Rome, the eternal city. Unfortunately, it’s also the city of eternally long lines. If you’re looking forward to seeing Rome’s most famous tourist sites – from historical sites like the Pantheon and Colosseum to Instagram wonders like the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps – you should also be prepared to spend several hours waiting to see each of those, unless you know the city’s best-kept secrets to skipping lines. Our guest writer, Denise Ashur of The Navy Blonde, saves her favorite tips for how to skip the lines in Rome.
How to Save Time and Skip the Line in Rome
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I have to confess, on my first trip to Rome I completely fell for all of the lines and spent half of my trip waiting with thousands of others to enter each of the cultural wonders that I had read about online. I figured that the sheer number of people waiting at each locations meant there was no other way to do it – an act that tourist companies bank on you falling for, so they can convince you to sign up for expensive guided tours after arriving in order to “skip the line.”
The truth is, you don’t need to ever enter the line, let alone pay for a guided tour, unless you want to. Even if this is the only article you read before going to Rome, take a few minutes to learn these secrets and literally save yourself hours on your actual trip.
Touring the Colosseum
Once home to thousands of gladiator fights, the Colosseum now boasts thousands of daily tourists who travel from all over the world to see a piece of Rome’s most architecturally impressive and violent pieces of history. On the itinerary for your trip to Rome, the Colosseum is probably near the top of your list, and for good reason.
To be blunt, the Colosseum is more impressive from the outside than from within, but I personally think it is still worth a visit, especially since Colosseum tickets will also allow you admission to Palatine Hill.
In order to skip the lines at the Colosseum and Palatine Hill make sure to order your tickets online at least 24 hours in advance. At this point you need to choose a specific time slot, which aims to stagger crowds and make both sites more accessible. If your accommodation doesn’t have a printer, you can also show the Colosseum tickets on a smartphone.
Don’t forget to check your tickets for the designated meeting point, which is where you will need to be at the time listed on your ticket. Another way to bypass the lines in Rome is to book a Colosseum tour, where the tour guide purchases your tickets and often has an inside track on admission.
Visiting The Vatican
If there were awards for most crowded tourist attractions in Rome, the Vatican would certainly take home the prize. The Vatican holds significance both historically and in present-day, making the lines exceptionally long and quite frankly overwhelming, if you don’t plan ahead.
Thankfully, online tickets are also available if purchased in advance, and I definitely recommend you take that option. Vatican tickets vary significantly on price, depending on if you want to only skip the entry line, or if you prefer a guided tour. Entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is free and does not require a reservation, but you will still need to go through metal detectors before entering.
Personally, I chose the cheapest option, which included skipping the line for the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Like with the Colosseum, you will also need to book at least a day in advance and choose a specific time slot for your visit. A Vatican Museum tour is also a possibility, and several companies offer private and group tours.
For this reason, I would not recommend trying to see the Colosseum and the Vatican on the same day. You should also plan to spend several hours at the Vatican and Vatican City because many of the exhibits are spread out and require a lot walking.
How to see the Pantheon
If you thought this article was going to be like a broken record saying “buy tickets online,” think again. For the Pantheon, entrance is free, meaning you don’t need to buy a ticket. Crowds are also significantly less overwhelming than at the previous two attractions, although you should be prepared to be surrounded by tourists while visiting.
It’s also worth noting that the Pantheon itself is not a very large tourist site, and you can probably see it in under 30 minutes. That being said, if you’re debating skipping that part of the city, there are several other attractions close by that are worth seeing, such as Piazza Navona and Biblioteca Angelica.
Getting the perfect shot at the Trevi Fountain
Another free tourist site in Rome, the Trevi Fountain is one of the most popular areas for crowds to gather at virtually any time of day, including at night.
If you are looking to get any photos without the crowds (or to just enjoy it in peace), I definitely recommend going very early in the morning. In order to take the picture you see here, we visited the Trevi Fountain around 6:30am, and it was definitely worth needing an extra cup of coffee.
There are also several cafés and gelato stores nearby, so if you’re looking to start your day off with a sweet treat, it is even more worth your while to stop by the Trevi Fountain before the rest of Rome’s tourists come out in droves.
Get lost on the Spanish Steps
This last tourist site is very close to the Trevi Fountain, meaning you could stop by both of these on one early morning. However, unlike the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps cover a rather large area and are significantly less crowded.
While I would still recommend visiting the Spanish Steps early in the morning if you would like to take photos, they are also worth seeing later in the day to experience the city’s vibe. From mid-morning to nearly midnight, you can find crowds of people sitting on the Spanish Steps drinking a coffee, enjoying a quick bite to eat or catching up with friends.
We visited the Spanish Steps early in the morning and again several times in the afternoon and evening throughout our stay in Rome, since our hotel was located nearby, along with a number of tasty and affordable restaurants.
That wraps it up for the secrets to skipping lines in Rome and enjoying each of Rome’s tourists sites to the fullest!
If you’re looking for other ways to save time in Rome, consider investing in a Rome city pass, like Roma Pass or a Rome City Pass. This will give you a discount at Rome’s museums and on transportation as well. For more information about Rome, be sure to check out our post about Rome with kids.
*All photos in the post are credited to Denise with the exception of the main Pinterest image.
About the author: Denise is a blogger and entrepreneur who runs @thenavyblonde on Instagram and The Navy Blonde website. Before she began blogging, Denise was an international tv news anchor and worked for major media outlets, creating and editing viral multi-media for audiences all over the world. Having traveled to dozens of countries, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon and is passionate about style, travel, and helping others live their best life.