You Can Win Tickets to a Sunrise Tour of the Vatican Museums With the Key Keeper

The early morning tour includes a private visit to the Sistine Chapel

GetYourGuide Vatican tour

GetYourGuide / Governatorato S.C.V.–Direzione dei Musei

Most days, Gianni Crea wakes up before dawn. By 5 a.m., he's already inside the Vatican Museums preparing to open the doors for the first visitors. Crea has been the head "clavigero" (key keeper) at the Vatican for 10 years, leading a team of key keepers responsible for opening and closing the doors to one of the world's largest and most visited museums. According to Crea, there are 2,797 keys, the oldest of which dates back to the 1700s. He says, the only one without a duplicate is the key to the Sistine Chapel, which gets sealed in an envelope signed by the clavigeri and the management office, and kept in its own safe.

The Vatican Museums get an average of six million visitors annually, which makes for a lot of crowding. This September, a handful of lucky winners will get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the museum early in the morning with Crea as he opens the doors to the most important galleries.

The tour starts at 6 a.m., with Crea leading a small group through the empty halls to see highlights like the Belvedere torso that inspired Michelangelo, the ancient Greek statue of Laocoön and his sons—with a secret hidden behind it—part of the Egyptian wing, the incredible Gallery of Maps with its 16th-century geographical paintings, and finally the Sistine Chapel with nobody inside. The tour also goes to some off-limits areas, like Bramante's staircase. Afterward, you'll sit down for breakfast at the cafe in the courtyard.

GetYourGuide vatican tour

GetYourGuide / Governatorato S.C.V.–Direzione dei Musei

The experience is truly unforgettable. Not only do you get the museum all to yourself, but you also get Crea's commentary and stories. He even lets you use the keys to open the doors and turn on the lights.

"You can almost smell the history that surrounds you. You hear the jangle of the keys echo as you walk down the empty halls and feel a sense of excitement or anticipation at what might be behind the next door. Just to be immersed in the majesty of these centuries-old buildings leaves you feeling something deep within yourself, a sense of peace or serenity maybe. It's unique for every person," Crea said in an interview.

Typically, this kind of exclusive tour must be booked through luxury tour operators and costs between 300 and 500 euros, but to celebrate their new partnership with the Vatican, global booking company GetYourGuide is giving away tickets for the next tour on Sept. 14, 2022. To enter the contest, go to GetYourGuide's landing page for this tour on Sept. 9, when the instructions will be announced.

The only catch? Winners will need to get themselves to Rome for the tour.

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  1. Get Your Guide. "Turning the Lights On at the Vatican Museum." Accessed Aug. 24, 2022.