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Tours and skip the line tickets

We will be in Italy in October and are looking to buy museum tickets in advance. We are planning on Venice, Florence, and Rome, along with some small towns in Tuscany. Any recommendations or suggestions for tour tickets would be appreciated. We know we would like to see the major sites that most see on their first trip to Italy. Thanks in advance for your time.

Posted by
1023 posts

I notice that you are relative newbies to the Forum, so I suggest you type your query into the "Search" block above, as in, "Florence Museum Tickets" or "Vatican Museum Tours" to get an idea of previous posts with information. These questions get asked virtually every day, and I guarantee that SOMEONE will have posted an answer to your exact question. Have fun looking!

I note on your profile that you are planning a once in a lifetime trip and that you don't think you will every come back to Italy. I am in my early 70s and have made a lot of trips to Italy and am planning one for September. I NEVER say that I probably won't be back. I always plan to return, especially to Sorrento, of course. Live with the joy of discovery and the hope for tomorrow's revisiting of that joy you experience.

Posted by
13700 posts

finallyItaly, can you give us a better idea of exactly what you're looking for? There are entry tickets and there are guided tours; there can be a significant price difference between the two. Some attractions also have audioguides you can rent, and Rick offers some you can download to your devices for free.

Also, exactly how long will you be in each place and what sorts of things are you interested in? For instance, there are some terrific art museums but if you don't really care that much for art. I probably wouldn't recommend the biggest and busiest of them. Instead, I might recommend some churches, say, with some great works but which won't involve the money or the time...or the crowds, in some cases. Do you have a guidebook yet? If not, one of these will be VERY helpful as far as making a like-to-see list. :O)

Posted by
470 posts

FinallyItaly,
Just want to add here that "skip the line" only means the ticket line. You will still need to go through the security line at museums, which can also be lengthy depending on the city and museum. We generally like to visit museums on our own, but we did take an evening tour of the Vatican Museum with Walks of Italy. Although we had previously visited the Museum on our own, the tour was very informative and helpful in understanding some of the work.
Buon viaggio!

Posted by
13700 posts

Additionally, I'd given you a list of attractions which you should buy advance tickets for in one of your previous threads:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/best-way-to-get-to-montepulciano-from-monterosso-and-renting-a-car-once-we-get-there

You said that you are spending just one night in Milan to see the Last Supper? Yes, you must get advance tickets or a tour for that one. Have you done so yet? You only have one day in Florence (stated in a different thread) so you'll need to be very selective about what you want to see; skipping the biggest/busiest museums might be advised. For a trip in October, you're going to want to put the hustle on tickets/tours for the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine in Rome. Anyway, we can advise where/how to do that when you get back to us with some idea of what you're looking for - tickets or tours or both - and/or how much you want to spend? And you are traveling with another couple, correct?

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you everyone - you don't know how much I appreciate your help! We are traveling with another couple. We've been friends for over 30 years and have traveled together before. I would not say we are big art fans, but would like to see some. Our itinerary is this:

Fly into Milan - we have Last Supper tickets already for that day. Hotel, sleep, and leave for Venice in the morning.

Venice - two night here so 2 half days and one full day. Suggestions?

Florence - 2 nights here as well. Later in our trip we will be in Tuscany (about 1 hour from Florence and will have a car - so we can go back if needed). David is a must.

Cinque Terre - 2 nights here, but just hanging out and relaxing.

Tuscany - staying at an agriturismo for 4 nights and renting car to see small towns, etc

Rome - 4 nights here as well. We know we want to see Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Pantheon, guys want to see the Colliseum, girls are so so, but are open to opinions if it is a MUST see. :) Any suggestions, ideas, thoughts are appreciated.

You are all lifesavers! Thank you so much!!

Posted by
13700 posts

Okaydoke! Thanks for getting back to us!

One more question? Is budget a concern? As I said before, there's often a cost difference - sometimes a big one - between a guided tour and just general-entry tickets. Then again, there are complex attractions which can benefit from guidance and narration so can be worth $$.

