Rome is one of the most-visited cities in the world.
4.2 million people come every year—4 million of them just to the Colosseum! During the summer, the wait to get inside the most popular sites can last hours. Oh, and don’t forget—there’s no shade.
But don’t stress. We’ve got this. Follow our advice with these six tips and tricks to beat the lines in Rome and you will breeze through the crowds like a rock star—and you’ll be practicing responsible tourism in Rome while you’re at it!
1. Come in the off season
Rome is always crowded and always a little chaotic but you will find it at its most calm and peaceful in the winter.
The period after Christmas (which ends on January 6th here) until about Easter is wonderful. Most days are sunny and warm enough to sit outside for a drink. Sure, you might have an odd rainy day but those are the perfect museum days! You’ll also have the chance to eat seasonal Roman specialties like puntarelle salads and fried Carnevale treats.
2. Visit smaller museums and sites
On just an average street in the center of Rome you can spot a 2nd-century wall, a medieval house and a Renaissance palace right next to each other. It’s no joke when people describe Rome as an open air museum!
Walk the via Fori Imperiali and peer into the Roman and Trajan forums. Cross the 9th-century Fabrica bridge that links the ghetto and Rome’s Tiber island. Churches are free and hold works by Bernini, Caravaggio and Michelangelo. Smaller museums like the Palazzo Altemps and Palazzo Massimo and Museo Montemartini are often almost empty.
3. Book ahead
For the big three, the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums and the Borghese Gallery, it really is essential to book ahead these days. You can do this directly on their websites. Day-of tickets sell out (particularly those sold at the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum)—so don’t risk it.
If you are staying in the city for three or more days consider purchasing either an Omnia Pass or a Roma Pass. These can be a great deal if you have a clear plan of specific sites you want to see. The Omnia Pass is issued by the Vatican and includes a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. The Roma Pass is issued by the city of Rome and has a 48 or 72 hour option. The purchase price of both of these passes include skip-the-line options and covers all of your trips on public transpiration.
Insider’s Tip: You must have a timed reservation to visit the Colosseum and Borghese Gallery, even with a pre-purchased pass. Don’t wait until the last minute to reserve yours! Even in April, Galleria Borghese times can be sold out up to three weeks in advance.
4. Book a tour
At popular attractions like the Vatican Museums there are three lines. One to purchase tickets, one for advance ticket holders and one for authorized tour guides. If you book a tour with an authorized guide, they usually take care of the ticket purchase for you and you will often have a privileged entrance time.
5. Come empty handed
Security is an extra step at all of Rome’s major sites. To avoid having to wait to check large items, leave the backpack behind and plan your shopping trips for after you sightsee.
6. Go out after dark
From mid-May until October there are evening tours of the Colosseum. There are so many advantages to seeing the Colosseum in the moonlight: obviously it’s much, much cooler without the summer sun blazing, and you’ll have the place practically to yourself with only a few groups going in at a time (booking in advance is required!).
The Viaggio nei Fori brings the Forums of Augustus and Caesar to life with an incredible evening light show. This runs from April until November and you can choose from three shows nightly.The Vatican Museums are open from 7:00-11:00 p.m. every Friday evening from April until October. You must book ahead and you have several choices—including a happy hour at the Vatican Museums after your tour!