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Tips for visiting Rome

Hi, My wife and two older children will be traveling to Rome at the end of May 2023. We would appreciate any tips to help us plan our trip and to avoid long lines. We have approximately 7 hours of available time to fit in everything we want to see. We are hoping to see the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum (and go inside), the Vatican Museums, the Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and have time to experience local cuisines. I would appreciate any advice you could offer.


Posted by
427 posts

I have been to Rome many times and think it will be challenging to see everything on your list in seven hours. With that amount of time and some proper planning (reserving Colosseum tickets in advance) you could probably see most on your list with the exception of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. Depending on crowds and how much you wanted to explore the museum, that could take several hours by itself. If it were me with the seven hours you described, I would aim for a realistic list of Trevi Fountain, Colosseum tour (arranged in advance), St. Peters Basilica, and a nice relaxing lunch and/or dinner and of course some Gelato!! Unfortunately, I don't see how you could do it all in that amount of time. Even what I suggested will be an aggressive itinerary.

Posted by
457 posts

That's not a lot of time for a lot of very big things. I suppose there's got to be some super-special and probably very expensive tour company that can whisk you into Rome's greatest hits. Nailing the transportation and the entry will go a long ways. Don't forget to get an aperitivo somewhere and have them set you up with a good dinner somewhere wonderful.

Posted by
2075 posts

hey hey rodemba
why only 7 hours to see these places? you are expecting too much too see with the crowds in rome. what are you other plans?
are you on a cruise stopping at civitavecchio? if so it is about 1 1/2 hours taxi ride to rome.
do you have tickets for entrance to all the places you want to see, you will have to book them ahead of time

Posted by
4902 posts

Welcome Rodney-

Are you in Rome for just 1 day or 1 NIGHT? Is this your arrival day? Will you be jet lagged?
If not overnight, what sort of luggage will you have?
Need a bit more info.

7 hours in Rome is not much to say the least!
Is this a cruise stop?

If not jet lagged you can probably see Colosseum (get tix/tour in advance), do RS Heart of Rome walk, thru the piazzas, walk by all the fountains (incl Trev), eat your way along.

Will you need to be at train station or airport at end of this day? Have to allow time for that.

You’ll have to skip Vatican OR Colosseum. Or cram both of those in and nothing else.

Posted by
23991 posts

What day of the week will you be in Rome?

Level-setting for the Trevi Fountain visit: It is very picturesque, it is large and you'll be able to see it. But you will be joined by hundreds of other people. (I walked by it in February.)

The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums. It's basically at the end of the walking route inside the huge complex, so it takes quite a long time to get there even if you already have a pre-booked entry. I booked online and got right into the building, but I still had to go through a line of 5+ people (again, in February) to swap my reservation document for a physical ticket--an annoying procedure common in Italy. The Chapel is what everyone wants to see, so it will be packed when you get there.

There's quite a long walk from the Chapel back around to St. Peter's, unless you're on a combination tour that gets to use the back door. Those are not short (or cheap) tours. If you're not on a combo tour, you'll have to line up for St. Peter's; that won't be quick. I don't know how long it's likely to take, because I haven't tackled it yet.

Ordinary tickets to the Vatican Museums are selling out way ahead of time. Online tickets for regular entry for most days in April are sold out, as are some days in May. When the online tickets are gone, your options are pricier tours or lining up outdoors, possibly for a very long time; you definitely don't have time to go through the line for those who haven't pre-booked an entry or a tour.

The areas you want to see (Vatican, Trevi Fountain and Colosseum) are not close together, so considerable time would be burned, just moving between them.

Rick has some good, free walking tours for Rome available on the Rick Steves' Europe app. I think the suggestion to settle for one indoor sight and walking around part of Central Rome to enjoy the city is a very good one.

Posted by
14740 posts

Hi Rodney -
More information would be helpful but for starters, here are a couple of "Rome in a Day" tours from companies often recommended on the forum:

As you will see from the descriptions, two of them can't pull off the sort of day you're trying to do in 7 hours, and while one of them states "6 hours plus a break", they don't say how long that break is, and estimated timing for ALL of them doesn't include finding the meeting place. If you are indeed coming from a ship in Civitavecchia, the port is some distance from Rome so additional hours need to be added to cover the journey to/from the historic center.

The length of the tours are also, I'm sure, approximate, and any number of things could add time, such as a longer or slower than usual security queue (no one is able to bypass those) and simply navigating through heavy crowds; that can definitely be a factor at the Vatican Museums/Sistine.

On the plus side, a guide can move you from one place to another without the mapwork/guesswork you'd have to perform on your own. Same for finding the correct entrances to indoor attractions. Tickets are provided so for the Colosseum and Vatican Museums so you wouldn't need to book on those on your own....which can be no easy task for as rapidly as they are disappearing for high season

So if you really ONLY have 7 hours for Rome, you very likely won't be able to cover everything on your list, and if a cruise is involved, I wouldn't even try, even with an organized tour. So can you fill us in on more exactly why you have so little time to try and fit everything in? And what are you MOST interested in seeing? It might make a difference in what posters will recommend.

