If you’ve ever wished you could visit the Sistine Chapel without a horde of tourists, your dream is about to come true. Earlier this year, travel booking platform GetYourGuide introduced an exclusive experience called Turning the Lights On at the Vatican that gives you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do just that. Best of all, it’s free.
Accompanied by clavigero Gianni Crea, the keeper of the keys for the past 25 years, lucky guests are literally handed the keys to the doors to the most celebrated rooms in the Vatican and provided access to areas the public will never get to see.
I got to experience this firsthand, along with two couples who had won tickets, when I was in Rome over the summer and I’m still pinching myself. Unlike either of the other times I had visited the Vatican, I was able to actually explore and appreciate its extensive art collection because 1) it wasn’t open to guests yet and 2) the behind-the-scenes stories shared by Gianni added so much history and richness to what I saw.
Standing in the Sistine Chapel with only a few other people is simply awe-inspiring. No matter your faith, it’s tempting to call it a religious experience.
Because of its popularity, GetYourGuide will be offering Turning the Lights On at the Vatican monthly in 2023. To get tickets, you’ll want to check the website regularly.
Having previously taken three fantastic tours in Rome through GetYourGuide – a food tour, a pasta-making class and a tour of the Borghese Gallery, all of which I highly recommend – I was curious to learn more about the travel platform and what else they’re planning for the future. Here’s what Emil Martinsek, Chief Marketing Officer, had to say.
As someone who has been privileged to experience so many unique activities around the world, I have to say Turning the Lights On in the Vatican was one of my all-time favorites and one of the most moving. What has the response been from the public?
We’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response for this tour. Most people have never even imagined having the opportunity to experience the iconic Vatican Museums without the crowds, let alone be able to open the doors and turn the lights on themselves. After the tour, we’ve heard travelers say that they’re in awe and can barely believe it happened.
How is it different from similar experiences offered by other companies?
This tour is a once in a lifetime opportunity to open the doors and turn on the lights at the Vatican Museums with the Head Key Keeper of the Vatican Museums, before the crowds arrive, and explore its historic rooms filled with legendary pieces of art just as the sun begins to rise.
Gianni Crea has been the Head Key Keeper for over 25 years. Not only is he the keeper of the Vatican Museums keys, but also of many untold stories about what’s stored within the Museums’ walls, including why the famous Laocoön sculpture had the wrong arm for four centuries. A charismatic guide, Gianni offers plenty of anecdotes gathered through decades of working at the Vatican Museums.
As a “money can’t buy” experience, we offered this tour for free via our website, with 8-10 tickets available per tour for the general public available on a first-come, first-served basis.
How did the amazing collaboration between GetYourGuide and the Vatican come about?
Over the years, GetYourGuide and the Vatican Museums have built a strong relationship, and we’ve become their exclusive partner for 2022 and 2023. We’ve always supported the cultural arts and wanted to support the Vatican Museums as they get ready for their next Jubilee in 2025.
Because our goal is to offer our customers the most unforgettable experiences, the idea for this partnership stems from that mission. We strive for experiences that will not only leave a lasting impression but will further educate and give a deeper understanding of a historical site. The Vatican Museums are visited by more than 25,000 people every day and this tour offers a unique opportunity to experience this iconic place in a new and exciting way.
Tell us a little about the origin of GetYourGuide.
GetYourGuide was founded in 2009 by Johannes Reck, Tao Tao, Martin Sieber and Tobias Rein, who were students at the time. They created an Internet platform that was originally designed to place other students as tour guides worldwide. Over the last decade, the initial idea developed into the global leading online booking platform for unforgettable and even unique travel experiences.
Travelers use GetYourGuide to discover the best things to do in a destination, like walking tours by top local experts, immersive food and beverage tours, cooking and craft classes, skip-the-line tickets to the world’s most iconic attractions, bucket-list experiences and niche offerings you won’t find anywhere else. Customers can browse our inventory in 19 languages and book using 40+ major currencies.
Since its founding, travelers from over 190 countries have booked more than 60 million tours, activities and attraction tickets through GetYourGuide. Powered by a global team of more than 700 travel experts and technologists, the company is headquartered in Berlin, Germany and has offices in 14 countries around the world. We partner with thousands of attractions, tour operators, venues and transport companies worldwide. Our most popular products are tickets to the top sightseeing attractions, sightseeing tours and day trips.
What makes GetYourGuide different from other travel platforms?
In addition to more than 60,000 offerings from 13,000 experience creators in over 150 countries, GetYourGuide also creates unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else, that enable travelers to get under the surface of a destination.
Which are the top 10 most popular destinations and tours?
● New York City: Manhattan Island Helicopter Tour
● Rome: Street Food Tour with Local Guide
● Boston: Whale Watching Catamaran Cruise
● Sorrento: Exclusive Capri Boat Tour and Optional Blue Grotto
● Las Vegas: Grand Canyon West Bus Tour with Hoover Dam Stop
● Pompeii: Small-Group Tour with an Archeologist
● Kauai: Luau Kalamaku with Open Bar and Buffet Dinner
● Lisbon: Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Daytrip
● Chicago River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise
● Rome: Colosseum Underground, Arena & Forum Tour
What are some of your personal favorite GetYourGuide Experiences?
Turning on the lights at the Vatican Museums with the clavigero is something I will never forget. And another favorite is a cooking experience I did in Hanoi with a woman entrepreneur who taught me about life and culture in Vietnam while we ate great food. I really enjoy experiences that offer a different perspective of the world. It’s almost like you hold a special secret. Those memories of unique moments evoke a sense of wonder in me every time I think of them. That is the mark of an unforgettable experience and that is what GetYourGuide strives to deliver.
Do you have any other exciting partnerships coming up in 2023?
Over the next year, we’re excited to offer a new range of unforgettable experiences that travelers won’t find anywhere else. While we can’t reveal what they are just yet, travelers can expect experiences that are unique and exclusive to GetYourGuide, offering an authentic and in-depth look at top destinations across the world.