On my visit to Rome, I decided to book a guided tour of the Museo Vaticani and Basilica San Pietro. After hearing multiple horror stories of tourists waiting in line for hours to get in to the museum, I decided to use a guided tour to avoid the lines since guided tours get to skip to the front of the line. After researching various tour guide companies, I chose Through Eternity Tours. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Our guide was very personable and extremely knowledgable of the history of the Vatican Museums.

One of the reasons I liked this tour company was that we were given headsets to wear. This made it much easier to hear our guide talking above the din of hundreds of other museum visitors, but we were still given the flexibility to move around on our own within a reasonable distance away from our guide.

Our guide was incredibly knowledgable, almost too knowledgable...he enlightened the group with so many stories and anecdotes that the tour ran long and a 5-hour tour turned into an all-day event. We had to miss the St. Peter's Basilica part of the tour because we had 5:00 reservations at the Galleria Borghese. However, this turned out to be beneficial for us. The next morning we decided to get up and visit St. Peter's Basilica early. Excellent idea on our part! Arriving around 8:30 a.m., there were hardly any tourists in the basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica opens at 7:00 a.m. and closes at 7:00 p.m. Consider visiting early in the morning or later in the early evening. Tour groups are allowed in the basilica between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., so if you visit the basilica during those times, it will mostly likely be very crowded.

As anyone knows who has visited the Vatican Museum, in addition to maneuvering your way around hundreds of fellow tourists while walking through the gorgeous Map Gallery, there are also several kiosks along this corridor selling the usual array of books, postcards, disposable cameras, etc. While our guide was enlightening us with the history of this room, my sister took the opportunity to purchase a book on the Vatican Museums.

My sister discovered she had been given the French version, not the English version of the Vatican Museum book.

Mi scusi, ma non parliamo francesi. Parliamo solo inglesi.

So the next morning, after visiting St. Peter's Basilica, we trekked all the way back over to the Vatican Museum entrance.

Although, my sister did try to exchange the book at one of the gifts shops in the basilica... 

No, ma'am, we can't exchange it for you here. You have to go back to the museum. 

I guess it would be like buying it at Target and trying to return it to Walmart. Two separate entities.
We had our Vatican Museum entry tickets from the day before, so after explaining the situation, a kind security guard allowed us to re-enter the museum (this was followed up by molto Mille Grazie! from me).

Just past the security checkpoint and up a flight of stairs was the customer service desk. We explained the situation and showed the woman the receipt.

Unfortunately, ma'am, since you didn't buy the book today, we cannot exchange it for you.

Huh? What? What kind of craziness is that? "What do you mean we can't exchange it? We have our receipt. It's the French version! We are obviously not French. And we didn't realize it was the wrong book until we returned to our hotel room last night!"

Well, ma'am, you could try over there...

She pointed us to a kiosk up another small flight of steps. We walked over there.

Yes, you can exchange it today, but not here. You have to go back to where you bought it.

"But, that was in the middle of the Map Gallery!"

I'm sorry...but that's the rule.

Map Gallery in the Vatican Museum
So, we speedwalked the (at least) quarter-mile journey through the Vatican Museum back to the Map Gallery.

And it suddenly dawned on me as we raced through the museum and around the crowds (it was a Saturday morning). I turned to my sister and said, "You know, there's only one way out of this museum and that's back through the Sistine Chapel! Oh, darn! I guess we're forced to see it again--this time for free!

So, we found the kiosk where she bought the book, exchanged it for the English version, and then strolled out of the Map Gallery to go marvel again at the Cappella Sistina.

Thank you for visiting,

A Great Europe Trip Planner 

All photos were taken by me.

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