Brendan and I decided to hold off on going to the Vatican museums in our first week, because we learned that on the last Sunday of every month, they have free admission. Win! So we got up early on Sunday, had breakfast and pretty much went straight to the museums to queue. And boy, am I glad we got there when we did. We got there around 7:30-7:45, and the queue was already stretching around the corner (the museums opened at 8:45). It was freezing, but about ten minutes after we got there, a large queue had grown behind us. At one point, two girls pushed in ahead of an Italian couple in front of us, and there was a lot of arguing for about ten minutes between the Italian couple, the girls, a German couple and us (who got unwittingly dragged in when the German woman asked us how long we'd been queueing for and whether we wanted these people pushing in ahead of us). The girls didn't move, but the Italian couple complained about them all the way into the museums.
Anyway! We finally got into the museum around 9:00. I was a bit irked, as some of the museums were closed that day (including the Egyptian gallery and the one I REALLY wanted to see, the museum of early Christian art), but there was still loads to see. To anyone considering going there, I suggest you put aside three or four hours to look at everything. There is the large collection of classical sculptures (including the Prima Porta Augustus statue, classics scholars!), several rooms of Christian art from the middle ages and renaissance, and a courtyard with a considerable collection of public works from ancient Rome. There is also an exhibition devoted to the Laocoon sculpture group that's really worth checking out.
Of course, one of the main attractions of the museums is the Sistine Chapel. If you're going to go to the museums at opening time, when you get in there, I just suggest you RUN. Run and get in there before any of the tour groups get in! There are several rooms and halls you pass through to get to it, and they have early maps, tapestries, frescoes (including my favourite, Raphael's 'The School of Athens'- all those great minds of antiquity together!), and they are worth a look, but seriously- get there before it gets full. When Brendan and I finally got into the chapel itself, it was like being in a tin of sardines. Full of people, and then there are the security guards and museum personnel who are constantly shushing and telling you not to take photos. The ceiling of the chapel (painted, as you know, by Michaelangelo) is magnificent, no words can describe it- but I felt that the effect was lost partly, because of the sheer number of people and the noise. So try and go there first, if you can. Perhaps it's all the more enjoyable without so many in there.
We got out of the museum around 12:30, and after lunch, we visited a few churches, which took up most of the afternoon. We visited San Clemente (underneath which is a preserved Mithraeum- you'll have to pay to see it, but it's worth it), then San Pietro in Vincoli (you'll notice the shot I took of that cardinal's tomb- I'll say it again, that is the coolest funerary monument I've ever seen). We then visited the Lateran Basilica, which is the Pope's official seat in Rome. Gorgeous church, much bigger than I had imagined it to be, and perhaps more austere than St Peter's in its aura. As it was getting dark, we visited one other church after that, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, where relics of the True Cross and the Holy Tithe are kept (I'm inclined to believe that the tithe is genuine, but the cross I'm not so certain- there's a entire forest of True Cross relics floating around Christendom). The Cistercians look after this church, and much like the Fransiscans in Assisi, the ones I spoke to were kind and gentle men who were happy to answer questions.
Have spent most of today watching my series two dvd of Doctor Who. David Tennant's video diaries were serious win (but why wasn't there anything on the Girl in the Fireplace shoot, hmm?).