The final straw was scalpers. Sure, scalping is an age-old game. And being philosophical, I have never gotten bent out of shape about people or travel agencies reselling tickets at inflated prices. After all, the expression caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is as old as commerce itself.
And securing tickets through the official Vatican Museums’ website was relatively easy. Tickets were made available 60 days in advance. And until the summer of 2022, a desperate guide could scrounge up standard tickets for a last-minute request even up to a week before the date in question. After the summer of 2022, you had to be quick: tickets could and did sell out several weeks in advance.
But toward the end of 2022, tickets sold out 59 days, 23 hours, and 55 minutes in advance. Yup. Every day. Regularly. To satisfy one traveler’s request, I went on-line at 11:59 p.m. on October 28th to book tickets for December 29th. By the time the tickets appeared at midnight and I purchased the ones I needed, all the morning time slots for December 29th had sold out. I assumed the afternoon entrances would be the next to go. But I wasn’t staying awake to find out.
So, who was on-line at 12:03 a.m. on October 29th hustling for December 29th tickets? 69-year-old Nanna Taylor from Pensacola, Florida, who was planning the trip of her life? I have my doubts. But maybe she had pressed the wrong button multiple times and had bought all the standard entrance morning tickets for herself and her husband. Or had international travelers become incredibly savvy? Having been warned about the scarcity of tickets on travel sites, they sat poised before their computers, synced to Italy’s time zone, to buy their tickets. Or would I be cynical to suggest that some big agencies with awesome bots were at work? Apparently, the official Vatican website had not been designed to exclude this sort of hacking. And, if the Vatican Museums’ Direction is aware of middlemen scalping tickets, then it is complaisant about the fact, to say the least.