Editing to add: you have 3 full days/4 nights in Rome so a longer list than just what you've noted is in order as you have time for more. What those things should be is up to what you're interested in (which doesn't sound like Roman ruins or art). What are you thinking for you'd like to be doing during the rest of your time there? Walking tours? Churches?

Posted by
24 posts

I am going to say we are not rich, but when on a trip like this - we cannot concern ourselves with a budget - just want to be smart about it. :)

We are planning on checking out churches and possibly doing a day trip from Rome to ??? Best place to see?

Posted by
13700 posts

Sorry for yet another post but thought this might give you some idea of cost differences. :O)

So you want to see the Vatican/Sistine, right? I will go with the assumption that "Vatican" means the museums and St Peter's basilica, although there are some other bits and pieces which can only be seen with tours.

Least expensive option: St Peter's is free so you'd buy timed-entry tickets for the museums (€ 21.00 per adult including €4 reservation fee) and sightsee both on your own. Use Rick's self-guided tours of both dowloaded to your own devices.

https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/audio/audio-tours/italy

Tickets can be purchased on the Vatican's own website; you'd want the "open tour" option:

http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en.html (home page of website)
http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/visita-i-musei/scegli-la-visita/musei-e-collezioni/musei-vaticani-e-cappella-sistina/visita-libera-musei-vaticani-e-cappella-sistina.html

The drawback will be visiting the museums/Sistine during the busiest hours of the day plus standing in a 2nd security queue for the church - that entrance is a 15-20 minute walk outside from the museum exit - if unable to use the inside entrance from the Sistine that is reserved for tours.

A little more expensive is a guided tour booked through the Vatican Museum website I'd provided above. I'd recommend the 3-hour version that includes the basilica so you'd have guaranteed access to it through the shortcut. You can stay in the church as long as you wish to after your tour is over; you cannot, however, return to the museums. This tour is € 38.00 per adult. As the museums are vast, pretty much any tour will only cover some of the highlights, and with this one you'll still be visiting during busiest hours.

http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/visita-i-musei/scegli-la-visita/musei-e-collezioni/musei-vaticani-e-basilica-di-san-pietro/visita-guidata-musei-e-basilica-s--pietro-per-singoli-e-gruppi-.html

More expensive but which many posters have said was worth the $$ are early-entrance guided tours which get you into the Sistine and some other parts of the museums before it's a complete zoo (!!!) in there. And it IS a zoo, trust me. Tours which have been extremely popular//highly rated with RS posters have been through Walks Of Italy, The Roman Guy and some other companies. Expect to pay around $100+ pp for these. Links to a couple of those most-popular tours:

https://www.walksofitaly.com/vatican-tours/pristine-sistine-chapel-tour/
https://theromanguy.com/tours/italy/rome/sistine-chapel-vatican-tour

Both companies also provide quality tours of other attractions in Rome, such as the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine so poke around their websites if interested? Otherwise for just the Colosseum itself, the coopculture website - official ticket site for Colosseum/Palatine/Forum - offers a 45-minute tour +entry tickets that is VERY economical. If interested, I'll provide the link. In any case you'll need to have some sort of timed-entry ticket or tour for that one.

Oh, and the Pantheon is free.
Rick provides self-guided tours of others of Rome's attractions so poke around that list as well.
The options provided above are not the ONLY ones but tend to be the most-often chosen.

Editing to add: with just 3 full days in Rome - which is the minimum I recommend for that one - I really wouldn't do a day trip. There is so much interesting ground in the city that can be covered! At most I'd say maybe a 1/2 day trip to Ostia Antica but as you're just so-so on ruins/excavations, that one probably won't appeal.

Posted by
13700 posts

Oh heck, might as well provide the link to that Colosseum tour:
It's 45 minutes long and costs € 19 per adult including the reservation fee. This would be a good choice for anyone who is so-so on seeing Rome's #1 attraction, and one of the easier ways to get inside the thing for a great price.

https://ecm.coopculture.it/index.php?option=com_snapp&view=event&id=E6A1B5B3-BFDA-AC94-6929-0161B2E3A0C0&catalogid=BDB46B8C-0C49-10F2-6036-0167A8502B26&lang=en

You can stay inside as long as you wish to after your tour; you cannot visit areas like the underground which are only accessible with more expensive tours. You tickets also allow you to visit the Forum and Palatine on your own after your colosseum tour either on the same day or on the following day.

