There's no better place in the world than Rome to immerse yourself in the overwhelming power of art. And within the walls of Vatican City you will discover the breathtaking Sistine Chapel featuring Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, perhaps the most influential piece of Italian Renaissance painting in existence. Definitely one for the bucket list.
The Sistine Chapel itself, in the heart of the home of the Catholic church, was built between 1473 and 1481 as a private chapel for the Pope and venue for papal elections. The walls were decorated in spectacular style with frescoes - the technique of painting on damp plaster - by a number of Renaissance artists, including Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Pinturicchio.
Michelangelo added his jaw-dropper of a ceiling during the early 1500s: a series of frescoes depicting nine scenes from the Old Testament's Book of Genesis. Here his work with the naked human form set the standard for centuries to come, particularly the iconic Creation of Adam in which God and Adam's hands are almost touching.
More than six million visitors enter the Sistine Chapel every year to gaze up at that ceiling, and you should be one of them.
The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums complex. Naturally there are always lots of people here, but winter is the quietest time to visit. During busier seasons, the late afternoons and Wednesday mornings (during the Pope's address) can be less hectic - but make sure you check opening times and any temporary closures. Mondays are often very full, following Sunday's closure.
On the morning of the last Sunday of every month there's free entry to the museums and Sistine Chapel.
Bring an up-to-date guidebook with you or invest in the audio guide when you've got to the top of the escalators. Guided tours in English take around two hours and will show you the best bits - again, book ahead online.
Even if you only want to see the Sistine Chapel frescoes, you will have to follow the one-way system through long corridors to reach this unique masterpiece. Be prepared for a bit of a huddle once you get there. And keep your phone/camera in your bag - no photos or videos are permitted. You'll have to make do with a souvenir postcard or two from the museum shop!
Don't forget, this is a religious site and visitors are expected to be dressed appropriately.
For a truly magical viewing of the Sistine Chapel, book an evening visit this summer. The Vatican Museums are open every Friday from 7pm to 11pm on specific dates between April and July, and September and October. You'll get to appreciate the stunning Italian artwork from the likes of Beato Angelico, Caravaggio, Giotto, Perugino, Raphael and of course, Michelangelo - in significantly quieter, cooler and even more atmospheric conditions.
Gazing up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling with its 600 vibrant, entwined nude human figures, you cannot fail to be moved.