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Time to book Vatican Museum tickets arriving at Fiumicino from U.S. at 7:45 AM, Wednesday, June 2017

Hello. New to forum, grateful for all the help and advice from Rick Steves and the forum for upcoming European trip with daughter. My parents took me as a child in the 80s.

My question is: what is the most sensible to time to reserve tickets to the Vatican Museum on the day we arrive in Rome at Fiumicino at 7:45 AM flying United from the U.S.? We will have only carryon bags. At the airport I will need only to clear immigration, withdraw Euros from an ATM, and purchase tickets for and board a Leonardo Express train to Termini station. From the station it is a 20 minute walk to our Rick Steves recommended hotel in the Monti neighbor, close to Trajan's Forum. There we will check in, then walk to catch a #40, and then a #492, bus to the Vatican. Alternately, if time is short we can take a cab. At some point along the way I would also like to pick up a Roma Pass, but this could wait if time didn't allow.

My goal for the day, ostensibly, is to get to the Vatican Museum during the Wednesday morning Papal audience, spend up to 3 hours or more there, then continue to St. Peter's, and afterward to visit the Ara Pacis. Then, explore the Piazza Popolo and North Rome for as long as we can stay awake before returning to the hotel.

1 hour and 50 minutes from the time we are scheduled to land allows us to catch a 9:35 LE train getting us to our hotel by 10:30, suggesting that a reservation time at the Vatican Museum of 11:30 AM is doable. However, I am wondering what others think. Missing our reservation time seems fairly catastrophic. Thanks for any advice.

Posted by
11733 posts

Hi and welcome to the forum, Bdit -

Oof. First off, the Vatican Museums are probably the last attraction I'd recommend anyone do on arrival day. If there's one activity that demands that one be rested and alert, it's that one. Just navigating the mob there can be stressful enough without being jet-lagged on top of it. "Fresh air" pastimes versus indoor attractions are helpful to shake the fog.

Planning anything at all on arrival day which requires reservations is a risk as any number of snags, such as a delayed flight or long immigration lines, are possible. Your mention of purchasing a Roma Pass (which doesn't cover the Vatican) leads me to believe you have multiple days in Rome. Is there ANY way to rearrange your itinerary to maybe try and catch the audience but do the museums on a different day?

Posted by
1731 posts

And, regardless of when you're taking the trip, because of the papal audience, Wednesdays are traditionally the most crowded of the week. In high season, it could be borderline unmanageable.

As Kathy says, if you're spending any more than 3 nights in Rome, save the Vatican and St. Peter's for another day--hope you haven't made reservations already. If you're coming from the States, jet lag will probably kick your butt on arrival and you'll be in a quasi-zombie state for at least the first day on the ground. Check in to your hotel, walk around and see some local sights, go back to your hotel & take a nap, then go out and have a nice dinner within walking distance. You'll feel fine the next morning.

Posted by
208 posts

I agree completely with the previous poster, I wouldn't book anything on arrival day. My sister and her husband just took a trip to Europe 2 weeks ago and flight issues caused them to arrive 24 hours later than planned.

It's definitely best to plan things that keep you outdoors. On our first day in Europe, we like to do a walking tour that doesn't need to be pre-booked so that if we are delayed it doesn't matter.

Posted by
11613 posts

Hi, Bdit, welcome.

Your plan looks very efficient on paper, but you are really counting on all the stars aligning for your arrival day. I doubt that you will be able to get into the Papal Audience by the time your plane lands, you deplane, go through immigration, get to your hotel, drop your bags if your room isn't ready yet, get to Piazza San Pietro. Crowds begin forming for the audience several hours before it begins.

You can try to get to the Papal Audience, but get an early admission to the Vatican Museums a day or two later. As Kathy said, you need your wits about you just to appreciate the art, let alone navigate the crowds.

"Scheduled to land" is the key phrase. Where are you arriving from? If your plane arrival is delayed by 30 minutes, you probably won't make that early train.

On the first day, if you are arriving on a flight (or connection) from the US or Canada, I would spend the day outside, in churches with great art, and perhaps a museum that doesn't require an entry ticket with a reserved time.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

Posted by
1667 posts

Ah, the efficient Americans!

Forgive me if I'm reading too much into your question, but I've seen a lot of posts by folks who want to cram as much into their trip as possible. It makes me think of the Green Stamp books of old, but in this case, each block represents a "must see". You get a stamp for every one you visit and whoever comes home with the most stamps wins.

