If you want to see St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday morning, you may be frustrated in your attempts – it’s usually closed before and during the Papal address at noon. But there are also some advantages to the situation – you get to see ‘il Papa’ for free!
If you arrive at this time and hang around St. Peter’s square, you will likely see the Pope appear at his window in the papal apartments to the right of the square to give his weekly address! The square can get pretty crowded, but the atmosphere is usually a good-natured one. August is a good month to do this as there are fewer people in the city – but it can get hot, so bring water and something to cover your head.
Whether you’re religious or not, it’s always amazing to see a globally important figure in the flesh.
If you want to see the Basilica, it opens again just after 12.30pm on Saturday, so as the crowd disperses just join the end of the line. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the front, but if you’re near the front of the line, you’ll find fewer people in the Basilica than normal. And it’s free.
Alternatively there’s a papal audience in St Peter’s Square, every Wednesday at 10.30. Requires a free ticket, only available by faxing (yes really!) the Vatican offices. Official info here. Alternatively you can pay a small amount to get a ticket where someone has already done the faxing for you:
The ticket is for you to get into the square at the time of the audience, not the Basilica, and you will have to stand. The basilica opens after the mass. Turn up a few hours early – and if you’re early enough by several hours you won’t need a ticket, but beware the limited access to bathrooms.
Occasional Papal audiences are also held in the Vatican Hall (which is an auditorium to the left of St Peter’s Square). Also free, but invitation only and you will always need a ticket – see the link above.