Vatican Gregorian Profane Museum

An ancient Greek floor mosaic in the Gregorian Profane Museum of Rome's Vatican Museums. 9Photo by Alf van Beem)
An ancient Greek floor mosaic of an "unswept floor" in the Vatican's Gregorian Profane Museum. (See the little mouse in the lower right corner), Vatican Museums

The Vatican's "profane" museum is filled with a potpourri of pagan art—mostly Greek

An ancient torso in the Museo Gregorio Profano, Vatican Museums, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Alf van Beem)
An ancient torso in the Museo Gregorio Profano, Vatican Museums, Rome, Italy

The Gregorian Profane Museum—along with the Pio Christian Museum and Missionary-Ethnographic Museum—is housed in the 1960s structure through which you exit the Vatican complex.

Of the three, this is the best one; Still, only bother if you have the stamina for a bit more.

The "profane" (by which they mean "pagan") museum houses antiquities from the Roman and Greek eras, including some great bits of Greek sculpture along with some of the best-preserved ancient Greek and Roman mosaics in Rome.

My favorite exhibit: the wonderfully silly Heraclitus Mosaic, (pictured at the top of the page), a dining room floor mosaic masterfully tromp-l'oeil'ed to look eternally post-banquet, with leftover bits of food fallen to the ground and even a mosaic mouse nibbling on the mosaic crumbs. (Look closely: All the pieces of food—and the mouse—cast a faint "shadow" of shaded tiles beside them to make it all look more 3D. Brilliant!)

The AD 310 Gladiator Mosaics from the Baths of Diocletian in the Museo Gregorio Profano, Vatican Museums, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Sailko)
The AD 310 Gladiator Mosaics from the Baths of Diocletian.

Also be on the lookout for the 5th-century BC stele showing a slave boy handing his master a flask of oil, a couple of fragments off the famous Parthenon in Athens (including the head of one of Athena's horses), bunches of quality carved sarcophagi.

There are some fanstastic mosaic panels from the Baths of Diocletian dating to AD 310 and depicting muscular athletes, many of them famed gladiators of the era—sort of like ancient Roman baseball cards, only not as tradable.

Tips & links

Details
ADDRESS

Viale Vaticano (on the north side of the Vatican City walls, between where Via Santamaura and the Via Tunisi staircase hit Viale Vaticano; about a 5–10 minute walk around the walls from St. Peter's).
tel. +39-06-6988-4676 or +39-06-6988-3145
www.museivaticani.va or www.vatican.va

OPEN

Mon–Sat 9am–6pm (last entry: 4pm)
* May 2–July 25 and Sept 5–Oct 31 also open Fridays 7–11pm with advance booking (» more)
* Open the last Sun of each month 9:30am–2pm—and it's free!... and terribly crowded
* For other closed dates, see "tips" below

ADMISSION

€16
Roma Pass: No

TRANSPORT

Bus: 49; 490, 492, 496; 23, 32, 81,Tram 19, 271, 492, 590, 982, 990
Metro: Cipro-Musei Vaticani (A)
See "Tips" for more info

TOURS
How long does the Gregorian Profane Museum take?

Planning your day: Spend about 20 minutes in here—but all day at the Vatican. Two days if you can swing it. Even on a tight schedule, expect to pretty much spend one full day seeing the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's together. They're worth it.

Warning: The ticket office closes 2 hours before the museum, with the last entry at 4pm.

» Rome itineraries

Book ahead

You can book Vatican entry tickets ahead of time to help avoid the lines, which can last for up to an hour or so in the summer. However, this adds a €4 fee to the already steep admission of €16 at www.vatican.va. Or you can do it online via one of our partners:

Reserve a Vatican tour
Admission quirks: When the Vatican is free, closed, crowded, open late, etc.

Vatican Museum free days

The Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of each month, when they stay open until 2pm (last entry: 12:30pm). This, however, is no secret, so they are also intensely crowded.

