No words will suffice to describe Rome at its true worth. Ancient and modern coexist here in complete harmony, and Rome, that once ruled the world for centuries, has perhaps lost its power, but maintained its grandeur.
As if opening your eyes to its wonders were not enough, your taste buds will experience similar ecstasy, as well as your ears when hearing the local language - in short, all your senses will revel in the pleasures of Rome.
All that beauty shouldn’t be spoilt by the ugliness of a queue. More desirable than any man or mowan in the world, Rome will captivate you and live on in your mind long after you’ve returned home.
We’ve prepared some useful tips so that you can make the most of Rome.
Which season to choose and which to avoid?
To avoid crowds in the city’s museums, February is the top choice. Don’t plan your visit on the days of major religious holidays, like Epiphany (6th of January), Easter (between the end of March and the end of April, shifts every year, depending on the moon calendar), Ascension Day (usually in May), Pentecost (10 days after Ascension Day), Assumption of the Virgin (15th of August), All Saints day (november) and finally, Christmas. Rome is home to the Vatican and crowds are extreme during these religious holidays!
High season in Rome is from April to May and from August to October. Prefer the winter period (except for the holidays mentioned above) to get a more intimate impression of the city as well as better rates in hotels. June is the calmest of the summer months and it’s not that hot yet, so it could also be a good time to visit Rome.
Stear away from the museums in mid-August, around Assumption Day: you may have an impression that half of the globe rushed to Italy, and they all want to visit the same museum and places as you.
Avoid planning cultural visits on the first Sunday of the month: many Italian museums and archeological sites have free admission on this day (including the Colosseum, Castel Sant’Angelo, the National Museum of Rome and the Borghese Gallery). The crowds are impressive!
Queue to the Colosseum ticket office - credits to Bob Hall via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
5,6 mln visitors in 2013
The first tip may seem strange, but it works: don’t buy your ticket for the Colosseum at the Colosseum. The general Colosseum ticket gives access to 3 places: Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, and is valid for 2 consecutive days. So you can easily buy it at the Forum, where there is never a line, and get direct access to the Colosseum without queuing! An even better way would be to book your ticket online before going. There is a commission of 2€ per ticket, but you won’t have to bother about queues at all.
To avoid crowds inside the Colosseum, go during extended opening hours see here or come later in the afternoon, it’s usually less crowded then, compared to busy morning hours. From the end of April until the end of October, you can visit the Colosseum on Thursday and Saturday nights (it’s open till midnight). Prefer Thursdays, it’s much calmer.
For the Forum and Palatine Hill, the afternoon is also the best time to go. There’s a wave of tourist groups that arrive at 10:00am at the Colosseum, so they will appear at the Forum side by noon and will cause big crowds. Another wave of guided tour groups prefer to start from Forum and Palatine leaving the Colosseum for lunchtime or early afternoon. In any case most of the groups, no matter which route they take, will leave by 15:00, and that’s when we advise you to come.
5,5 mln visitors in 2013
The Vatican is very crowded throughout almost the entire year: not only will you have to wait in the longest line in Rome if you don’t purchase your tickets in advance, but it will also be difficult to admire the different pieces of art inside the museums, when you can hardly breathe squashed between other tourists.
The Gallery of Maps - during off-peak season on the left, during peak season on the right
To be certain of getting the best experience, follow these tips:
Try to avoid Wednesday mornings: it’s the day of the Papal audience. If the audience is held in St. Peter’s Basilica or in St.Peter’s Square - then it’s closed for visitors until 12:00 or even further. Be aware that the Pope can decide at anytime to have the Basilica for himself and apparently it is not uncommon: in this case it will be closed for tourists. We advise therefore not to plan your Vatican visit for the last day of your stay, have at least a day of backup.
The best time to go to the Basilica is either early in the morning, before 09:00, or in the afternoon, after 16:00. Though the queue may look long and impressive - it moves fast, you’ll just need to pass the security control to get inside. About an hour before the closing time, you will most likely never see a waiting line, even in high season.
Consider that it’s possible visiting the Vatican Museums and the Basilica on different days. For the weekend trippers we suggest going to the Basilica on a Sunday afternoon: while the Vatican Museums are closed, there tend to be less visitors and hardly any line to enter.
0,9 mln visitors in 2013
A long queue is not something common here, but consider that the best time to visit Castel Sant’Angelo is in the evening, at the sunset hour. It is one of the best spots to take photos of the city. Busy hours are in the morning, and the queue may take up to an hour.
0,5 mln visitors in 2013
It is mandatory to pre-book a ticket in order to visit the Borghese Gallery (you can do it here). Plan well and request a reservation at least a week in advance in order to secure a place. During high season you may find all the tickets sold out for the two upcoming weeks. Admission is strictly kept to 360 people every 2 hours, and there are five time slots you can choose from: 9:00-11:00, 11:00-13:00, 13:00-15:00, 15:00-17:00, 17:00-19:00. You’re expected to come to the museum about half an hour before the entrance time, in order to pass security checks and leave bags in the cloakroom if needed (it’s free of charge). You won’t be able to stay for more than 2 hours, and at the end of your time slot you’ll be asked to leave the Gallery.
For the Gallery’s visit, we advise you to take the audio-guide and to start your visit from the first floor to avoid crowds as most tourists and groups will start the visit from the ground floor.
Come at the opening time or in the afternoon after 16:00 to avoid crowds. Try visiting when it’s raining lightly to see that the rain drops don’t reach the ground through the central opening to the sky in the middle of the site, or between 11:00 and 13:00 for the sun streaming in through the opening.
The crowds won’t disturb you much here, as the site is really big. There may however be a crowd in front of the most popular statues, like Lupa Capitolina (the wolf that rescued Romulus and Remus who founded later the city of Rome) or the Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. The queue for the tickets can take up to 30 minutes of your time during peak hours, but you can skip it if you come with a pre-purchased ticket. Afternoons tend to be calmer, with no school groups in sight after 4 pm.
If waiting even a little bit may take the shine off your trip - there’s nothing left but to encourage you take a walk through the city, especially since it’s a must thing to do in Rome. Plus, the weather will most probably be on your side, make the most of it! Just a small tip: Italians on the roads practice a fearless and sporty driving style.
Some walking suggestions
We almost got a heart attack trying to understand how the Roma pass may be applied. After a number of re-readings here’s what we can tell you:
The Roma Pass (worth € 38,50) includes free entrance and priority entry to only 2 of the museums/archeological sites of your choice and it’s not applicable to the Vatican museums. After that, starting from the third site, you’ll be able to get reduced ticket prices, but you’ll have to get in line and buy them. The card includes the free use of the city’s public transport (for 3 days).
The Roma Pass 48 hours is a “lighter” option, which includes only one free entrance and reduced admission fees to following sites, as well as access to the public transport for 48 hours. This Pass costs € 28,00.
Just to give you some idea, the entrance fee to Borghese Gallery is €15, while to enter Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill costs €12. Which makes the Roma Pass quite hard to pay off.
For more details about Roma Pass, click here.
We advise you to instead -buy the Archeologia Card. Valid for 7 days, it will give you free entrance to the following sites:
The best part of this card is its price: full price is €23,00 (less than the Roma 48 hours pass granting just one free entrance), and if you have the right to a reduced rate - you’ll only have to pay €13,00. You will have to add a €2 fee if you buy it online. The card can be purchased at the ticket offices of the sites it gives access to.
Here it is. We’re awaiting your postcards, buon viaggio! (Have a good trip!)