Posted by
3738 posts

As much as I respect Carol now retired's opinion, the Vatican Museums and Sistine is the top sight in Rome for me. I would see it first, not go to Basilica and walk around the Forum.

Posted by
3 posts

Everyone thanks for your inputs. We will be in Rome in May on a Tuesday. We are there for a cruise so only have 7 hours. We want to maximize our experience to see as many sites as possible and to experience some great local cuisine. If we want to go on our own rather than a tour guide, what is the recommended pass to get to get access to the major sites (i.e., Vatican Museums, St. Peter's Basilica, the Colosseum, etc.)?


Posted by
14740 posts

Rodney, there is no single tourist pass that gets you into both of the most visited tourist attractions in Rome: Vatican Museums/St. Peter's Basilica and Colosseum.

Tickets for the Vatican Museums:
The general-entry tickets for the museums go on sale abt. 60 days in advance.
The basilica is free but the security line to get in can be long; that's a separate entry line from the museum's.
BOTH the museums and church will be mobbed.

Tickets for the Colosseum:
They look to be selling the general-entry ticket no further than a month in advance.

Understand that you will have to choose not just a specific day but also a specific time slot for entry from whatever is still available for purchase on the websites. Advance, timed-entry Colosseum tickets are ONLY sold online - there is no ticket office at the site - and you likely won't get into the Vatican Museums on a tight schedule unless you've pre-purchased a reserved time slot; the ticket line would eat up too much time.

I cannot emphasize how quickly tickets for both attractions are disappearing for high season once they become available. General entry tickets for the Vatican Museum are already sold out for the first week of May and up to May 10th: as far in advance as they're being sold. All of this is just one more reason to book a tour that provides your tickets and the quickest way around. Not to rain on your parade - I love Rome and want you to love it too! - but I think trying to cover your list AND make it back to the ship on time - the ship will not wait - is a risk I personally wouldn't want to take.

The time to get IN to Rome from Civitavecchia and BACK again needs to be figured in. As I'm not a cruiser, I'll defer to others who have a better handle on approx. time but I figure at least 1.5 hour, one way, by rail by the time you get off the ship, to the train station and into the historic center. Hopefully someone else who has done this will chime in.

Posted by
23991 posts

The other thing to be aware of is that, although you can certainly have really good Italian food at midday on a Tuesday, that is not something that will happen in 45 minutes or an hour--unless you're OK with pizza. Italians take food seriously, and service in good restaurants is not fast. Furthermore, to get seated at the time you want could require a reservation. And I don't know how you'd figure out when you'll be ready to eat.

I've been in Rome for 17 days on my current trip, and I've yet to have a great meal. Plenty of days I haven't had even one meal in a sit-down restaurant. I prioritize sightseeing, and I don't like finishing dinner at 8:30 or later. (Few restaurants open for dinner before 7 or 7:30 PM.) Well, I've now finished my very mediocre falafel--ordered at the counter--and am ready to hit the sidewalk again.

I'm sorry we're all sounding so negative, but a port stop for a major city like Rome isn't the same as one in a small sland town that has little in the way of sights, and the situation with Rome being so far from the port of Civitavecchia just aggravates the problem.

Posted by
4902 posts

We are there for a cruise so only have 7 hours.

Safest and probably smartest thing to do is to book an excursion with the cruise company. That way you don't have to stress about missing the boat.

Posted by
3 posts

A couple additional questions:

  1. Are there public bathrooms available outside the surrounding area as well as inside of the Vatican, Pantheon, or Colosseum? Is there a charge to use the restrooms?
  2. Are there taxis readily available for 4 people to travel between the Vatican and the Colosseum? Approximately how much would this cost?


Posted by
87 posts


My first visit to Rome was via a cruise and I too hoped to see all the sites. Unfortunately, it really isn't realistic. I ended up booking a tour through Viator which included The Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel, Piazza Navonna with lunch just outside the square and a Colosseum tour. The drive to and from the port Civi is 1.5 hours each way. While I was disappointed to not see all the places I had hoped to, the good news is that that little taste of Rome whetted my appetite, and I have since gone back to Rome 3 times.

If you're not a big museum person, I would highly recommend skipping the Vatican Museum/Sistine. It is huge, super crowded and pretty overwhelming for such a short visit. St. Peter's Basilica will be crowded, but won't be such a large time commitment. The Trevi fountain and Spanish steps are just a few blocks apart from each other, so you could knock off those two sites easily in an hour, perhaps with a gelato in between!

The Colosseum will definitely take about 2 hours and will be crowded as well but certainly a highlight, although my DW preferred the Piazza's to the historical sites. It's really all about your preferences and priorities.

On my subsequent visits, I arranged everything myself with the help of Rick's guidebook and this forum, and the visits worked out flawlessly. For your visit, I would highly recommend a professional tour (small or large group) as it will include all the entrance tickets needed, the transportation and will have a guide to give you context on what you are seeing.

Have a great trip and be warned, you will want to return.