If this sounds even remotely like the way you've planned the rest of your trip, I'd like to gently suggest you step back and approach the trip differently. Start with your arrival day. Set two goals: land at FCO and check into your hotel. That should be the only hard items on your schedule.

For the rest of the trip, leave yourself plenty of free time each day. Don't jam one event right up against another, or you'll spend more time worrying if you'll make the next thing on your schedule than you'll spend appreciating what you're doing at the moment.

This will also give yourself the opportunity to be spontaneous. You may run into a wonderful opportunity that you didn't know about. Seeing the must see sights is all well and good, but what I remember most about our trip to Tuscany were the moments of discovery, such as stumbling across the charming little hill village of Radda. A wrong turn we took on the way to another area found us there. Our schedule was open enough to allow us to enjoy the unexpected moments. We took all the time we wanted exploring Radda because we weren't under any time pressure.

You'll have to be ready to accept you won't do everything you've planned. We had planned to visit Pisa, Lucca and Assisi. It became obvious that in order to do so, we'd run ourselves ragged. Together my wife and I made the decision to set aside those trips for the next time we're in Tuscany. You can't do it all and see it all.

Posted by
11733 posts

One more wee comment?

My parents took me as a child in the 80s.

You may find that the "Europe" you saw as a child has changed over the past couple of decades. Tourism has exploded in many of the great cities and "tourist magnet" regions so you may very well find places you visited before being much more crowded. Case in point, I saw the Sistine/Vatican Museums back in the 70's - before restoration - with lots of elbow room. Today? Unless you can book an early-opening tour or tickets for Friday night seasonal openings, it's a sardine can of shoulder-to-shoulder humans.

No matter: I still dearly love Roma, and have no problems finding breathing room in her less-visited corners but it's something to be prepared for?

Posted by
6 posts

"The Papal Audience is scheduled to start at 10.30am (Sometimes in Summer due to the heat they may start the audience at 10am instead). However, you will find that most people will arrive early to get a good seat. Security opens between 8 - 8.30am.
In Summer the audience is usually held in St Peter's Square to accommodate the large crowds, there is a seating area near the front for those with tickets but it is still a first come first served basis so again to get a good seat you should arrive early."
http://www.papalaudience.org

If your flight lands at 7:45am I just don't see how it would even be possible to get to the Vatican early enough. There's also the chance that the Pope may not even be in Rome while you are there. Its not guaranteed that he is at the Vatican every single Wednesday all year long.

Posted by
823 posts

Bdit,

I think you're are woefully over-optimistic on your time estimates. There are so many places for this plan to fall apart it's not really worth getting into specifics.

From the Vatican website:

"The Papal Audience is scheduled to start at 10.30am (Sometimes in Summer due to the heat they may start the audience at 10am instead)
However, you will find that most people will arrive early to get a good seat. Security opens between 8 - 8.30am, large numbers tend to arrive between 8.30-9am especially during high season when more people will be attending.
Normally a Papal Audience will last 1 1/2 - 2 hrs.
You will need to pass through Security scanners similar to the airport to access the audience, it is advisable to bring only small bags or backpacks and Items such as pocket knives, corkscrews, scissors and similar objects will not be permitted through the checkpoint."

If you truly want to reach the Vatican in time for the Papal audience, I suggest taking the local train (FL1) from FCO to the Vatican through Rome Trastevere and checking your luggage at one of the luggage storage offices nearby (consult Google for details). Just remember, the security line to get into Saint Peter's Square is near the front of the square while the ticket office and entrance to the museums is on the back side of the Vatican along Viale Vaticano.

Once you have finished your visit of the Vatican, retrieve your luggage and head to your hotel. You probably won't be able to check in until mid-afternoon anyway...

I do, however, agree with the rest of the commenters here that your plan is way too ambitious and you are much better off substituting it with plenty of outdoor sightseeing on your day of arrival. I'm assuming you are flying in on an overnight transatlantic flight so you will be pretty well wiped out. If you wish to sightsee in central Rome rather than go to the Vatican, check with your hotel to see if they'll store your luggage until it's time to check in (not all hotels have the space). Or, you can store your luggage at Termini or one of the commercial luggage-drops just outside the station.

