There is never a shortage of things to do and see in Rome, but getting access to the city's attractions without having to stand in line for hours, or fight your way through a crowd, can be tricky. It's advisable to seek out lesser-known points of interest, which are often no less interesting, but far less busy. If the main sights are what you're after, then it's time to get clever, plan ahead, and follow these tips to avoid the tourist crowds.
Visit Rome in the low season.
The easiest way to ensure a peaceful getaway is to visit in the low season (winter) and avoid major holiday times like Christmas and Easter. Online bookings and budget airlines have made it easier to travel during the off-peak months, so you are unlikely to avoid the crowds entirely, but you will at least get some more elbow room when visiting key attractions.
Plan your trip to Rome well in advance.
If you are traveling to a popular destination in its peak season, it’s best to plan ahead. Research all the attractions you want to see, discover which have early or late openings, and book tickets online well in advance, if possible. The Borghese Gallery, for example, only allows a certain number of visitors at a time, and for a two-hour time slot, so tickets sell out fast. It might be worth booking a tourist multi-pass that offers access to many attractions and often allows you to skip the line. Again, planning and research are key, as there are various types of multi-pass options and you’ll want to find the one that’s best suited for your trip.
Visit non-ticketed attractions in Rome early.
The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain are both extremely popular with visitors — even more so because they are free to visit and there are no tickets required. In the peak season, the crowds can become unmanageable as early as 9 a.m., so it’s best to get up early, visit the attractions before the crowds arrive, and snap some photos in relative peace. By the time it starts getting busy, you’ll be ready to sit down and enjoy a leisurely breakfast away from the masses.
Avoid free entry days in Rome.
Most museums and galleries have at least one day per month where entry is free (often the first Sunday of the month). Inevitably, these days are even busier than average, so make sure you do your research and avoid these days, if possible. If you absolutely have to visit on one of these days, be sure to arrive around a half-hour before opening time and be the first one in the door.
Be the first in or the last one out.
Early mornings and late nights are your best friends when it comes to beating the crowds. In the high season, you can buy late-night tickets for the Vatican Museum (plus Sistine Chapel) between 7 and 11 p.m., when it is much quieter. When planning your trip, it is always worth researching all the museums and galleries to see which spots offer late or early sessions. If you choose to visit an attraction early in the morning, it is best to arrive 20 to 30 minutes before it opens, so you can be the first in line, and thus, first through the door. In the summer months, a trip to the Colosseum can involve standing in long lines in the sweltering heat, so an early morning or late-night guided tour are the best options.
Join a guided or private tour in Rome.
It is often possible to book a guided tour, either in a small group or a private option, at a particularly early or late hour to avoid the busiest times. In some cases, you can book a tour that starts an hour before an attraction officially opens or even after hours. An added bonus is that these tours often allow you access to areas that an ordinary ticket would not. You will sometimes still have to queue up for tour access, but the line is usually considerably shorter.
Avoid St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday mornings.
If you’re not gung-ho on seeing the Pope, it’s best to skip St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday mornings, when the Pope makes an appearance and the crowds are insane. Entry to the basilica is free, so the line tends to be particularly long, unless you go very early (it opens at 7 a.m.) or book a tour.
Do things in reverse.
This might seem like strange advice, but starting at the end and working backwards can help you get some alone time while visiting museums and galleries. When you purchase tickets, you are often given a map advising which route to take through a venue. Generally, people take heed and follow the herd. If you arrive when it opens, skip straight to the end, and work your way back to the entrance, there is a greater chance of viewing what’s on offer in complete peace.
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