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 sights, you should be prepared to spend several hours waiting to see each of them, unless you know the best-kept secrets to skipping lines in Rome.
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Can You Buy Skip the Line Tickets in Rome?
The answer is absolutely! But I have to confess, on my first trip to Rome, I completely fell for all of the lines. Half of my trip was spent waiting with thousands of others to enter each of the cultural wonders I had read about online. I figured that the sheer number of people waiting at each location meant there was no other way to do it.
Tourist companies assume you will fall for this system, so they can convince you to sign up for expensive guided tours. In hindsight, it would have been better to visit Rome in the fall when the crowds taper off a bit.. (And if you think that’s a good idea, take a look at our Italy in October guide to help plan your trip)!
The truth is, you don’t need to ever enter the line, or 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 Italy trip. And if you’re looking to save money on Rome accommodations, don’t miss these best hostels in Rome.
Touring the Colosseum
Once home to thousands of gladiator fights, the Colosseum now boasts thousands of daily tourists. People come from all over the world to see one 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 get your Colosseum skip-the-line tickets, 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 sights 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 the 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 of 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 and it’s a definitely favorite spot for teenagers in Rome.
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 6:30 am, 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.
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 @deniseashur on Instagram and Hawaiian Islands Travel. 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.
Where to Stay in Rome with Kids
We have an article that covers our favorite family-friendly hotels in Rome, but here are some others.
- Gli Scipioni Bed and Breakfast – Excellent bed and breakfast around the corner from the Sistine Chapel and walking distance to Vatican City. The owner is extremely helpful and they have rooms that sleep 5. Easy access to shops and restaurants.
- Navona Gallery & Garden Suites – A quiet oasis in the heart of Rome just steps from Piazza Navona. We recommend the Michaelangelo Suite which is perfect for families. The apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchen, a stocked refrigerator with everything you need for a continental breakfast, and a private terrace, for enjoying afternoon coffee (or vino).
- Sofitel Roma Villa Borghese – Centrally located hotel near the entrance to the Borghese Gardens and the Spanish Steps. The hotel’s rooftop lounge and restaurant has stunning overlooking the gardens and St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance. Sofitel offers a curated Roman Culture Experience which is everything from a tea party with a real princess and watercolor painting to a gelato workshop and a day trip via e-bike. There is a junior suite option for families that sleeps 3.
- Villa Agrippina Gran Meliá – Five minutes from the Vatican and St. Peter Basilica, this property sits between Trastevere and the River Tiber. For families looking for a Rome hotel with a swimming pool, this is the one to choose! Several rooms have private terraces and there’s even a villa with a private pool.
Book Your Flights – You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service. If you need airport transfers, we recommend Welcome Pickups.
When traveling in Europe, we use AutoEurope to make our bookings. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. Europcar is another option. If you plan to take the train, we recommend using Rail Europe.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages. Other companies to look at include Tours by Locals and Withlocals.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours. For unique, curated activities, check out Headout.
One of our favorite things to do annually is taking photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master or World Nomads to find the best policy for your group.