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Dimmi tutto : The 5 commandments of the great classics

Rome, an open-air museum, a paradise for those passionate about Antiquity, the 4th tourist destination in the world, the eternal city, the capital of the Empire, the center of the world! (uh... ok I'm getting carried away here). In tourist tradition, a good tourist arrived in the city and went to the tourist office to get all the information necessary for his stay. He took the opportunity to ask the little lady with the glasses for some adresses and advice on which monuments to visit. Today it's thanks to this magic tool that is the internet that the good tourist can plan his stay. From the booking of a hotel room, a reservation in a restaurant, to the airplane tickets, and the monument tickets, we can do it all online. Yes but... what you will always have difficult finding on the internet (this phrase will self-destruct by the end of the article) is the best moment to visit the Vatican, the location with the shortest waiting line to buy tickets to the Colosseum, or even if you should or should not take this great guided tour of 45€, ranked 4. 5 on TripAdviser. So let's fix this right now and let me give you my little lady with glasses advice.

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At the Forum, you will buy your ticket for the Colosseum.

A symbolic monument of Rome and probably the most visited, the Colosseum is a masterpiece built in 80 AD (by hundreds of slaves, keep in mind the context), that can host up to 80. 000 visitors. It was a technical feat at the time which filled with water for the simulation of naval battles, which was covered by sun thanks to sails unfolded by some 2. 000, and which could be evacuated in just ten minutes (it is hardly possible to do that today). As you will have understood, the Colosseum is an inevitable visit.

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First of all, there are two things to know about the ticket to the Colosseum :

  • it is valid for the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatine Hill (and yes the 3 in 1, another thing invented by the Romans)

  • you can use it in the 48 hours after its first use.

As far as the prices go :

  • standard rate 12€

  • discount rate (student) 7. 50€

  • free for students studying architecture, archaeology, history of art, etc…, and for the -18 years old (visit the website)

  • free entry on the first Sunday of the month for everybody (ticket only valid for the day though)

My advice :

  • buy your ticket at the ticket counter at the Forum (or at the Palatine, if you're up for walking a few extra meters).

  • get an audio guide! Visiting the Colosseum without an audio guide is like eating pasta alla carbonara without carbonara : half the recipe is missing, so there is no point. But seriously, the Colosseum is a fascinating monument, because of its architecture but mostly because of its history, and the audio guide explains the essential information very well, for just 5€ (one for two people will do the trick).

  • to avoid the line, the sunstrokes if you're visiting in the summer, and the fatigue, visite in this order : The Forum in the morning, and the Palatine then the Colosseum the next day. Knowing that the Palatine and the Forum are linked you can also do them the same day, but personally I find that they are two long visits, and it's therefore more relaxing to do them in two separate days.

  • check the opening hours as they vary from season to season! (schedule at the end of this page).

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At noon, you will go to the Vatican museums.

The Vatican museums attract a crowd and the line can continue up the walls in an impressive way.

To know during the visit :

  • the visit lasts 3 good hours for the less interested, and it can last all day for the more passionate.

  • in addition to the classic rates, there are a bunch of guided tour types, with access to the more hidden parts of the museum. For more information, visit the official website.

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The rates :

To skip the line, reserve your tickets online, on the official website only.

  • standard rate 17€ (+4€ to skip the line)

  • discount rate (student) 8€ (+4€ to skip the line)

  • free entry on the last Sunday of the month for everyone (attention: entrance closes at 12h30 and the museum at 14h00).

My advice:

  • go at noon, the line suddenly disappears (the pizza calling), you can take your sandwich and eat it on the outside terrace or have lunch in the cafeteria of the Vatican.

  • do not succumb to line cuts! They are worthless! Only the line cutting with tickets purchased on the website of the Vatican is valid : click here to purchase tickets (on the other hand, I will give the ok to buy the 20 post cards sold for 1€ at the line, they aren't that ugly and you will never find cheaper ones)

  • if you go on the last Sunday of the month (free entry), there's no point in showing up at 7h30, like most people do. In fact, the line is formed early but once the museum doors open it decreases rapidly, so I'd advise you to arrive around 9h30/10h00. Keep in mind however that on that day the entrance closes at 12h30 and the museums at 14h00.

  • check the opening hours as they change throughout the year (schedule: http://www.museivaticani.va/content/dam/museivaticani/pdf/utilities/calendario_musei.pdf)

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Day and night, you will contemplate the Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain is one of the main attractions of Rome. As a result, it is always surrounded by a crowd of tourists, selfie stick in one hand, throwing a coin with their back to the monument. This free attraction brings in almost a million euros a year, to the Caritas charity, thanks to this small traditional gesture.

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My advice to make the most of it :

  • to admire the work of Nicolas Salvi in all its splendor, the ideal time after a night out. And yes, at 4 in the morning, Rome is empty, and the fountain, beautifully lit, is all yours.

  • as much as you'd like to take your best selfie, do not go up the rocks of the fountain, or risk getting scolded by the local police.

  • keep an eye on your things, crowds favor pickpocketing.

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Early in the morning, you will climb the Spanish steps.

Like the Trevi Fountain, the steps of the Trinità dei Monti, are filled with thousands of tourists. Free, offering a viewpoint on the city and a place to sit, it is a nice place.

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My advice to make the most of it :

  • go in the morning, at the crack of dawn, to discover the steps in their entirety, bathed in sunlight and without a mass of people sitting on them.

  • do not count on stopping there to eat, eating on the steps is forbidden.

  • go up to the Trinità dei Monti and you will have a beautiful view of the rooftops of Rome.

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Your tickets for the Borghese Gallery, you will reserve in advance.

The Borghese Gallery, is the art museum to see in Rome. In its collection it has one of the copies of the famous Sleeping Hermaphroditus sculpture, works of Bernin including the kidnapping of Persephone and Apollo et Daphne, and many paintings whose most famous artists are Caravaggio, Raphael or even Leonardo da Vinci. All of them in a beautiful palace, in rooms covered with frescoes and paintings.

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To know during the visit :

  • the ticket reservation is necessary, it is done online or via telephone, and it will cost you 2€ : official website.

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Rates, reservation included (except for temporary exhibitions):

  • standard rate 15€ (guided tour +6. 50€)

  • discount rate 8. 50 € (guided tour +6. 50€)

  • “free” for students studying architecture, archaeology, history of art, etc…, -18 years old : 2€ without a guided tour / 6. 50€ for the guided tour without reservation / 8. 50€ for the guided tour with reservation

  • free entry on the first Sunday of the month

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My advice :

  • don't wait until the last moment to book it or there may not be any spots left (book 2 weeks in advance to be sure)

  • respect the time of the reservation

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In short :

  • Buy your tickets to visit the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatine at the ticket counter at the Forum.

  • Start your visit to the Vatican museums at noon.

  • Offer yourself a tête à tête with the Trevi Fountain in the middle of the night.

  • Go up the Spanish Steps early in the morning.

  • Consider booking your tickets for the Villa Borghese in advance.

  • Consult the official websites to avoid any bad surprises concerning opening hours and rates.

  • Only book your tickets on the official websites.

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Extra things to know :

  • pay attention to what you have in your bag, security checks are carried out at the entrance of each monument, or important museum (small bottles of water are allowed).

  • take advantage of free Sundays, valid for most museums and monuments.

  • show your student ID card everywhere, so you're sure you don't miss any discount rates.

  • when it's forbidden, it's forbidden! So you put away your camera in the Sistine Chapel, you don't take out your sandwich on the Spanish Steps, or you do not try to climb the Trevi Fountain, and everything will be fine.


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