It was a short flight from Paris. So we didn’t need to run to the restrooms as one might upon disembarking from a longer flight. Instead, as recommended by many travel experts, we immediately found and entered the TI (Tourist Information) office at the Fiumicino Airport in Rome to purchase five Roma Passes for €30 each. They are also available at museums and other sites and the Termini train station tourist office. See the official Roma Pass website for more details. (Sleeps5 is not an affiliate of the Roma Pass and does not receive any commission or other payment from traveler purchases of the Roma Pass.)
*Update 2017: Choice of Roma Pass — €38.50 for 72 Hours or €28.00 for 48 Hours. Passes may also be purchased online and picked up at TI or other stations, however, online purchases are limited to 4 passes.
[Photo is of the entire Roma Pass folder. It has a pass, plus a map and guide brochures. We used one map, and carried all five of our passes, but left the large folder in the hotel room each day.]
The passes come in two or three day versions, and the countdown starts on the day you are admitted to your first archeological site or museum or take your first public transportation ride. We bought our 72 Hour (or 3-day) passes on a Thursday, but did not ‘validate’ them until Saturday when we took our first Metro ride to the Museum of Roman Civilization.
(*In 2016-17, the Museum of Roman Civilization is closed indefinitely. Its website says for ‘redevelopment work of the building’. We sure hope it reopens, as it was a huge favorite for us!).
The 72 Hour Pass enables FREE entry of your first two participating museums or site. The 48 Hour Pass enables FREE entry of one, your first participating museum or site. Both versions provide a reduced rate for your next entries. To save the most money, we planned to go see the two most expensive admissions on our itinerary first. For us, those were the Colloseum and Forum and the Museum of Roman Civilization.
Compare costs and decide
Before you travel to Rome, plan your activities and check admission rules and rates. They are not always easy to find online and are confusing with differing rules depending on your country of origin.
For example, in the year we traveled, at the Colloseum, babies and toddlers who (depending on the resource) are carried or are less than 3 feet (1 meter) tall are free. Kids under age 18, AND citizens of the European Union, are also free. My teenage boys from the US were full price. Another example: at the Museum of Roman Civilization (currently closed, see *note above), all children under age 6 are free. My teenage boys were full price there, too.
Some museums or sites are not included on the Roma Pass. And, some always have free entry for everyone, but may have a fee for some element not included on the Roma Pass. For example, we visited the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument and Museum, which is free to enter the museum, but paid €8 each (total=€24) for my hubby and our two youngest boys to ride the elevator to the roof top. (We thought that was expensive, so we considered allowing our well-behaved 14 year old boys to ride up by themselves, but the ticket-taker stated they must be accompanied by an adult.)
Adding Metro costs, keep in mind that children under 10 ride free. For comparing costs of separate Metro costs versus riding free with the Roma Pass, there are per trip tickets, daily passes, and 2- or 3-day passes. See the website atac.roma.it for more Metro details.
Not standing in line = Priceless?
Add up the costs of every bus or metro ride and every admission planned for your family within a two or three day period, then compare that to the cost of the applicable Roma Pass to see if you can save money. Before the trip, I figured we’d come out ahead by buying the Roma Pass. After the trip, I added up the actual value of the admission savings and the free Metro rides we had by using our Roma Pass, and compared it to the €150 we paid for five passes in 2012, and we actually lost €14.
However, those passes also allowed us to bypass the ticket line, the entry line and the security line at the Colloseum and again at the Forum. (Even people with tickets purchased online must get through the entry line and security line, and we were quickly ushered through both!) At both entries (combined, they are considered ONE admission, but you must go through each venue’s entry line), there were signs and ticket-takers calling for Roma Pass holders to enter a separate, and much, much shorter line. There is a LOT of value for avoiding lines! (At the next venues, where you receive a reduced entry fee, you may need to wait in the regular line.)
[Note: we underutilized our Roma Passes because of the heat. One teen chose to stay in the hotel one day for relief, and another day we chose to take a taxi back to the hotel because we just didn’t want to walk to the Metro stop in the heat. It was near or even above 100 degrees, well above average temperatures, during our June, 2012 trip.]
How to use the Roma Pass
[Photo of previous package design, with 3-fold sleeve, guide and map inserts.]
Prior to your first museum or site entry, or bus or metro ride, you must write each family member’s name and the date you are starting use of your passes on the pass itself. If asked, you must produce identification for each family member that matches the names on the passes.
When we traveled, ticket-takers at the Colloseum and Forum took our pass and held it in front of a scanner then handed it back and we were allowed to walk through the turnstile. At the Museum of Roman Civilization (currently closed, see *note above), we handed our passes to the attendant behind a counter, who then issued our tickets for the museum and handed our passes back.
*Update 2017: The cards are plastic and can be inserted into Metro turnstiles. Museums and other sites may operate differently.
[Photo at left taken inside Metro tunnel, as subway train approaches. There are tv screens to watch while waiting, and digital boards that state when next train is coming.]
On the Metro underground subway, hold the pass barcode over a sensor on the turnstile. A light will indicate when you may proceed, and the turnstile gate will open to allow you through.
Here is a 10-minute video our young teen boys narrate of our visits to the Museum of Rome Civilization, the Colloseum, the Vittorio Emanuele II museum and rooftop, and the Pantheon. There are more vacation videos on their YouTube channel. (The final scenes are from the day Spain beat Italy in the Eurocup.)
Click here for family hotels in Rome that can accommodate 5, 6, or 7 people.
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