We still need to talk about Florence but will follow up on that one later.

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you so much again! I think we will do some self guided tours as well as some guided tours. I am looking at Venice tonight and see St. Marks Basilica and Doge Palace are two places to go. Are those two worth a guided tour or not? Anything a must see while here?

Then we hit up Florence. We get there in the afternoon and stay two nights. I am looking into the options below. Too much for our time frame? Any of these a pass? Any of these a MUST have tour guide site? Anything I missed that is a must see?? Again - not a HUGE art fan - love to see the main attractions, enjoy food and wine as well. :) We can always find time to come back to Florence from Tuscany - we have been told that we should have spent more time here.....

  1. Uffizi/Pitti Palace/Boboli Gardens combo ticket
  2. The Duomo, Baptistery, dome, Campanile, Duomo Museum, and Santa Reparata crypt combo ticket
  3. Accademia (David)

Rome will be the last place we are staying. I think guided tours for the Vatican Museum is a must. We plan on going to the Papal Mass on Wednesday at 9:30 am. So we will not be able to get early entry - is it worth it to go back at night for less crowds? We will want to hit up all the other most popular attractions to include some or all of these. Again - always open to suggestions. What do we do on our own, Which one deserves a guided tour, should we skip any, or anything we missed that we should do??

  1. Coliseum
  2. Vatican Museum
  3. Forum/Palatine Hill
  4. Pantheon
  5. St. Peter's Basilica
  6. Borghese Gallery or National Museum of Rome

You all are awesome and your advice means a lot. Thanks.

Posted by
63 posts

We were in Italy this summer. We did not want to wait in long, hot ticket lines so we booked many tours months before we left.

As far as tours: We did The Roman Guy tours in Rome and Florence. In Rome we did the Early Admission to The Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel and then they let you go tot he Basilica and give a short tour there. We also did another tour of the Colosseum (including Underground), Forum and Palatine Hill. I really liked the tours. The Florence tour we did with The Roman Guy took us to see David, The Uffizi, famous sites in Florence and the outside of the Duomo. (The Duomo interior we did on our own and is really not one of the better interior cathedrals in Italy if you are short of time.) In Florence, we aslo did Walkabout Tours' 12 hour bus tour of Tuscany and also did the Pizza/Gelato class (which we loved) with Walkabout Tours. In Venice we did not use a tour company. We booked directly for the Secret Itineraries tour for the Doges Palace and we bought a timed admission for St Mark's Basilica.

On our own (no tour) we did the Borghese Gallery in Rome. Hope this helps.

Posted by
1649 posts

Hi,

You do not need a tour or a guide for the Pantheon and Piazza della Rotonda.

The active church is small enough to view on your own; very beautiful inside -especially the mesmerizing Dome.

Be aware of Mass times within the church. When there is an ongoing service, you won't be allowed to tour. If you want, you could still attend the Mass and visit thereafter.

St. Peter's Basilica - I am enamored with it. You don't need an official tour.

You can visit St. Peter's on your own. It is free to enter.

http://stpetersbasilica.info/index.htm

If you go with an escorted Vatican tour, after visiting the Sistine Chapel, you will walk around to be left off at the terrace entrance of St. Peters; unless you choose a tour that includes St. Peters

If you want, please check out the following thread. I listed some suggestions for visiting The Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/vatican-saturday-afternoon-or-monday-am

http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/visita-i-musei/scegli-la-visita/visitatori-singoli.html#lnav_shop

Also, if you have time and are interested in visiting Castel sant'Angelo, it would be good to visit on the same day as the Vatican and St. Peters since it is just a few minutes down the road from The Vatican.

