a fair amount of walking on this tour.

Is there a dress code to enter the religious sites on this tour?

We ask both men and women to cover knees and shoulders, otherwise you may be refused entry to religious sites and miss out on a portion of your tour. We understand the summers in Rome can be hot, so a great alternative is to bring a shawl/scarf/sweater with you. That way, you can cover your knees and shoulders when necessary.

Does the Vatican close for special religious events?

During State visits or special religious events, parts of the Vatican may close unexpectedly. If an area normally covered on a tour is closed, our guide still provides explanations of the closed areas from outside and they will show you an extra area inside the Vatican Museums.

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