It was not only the Sistine Chapel that we had private access to, but the entirety of the Vatican Collection, although wisely, after a long day in the blazing sun, with a gorgeous sunset visible through the windows, Frank Dabell chose only a few utterly memorable highlights.
The day started at The Pantheon and from there we visited two churches in the neighbourhood that had paintings by a newly discovered chap from Lombardy, namely Michelangelo Merisi, otherwise known as Caravaggio. The advantage of visiting Rome in the summer meant a complete absence of school groups, often the absolute bane of our visits!
After a lunch we walked through the streets, along the Via dei Pelligrini, pausing in a tiny courtyard to see how Medieval life in Rome might have been, when the population had shrunk from over a million to a mere 50,000...on to St Peter's, visited the church and then waited for the members of the public to leave before starting our private tour of one of the most wonderful art collections in the world. Countless wonders; collections of archaic pre-Christian paintings, frescoes of important moments in the construction of St Peter's, a view of the Papal gardens, through Raphael's sensational Stanze, the private rooms painted for Pope Julius II and into the Sistine Chapel itself. For anyone who has been there 'with the public' the visit is always breathtaking without custodians shouting 'Silenzio!" and the crowds shuffling disconsolately through, I was able to play a few bars of Allegri's 'Miserere' on my phone before a mildly disapproving glance from the custodian, composed exclusively to be played there, and only written down in the 18th century by a 14 year old Mozart, who memorised it and inscribed it back in his hotel, as the story goes.
We finished in the Octagonal Garden, with the incredible 'Laocoon' exclusively for us, without jostling crowds and guides to interrupt.
I ended the day with a sumptuous plate of fried fish, to get myself in the mood for tomorrow's return to England!