The Borghese Gallery - you do need timed entry tickets. You will have about 2 hours. Although you can purchase your own tickets and visit, you do not really need a tour guide but sometimes it is better in consideration of dates and times.

The same applies to the Colosseum - you can buy your own tickets and tour the amphitheater yourself or you can buy tickets for an escorted tour. There are different options for you to tour the Colosseum.

Again depending on your interest, sometimes a tour is better.

Most of the tour companies I listed in the thread above, offer tours in your areas of interest.

The Roman Guy tour company does not offer small group tours to the Borghese Gallery. Walks of Italy does.

I have not checked the other tour companies but they probably do as well.

There are important bag and backpack policies for each of the sites that you wish to visit.

Also, there are some restrictions with regard to phones, recording devices, and cameras

It is always best to check each attractions website and their policies.

Enjoy.

Posted by
13700 posts

Here's the problem? Nothing is a must-do unless it is for you. Same with the "worth it" question. Nothing is worth the time or the price (if a price is involved) unless it's worth it for you. So, it's really, really tough to answer any of those questions because we're NOT you! I'm an art geek and lost my mind over the riches of Renaissance treasures in Florence but, well, that's me. :O)

As you've stated you're not all that much into art, I hesitate to send you to the Uffizi or Pitti Palace because both are room after room of art, and the Uffizi is very, very crowded. For the very short time you'll be in Florence - and your particular tastes, near as I can tell - I'd skip them both. Head up to Piazzalle Michelangelo one afternoon for a terrific view of the city:

https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-monuments/piazzale-michelangelo.html

Climb up a little higher from the piazza for a look at a very old, very important church (free) and its cemetery. Should you be a music lover, San Miniato's masses in Gregorian Chant are said to be positively ethereal.

https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-churches/san-miniato.html

Yes, I'd get a ticket for the duomo complex. While it won't spare you from long lines to enter the church itself - because it's free - you can visit the excellent museum, glorious baptistry and climb the bell tower, if desired. Advance reservations are required for climbing the dome. The duomo itself is far more impressive outside than in - especially when lit up at night - so if short of time, skip the interior.

https://www.museumflorence.com

If "David" is a must do, order tickets to the Accademia. It's not super large and probably won't eat up as much of your time as it might for art geeks.

http://www.b-ticket.com/b-ticket/uffizi/default_eng.aspx

Want to see where the artist of Florence's most famous chunk of marble is buried? Go here (small entry fee):
https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-churches/santa-croce.html

Follow a self-guided walking tour in your guidebook as it will very likely guide you past the more notable monuments and piazzas. Here's another great spot for taking in some great art for free:

https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-monuments/piazza-della-signoria.html

There's more but it's a start? You don't need a tour for any of this, BTW. Just a good guidebook and some pre-research.

Rome: again, I hesitate to send you to the Forum and Palatine if half of you are only so-so on the Colosseum...which usually is the thing EVERYONE wants to get into and overrun besides. To do all three together (they are in the same area) I would recommend a tour as the Palatine and Forum are very complex sites which benefit from professional guidance. Coopculture offers a 3-hour combo tour you could try to get tickets for (it sells out REALLY fast because of the price) and Walks of Italy, Roman Guy and others offer combo tours as well.

Yes, book a tour for the Vatican museums/basilica. I hear that the Friday night museum openings (the basilica is not open on these evenings) have gotten pretty busy but it's still probably better than the average daytime mob. It's up to you what you want to do there but I'd personally group ALL of the Vatican stuff I wanted to do on the same day so as not to have to double back another time.

Galleria Borghese: advance reservations are mandatory. We much preferred this one to the Vatican museums for the excellent crowd control, more easily digested size, and the interesting interior decoration of the building itself. It is, however, another art museum, albeit a very good one! Whether to use a human guide, audioquide or other (we used a book) is up to you. Villa Borghese, the sprawling park the museum is located in, is nice for a crowd-ditching walkabout.

No tour needed for the Pantheon. As I'd said above, Rome is stuffed with great churches and most are free so if you've an interest in some of those....