On any other Sunday, however, the Vatican Museum are closed—and if that final Sunday of the month happens falls on a church holiday (see below), they also remain closed.

The Vatican is also free on Sept. 27 (World Tourism Day)..

Vatican most crowded on Sun and Wed

The Vatican Museums are most crowded on Sundays (because they're free) and many Wednesdays (because in the morning St. Peter's itself is often closed for the papal audience in the piazza, so everyone who doesn't have tickets walks around the walls to kill time inside the museums, and by afternoon all the audience-goers join them).

Open late on summer Fridays

The Vatican has been experimenting with reopening the museums on Friday evenings in spring and early summer then again in fall allowing a limited number of visitors—upon advance booking only—to wander the mooonlit galleries without the crowds.

More info: www.vatican.va.

To book: Viator.com

Vatican closed on church holidays

The Vatican Museums are closed on all church holidays: Jan. 1, Jan. 6, Feb. 11, Mar. 19, Easter Sunday and Monday, May 1, June 29 (Feast of St. Peter and Paul—major Roman holiday), Aug. 14–15 (everything is closed in Rome on Aug. 15; head to Santa Maria Maggiore for mass with a "snowfall" of rose petals), Nov. 1, Dec. 25 (Merry Christmas!), and Dec. 26 (Santo Stefano—huge in Italy).

Last entry: 4pm

Note that the Vatican Museums close surprisingly early (last entry at 4pm, doors close 6pm).

So see the Museums first, then walk around the walls to visit St. Peter's.

Dress code?

Recently, the Vatican (or at least some guards) seems to have decided that you must dress "appropriately" to visit any part of Vatican City—including the museums—and not just St. Peter's, where a dress code has long applied.

Err on the side of caution and make sure you arrive with no bare shoulders, knees or midriffs.

That means: no shorts, no miniskirts, no sleeveless shirts or blouses, no tank-tops. Also, no hats.

(If it's hot and you want to wear a tank top around town that day, just bring a light shawl to cover your shoulders while inside; » more on packing the right items for an Italy trip.)

Also, you cannot bring into the museum any bag or backpack larger than 40cm x 35cm x 15cm (roughly 16" x 14" x 6")—there is a cloackroom where you can leave it.

The various Vatican Museums
How to get to the Vatican Museums

Cipro-Musei Vaticani is the closest Metro stop (on the A line, about 5 blocks northwest of the entrance; just follow the crowds).

Otherwise, bus 49 stops right in front of the museum entrance (you can catch it from Piazza Cavour, or anywhere along Via Cescenzio, which starts at the northwestern tip of the piazza, near Castel Sant'Angelo).

You can also take bus 490, 492, 496, N1 to Via Candia (two blocks north of the entrance), or one of many bus lines to Piazza del Risorgimento, tucked into a inside corner of the Vatican walls a short walk east of the musuems entrance: 23, 32, 81,Tram 19, 271, 492, 590, 982, 990, N11.

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Gregorian Profane Museum
ADDRESS

Viale Vaticano (on the north side of the Vatican City walls, between where Via Santamaura and the Via Tunisi staircase hit Viale Vaticano; about a 5–10 minute walk around the walls from St. Peter's).
tel. +39-06-6988-4676 or +39-06-6988-3145
www.museivaticani.va or www.vatican.va

OPEN

Mon–Sat 9am–6pm (last entry: 4pm)
* May 2–July 25 and Sept 5–Oct 31 also open Fridays 7–11pm with advance booking (» more)
* Open the last Sun of each month 9:30am–2pm—and it's free!... and terribly crowded
* For other closed dates, see "tips" below

ADMISSION

€16
Roma Pass: No

TRANSPORT

Bus: 49; 490, 492, 496; 23, 32, 81,Tram 19, 271, 492, 590, 982, 990
Metro: Cipro-Musei Vaticani (A)
See "Tips" for more info

TOURS


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