With its vast array of archaeological and art treasures, it’s no surprise that Rome is one of the world’s most visited cities. Between seven to 10 million tourists descend upon the Eternal City every year and the number sometimes doubles during Catholic Holy Years. It might seem like no matter when you visit, crowds and long queues are inevitable.
To avoid these and get the most out of your visit to Rome, plan your trip wisely. Our writer gets some top tips from Abigail Blasi, author of Lonely Planet’s Rome guidebook.
1. Time your visit
There are certain times of the year that are frenetically busy: the summer months of June, July and August, as well as the Easter, Christmas and New Year seasons. Sites such as the Colosseum and Vatican Museums are particularly packed. Travel in the slower months of November, January and February, and you’ll be rewarded with much quieter sites. The weather might be cooler, but prices will also be lower. Slightly busier, but with balmy weather, the months of April, May, September and October are when Rome is at her most splendid.
2. Combine your Colosseum and Palatino ticket
The Colosseum – an elliptical amphitheatre considered one of the greatest examples of Roman architecture – usually has a long queue for tickets. There’s a simple trick to jump the queue if you haven’t had the forethought to pre-book online. There’s a combined ticket that includes entry to the nearby, less-popular ruins of Imperial palaces and gardens on Palatine Hill or Palatino – now an open-air museum. Its entrance and usually line-free ticket office are about five minutes’ away. So, get your combined ticket at the Palatino, return to the Colosseum and waltz in, bypassing the hoards outside. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the Colosseum is the underground section – a warren of underground chambers and passageways that housed the animals and gladiators that made up the greatest show on earth 2,000 years ago.
3. Head for the Trevi Fountain early, or late
A quintessential Roman experience is to visit the gloriously foamy Trevi Fountain – one of the most famous fountains in the world – and toss in a coin, which allegedly will ensure you a return visit to Rome. It’s seemingly always crowded here, but time your visit for the early morning (around 7am or 8am) or late at night (from around 10pm) and you’ll find it, if not deserted, much less hectic.
4. Plan your Vatican Museums visit well
To avoid a tiresome wait at the ticket office of the Vatican Museums, it pays to be organised. Book your tickets in advance online. Then, to see the Raphael rooms – four interconnected rooms that have frescoes by the renowned Renaissance artist – or Michelangelo’s famous painted ceiling in the Sistine chapel, arrive at opening time and head straight for these key sights. Alternatively, time your visit for lunchtime, at around 1pm, or organise your visit so you get to these most popular sights just before the museums close.
5. Escape to Appia Antica
The Via Appia Antica is an ancient Roman road that stretches south, out of the city. It reaches all the way to Brindisi, 540km away on the southern coast. Heading out on a short bus ride from the city centre feels like a breath of fresh air. The road winds through the vineyards, olive groves and Cyprus trees in the jewel-green Italian countryside. It’s a lovely place to walk or cycle (hire a bike from the park information office at the beginning of the road). To enjoy more of the road without cars, head here on a Sunday when all vehicles are barred.
This photo was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.