Posted by
200 posts

We Roman Guy tour of Colosseum and Palantine & Forum. Had we not had a tour guide I would not have known what anything was. To me that was key. We did Walks of Italy Pristine Sistine Tour of the Vatican. We walked into Pantheon on our own and around the rest of the sites (Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, a few churches in Trestevere)

Posted by
24 posts

Kathy and ALL -

Thanks for all your help! We are meeting this weekend and getting these tour tickets DONE!! Appreciate it!

Posted by
4783 posts

FinallyItaly,

You received excellent advise on this thread (bookmarking for future reference)!

How was your trip?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d love to read about your trip experiences! 😉

Posted by
24 posts

Oh my gosh! Thank you to everyone who gave us advice! We had the most amazing trip ever!! It was a dream come true vacation!! It was like walking onto a tv set! :) Every city we went to was fabulous and each had their own attributes. I wouldn't have changed a thing - except to stay longer!! :) We stayed at beautiful Air BNB's and a wonderful agriturismo in Tuscany. Went to some wonderful wineries there as well.
La Berne and Innocenti were two of our favorites.

In Venice we stayed at an AIR BNB right on a canal just a few minute walk from San Marco Square. Just a beautiful room we rented from Gio and Gio - check them out! We took a bar tour with Alejandro (as suggested on this forum) as was so much fun!!

In Florence we stayed at the J&J Hotel. One of my favorite places. It is an old convent converted to a hotel with (maybe 20) rooms. Ask for the main floor and you will get your own walk out garden attached to your room. They had a free breakfast every morning and they also had a garden gathering room where we bought wine, cheese, crackers and other goodies and sat out there meeting other guests. LOVED this hotel!

Cinque Terre - BEST AIR BNB there! II Timone - we stayed in the Nina and the Sants Maria rooms. Just beautiful. It has a rooftop terrace and at night is unbelievable. The Hosts are WONDERFUL and Mama makes the BEST breakfast every morning. Fresh squeezed juice and warm sweets and eggs any way. My very favorite place. I wish we had more time here.

In Tuscany we stayed at a agriturismo (working farm) in Tuscany recommended by Rick Steves. La Bruciata - Laura, her Mom (Nona) and her daughters were wonderful. We rented a car here and visited a lot of small towns and wineries. Just an amazing countryside.

Lastly was Rome - a ton of history, beautiful churches and museums. Hustle and bustle, great restaurants, entertainment in the streets everywhere - just fantastic. While we we heard about an app you can get on your phone called Eat With. It is an app where people open their house and cook you a meal. The couple told us of the one they went to in Rome - it was Eat with Barbara. It was $100 each, however, you received a 5 course meal and all you could drink. Her house was fantastic - very eclectic. She was an amazing hostess and cook. There were probably about 9 couples there with us and they were from all over the world. We had an absolute blast!

The weather was terrific - 60's and low 70's during the day and 50's at night. I don't think we could have picked a better time to go. One day of s little drizzle....we were so lucky. It was a lot of research with a lot of help from this forum, but I don't think there would be one thing I would have changed.

If I had one complaint - it would be that every bed we slept in had a hard mattress. If I was to go again I would consider sending a two inch foam mattress to the first place we are staying and take it with me for the rest of the trip. :) A hard bed is a small price to pay for a trip of a lifetime though and I feel blessed to have been able to take it. Thanks to all.

Posted by
1858 posts

hey hey FinallyItaly!
what a fabulous trip report. the advice here from everyone was a great help with your research. these posters tell you the good bad and ugly which gives you your own decisions to see and do what you want.
it pays in the long run to plan instead of winging it. we read about people that don't and not happy in the long run. can see that smile on your face along with your husband and other couple that it was truly amazing to have this once in a lifetime trip. thanks and enjoy your holidays.
aloha

Posted by
4783 posts

FinallyItaly,

Thanks for sharing your trip with us, it sounds like you had a fabulous trip!
Happy Holidays!

Posted by
13700 posts

Great to hear that you had a terrific trip, and thanks much for the nice report! :O)