Posted by
11613 posts

The Pope's published schedule is set far in advance for the Wednesday audiences, he is sometimes not there, even though it's on his schedule. Happened to me and some friends twice in two years.

Posted by
11 posts

I read the OP's original message as wanting to visit the Vatican Museums DURING the papal audience.
I think Bdit figures the Museums won't be as busy if everyone is out in the square attending the audience.

But as you've all mentioned, way too ambitious, and probably incredibly unrealistic for the first day. Far too many variables that could derail the plans

Posted by
11733 posts

I read the OP's original message as wanting to visit the Vatican
Museums DURING the papal audience.

Arg. Rereading the post, I think you're absolutely right, Wendy. Still, I wouldn't do this one right off the plane on arrival day.

Posted by
6 posts

It is thrilling receiving all of your replies after reading so many forum discussions on this and on other sites.

I am getting the overall message, and it is helping a lot. As it happens, we are staying three days in Rome. Day two I had planned to go to Pompeii. Day three was Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill, Capitoline Museum and Pantheon. After Rome we are heading to Florence, Venice, Paris, and a little bit of Germany. Since Florence will be heavy on Museums I thought having a few, less museum-ed days in between would be good. Seems like the best idea would be to simply switch days 1 and 3.

I am impressed by all the mentions of the mob at the Vatican, and the suggestions of being outside during jet lag. Duly noted.

And yes, I did mean only to take advantage of smaller crowds during the papal audience, NOT to attend it. I apologize for that confusion.

I am intrigued by Jay's mention of a nap. The advice I've received and my practice on previous trips is not to go to sleep during the day so you don't end up awake after dark. But as I said I'm intrigued. Anyone else have experience with this?

DougMac's observations are as helpful as everyone else's, and thought provoking: I feel like I have gotten the impression from other tourists of the "stamp the book" mentality, those who seem to see without seeing. My daughter and I are not like that, but I do have to say I think we both have been served well by a more scheduled form of sightseeing, and I value that form as much as the more passive type. That said, one of the biggest things I am taking away for the comments is the need to have enough flexibility in our trip to have some of both.

Kathy - I saw the Sistine Chapel before, or maybe it was during, restoration, as well. I guess it will be different and things like crowds could definitely affect our experience and plans. (Part of our trip back then was an exchange organized by group called Friendship Force. The best part of the trip was staying with our German hosts.)

Our Hotel, Casa Il Rosario, said we could leave our luggage there in the morning.

Thank you all so much for sharing your stories and your advice. They and it are truly helpful and nice.

Posted by
11733 posts

The advice I've received and my practice on previous trips is not to
go to sleep during the day so you don't end up awake after dark. But
as I said I'm intrigued. Anyone else have experience with this?

A nap works for some but not for others. We'd end up feeling worse than before we went down. Just staying up until a little earlier than normal bedtime at home is the best plan for us but again, everyone is different. What with the excitement of just being there - helped along by a dose of Italian coffee! - we get a good second wind once we've gotten settled in and hit the streets.

Pompeii: you might rethink this one? In reality, you don't have 3 sightseeing days in Rome: you have 2.5. That's not very much for all that the city has to offer. Pompeii is also some distance away. If an excavation - in addition to those in Rome - is high on the list, Ostia Antica is a very good substitute as it's much closer. Still, I don't know as I'd even do that one with the little amount of time you have.

Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill, Capitoline Museum and Pantheon is a LOT to try and squeeze in on arrival day. We've done all 5 of these in one day but not on arrival day, not in summer heat (Oct.) and starting out much earlier than you're going to be able to. I would do these instead of Pompeii on day 2 or 3 and use your half day to walk and pop into/by some other interesting things.

Posted by
1731 posts

Well, the nap deal has worked for me--and for my wife--on our three trips abroad. We usually plan an overnight flight, arriving at our final destination in Europe mid-morning to noon local time. And because I have sleep apnea and carry a Bi-PAP machine that I can't use in flight (unless I'm in business or first class, uh, RARE!) I'm up the whole flight. So I could use some shut-eye once we get to the hotel or B&B or apartment.

We unpack a little, then go outside, walk around and get some fresh air, grab a bite to eat, then come back, set an alarm and take about a 3 hour nap, in which we usually sleep like the dead. Wake up, hop in the shower and actually feel fairly refreshed for a nice dinner. And you'd be surprised after dinner, after a couple of glasses of wine, that all we have the energy to do is grab a quick gelato and go back to bed.

By the next morning we're OK again--up a little early, a little jet-lagged but raring to go for the most part. Different strokes, but once I arrive and change my iPhone to local time, I don't even think about what time it is at home anymore.

Posted by
208 posts

Our trip this fall will mark our 9th year in a row travelling to Europe and we have found that napping doesn't work well for us. By the time we get to our hotel it's usually lunch time so we drop off our luggage and get a bite to eat. Then we go on a walking tour. Usually I've been able to find one that starts about 2 or 3 and that doesn't require pre-booking. Then we walk around on our own for a while or perhaps go back to the hotel and unpack a bit and relax and read for a while. Then out to dinner, usually something pretty basic. Bed around 9:00 which is about our normal time anyway since we get up quite early for work.

With this method we feel almost normal the next day and completely normal by the day after.

Posted by
11613 posts

A little trick if you wear a wristwatch: set it to your destination time as soon as you buckle your seat belt on your international flight.

Posted by
11733 posts

Another thought on the nap thingie?

In my last post I'd voiced some concern about the (now shuffled) itinerary of Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill, Capitoline Museum and Pantheon on your partial arrival day? This is just another reason to skip Pompeii and use one of your only two FULL days for those. It's too much, IMHO, to squeeze into roughly 1/2 a day, and nap would be out of the question if determined to try: you would need all of the time you have to cover ground.

Consider also that it's likely to be very warm and you'd be doing 3 outdoor attractions (Colosseum/Forum/Palatine) during the hottest time of the day. There is a little bit of shade at the Colosseum but not much at all at the other two. Jetlag+ heat+ summer crowds+ an overly ambitious itinerary could leave you utterly sapped partway through.

Leaving your arrival day open to a less ambitious plan would allow flex for a restorative snooze and a shower should you end up desperately needing both. Your plan as it stands would be no fun at all if you're too strung out to enjoy it?

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you, Kathy, Jay, Patricia, and Zoe! These are great. I really like considering time factors, outdoor temperature, and crowds. Also, the wristwatch idea! My daughter and I are light sleepers so I am thinking we will be in the stay-up-as-long-as-possible camp.

As far as activities on the first day and Pompeii - I am thinking the likeliest scenario is that we will be ready to go to the Colosseum sites by mid-morning, but of course that could get pushed back much further depending on delays. In that event we would be sacrificing some of those activities for the full day it will take to visit Pompeii, and this is making me rethink going there. Really wanted to go because 1) I've been there and really thought it was great; 2) My daughter started hearing about it as a young child reading The Magic Tree House series, aka "Jack and Annie," book, "Under the Volcano," and reading a DK book about Rome; and 3) Ostia Antica honestly doesn't look as neat in pictures. That said, being able to see these other sites if necessitated by time is a BIG factor.

If I don't reserve tickets on a high speed Frecce train to Naples in advance I guess taking a regional train could still work....

Ah... still figuring it out. These comments really help. Thank you guys again so much!!

Posted by
6522 posts

For as busy as your schedule is, I would suggest you go to Ostia Antica, rather than Pompeii.

Save Pompeii for a trip when you can spend a few days in the south.

Ostia has shade, a museum ( small but very good) and a snack shop. Pompeii has none of these. It does have Roman ruins from the same era and is about as far from Rome as is the airport. Much the same experience, with a lot less wear and tear.

Posted by
11733 posts

If I don't reserve tickets on a high speed Frecce train to Naples in
advance I guess taking a regional train could still work....

Oh gosh, I don't know as I'd mess around with intercity trains...which are what you'd take if forgoing the high-speeds. Between the 2 hours those will take to Naples + the 30+ minutes on the Circumvesuviana (or Campania Express, if the timing works) to Pompeii, you'll spend a minimum of 5 hours total in transport. The fast trains will get you to/from Naples in about an hour and shave 2 hours off that 5-hour total. You don't have to reserve those trains in advance although you will likely be paying base price if purchasing day-of tickets.

Posted by
1731 posts

Bdit--

I remember the Friendship Force. It was started by Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter in the 1980's, after his presidency. My in-laws took three of the trips and thoroughly enjoyed them.

OK. Since we've all put the kibosh on almost everything you want to do :) , let's look at the brass tacks to see how Pompei would be doable for you.

It would no doubt be a long day. According the Rome2Rio website (www.rome2rio.com) you can leave Roma Termini at 7:35 on the Freccia #9601, that puts you at Napoli Centrale at 8:45. 45 Euro per, not cheap. Then to offset, the Circumvesuviana--which IS cheap, and runs every half hour or so--to Pompei Scavi stop in about 35 minutes. You can buy the tickets from the machine at Napoli Centrale. This probably gets you to the entrance to the ruins about 10AM. The earlier the better is definitely the watchword here.

Pompei is fabulous. The more advance research you do, the better off you'll be. Granted, most of the art is at the Archeological Museum in Naples (and that's fantastic as well), but nothing like walking around the remnants of 79 A.D.--nothing like it. If you're into it, you'll spend a good 3-4 hours there, easy.

Do you want to use one of the guides that will be at the entrance asking you? As a do-it-yourself guy, I'd ordinarily say no, but for 15-20 Euro...what the heck, you know? Even if he/she's not the best, it'll still be a good story when you get home. Because almost nothing is marked, it's easy to wander around aimlessly if you're not careful.

Then retrace your steps. Yes, I'd definitely consider buying the roundtrip Roma/Napoli/Roma Freccia tickets in advance, although I'm not quite sure how much you're saving by doing it in advance. But in high season, you want an assigned seat--that's key. Now, if you really want to fly close to the sun--hah!--once you take the CV back from Pompei to Napoli, you could take a cab somewhere for true Napolitan pizza. Naples cabbies are cool, and the rates are regulated, 15-18 Euro. Then come back to the station and take the last leg of your trip back to Roma Termini.

This will theoretically get you home late afternoon or early evening with a real sense of accomplishment. Would I do this? Probably not. But again, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and either way it will be a story for the kids to tell.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks Joe, Kathy, and Jay. I apologize for the delay. Based partially on advice from another discussion (link below,) I opted to reserve a one-way Freece to Naples, with the idea of taking an Intercity train back on our return in order to avoid setting a time. It is helpful, however, knowing about the possibility of booking a high-speed train at the time of travel as an option. It is also helpful to have an estimate for how much time we might spend at the site, and to hear about getting a cab into Naples for dinner. Good to know that cabs there are a good option. I would really like to go to the Museum in Naples someday. It sounds really cool.

I am imagining that just doing things like this in Italy will be a memorable experience for my daughter and me. She will already be on a pretty heavy museum schedule, so a more carefree day with a smaller number of things to do seems good. We will only be in Venice from 10:35 until 7:20, when we take an overnight Thello train to Paris. I think this might lead to skipping the Accademia there. Too bad for me, but from my daughter's perspective, and based on being gone for a total of 13 days to not make it too long of a trip for her, I think everything should be great.

Definitely want to go to Ostia Antica someday. And making a trip to southern Italy sounds like a good idea too.

Friendship Force appears to be going strong. I highly recommend the experience:

https://www.thefriendshipforce.org

Thanks very much again!!! It is really great corresponding with you.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187786-i1888-k7144993-Daytrip_to_Pompeii_from_Rome_by_Train-Pompeii_Province_of_Naples_Campania.html

Posted by
6 posts

P.S. I ended up reserving 2:00 PM tickets at the Vatican Museum on the day we arrive. That way, if we are on schedule we can go to the Ara Pacis and get something to eat first. If we are running late we might still make the museum, and if not, I am prepared to loose the €32. This also preserves our third day plan nicely. Some good advice I received about guessing about delays - international flights are not "turn and burn." They tend to have those planes on the ground for a greater number of hours before taking off, so that lessens the chance of delays based on a previous connection. That leaves weather as a potentially more likely concern. Flying in summer means no chance of snow, and flying out of NY lessens hurricane potential. Those factors made me feel a little better about making first day plans.

For what it's worth:)

Posted by
11613 posts

Not for nothin', but my flight from Detroit to JFK on 5/5 was cancelled due to weather in New York, causing a 12-hour delay in my arriving in Milano (8:30pm instead of am).

Posted by
6522 posts

Pompeii--

I found the ( free) RS audio tour very helpful and certainly an alternative to buying a tour guide.

it seemed we ended up everywhere we saw the guides, just in a slightly different order.

The RS guide took us on an efficient trip about the area..

Cannot help with logistics for your trip as we were staying in Sorrento

Enjoy----