Wondering what to book in advance in Rome?
This page is about how far in advance you have to book things, and what to do when you don't book in time.
It’s easy to visit Rome without any advance planning whatsoever.
You will still see a lot.
In my experience, however, people often arrive in Rome with a wish list, only to discover that what they wanted to see/do needed to be booked ahead, and is now sold out.
One reason to book in advance in Rome is simply due to high demand and limited availability.
Another reason is to skip the lines.
This page is to help you plan ahead, but I'm also including tips for what to do when you're too late.
Here's how to plan your visit and book in advance in Rome to make sure you see what you want to see:
The below are some of the most highly requested things to see and do in Rome. You need to plan ahead.
The Pope holds mass throughout the year for various important occasions. Even during Christmas and Easter, there are several masses he holds. But the most popular papal masses of the entire year by far are Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, and Easter Sunday Mass, both held at Saint Peter's Basilica.
You need tickets for both. Tickets are free, but they are also in limited supply.
Visit my pages for each holiday, with instructions for booking. You cannot go wrong requesting tickets 6 months in advance.
What to do if you can't get tickets to Vatican Christmas or Easter masses?
A visit to St. Peter's tomb, also called scavi (excavations) is a fascinating archeological tour, showing us a glimpse of how the Ancient Romans buried their dead.
It is also one of the most sought-after, and difficult to get, reservations in Rome.
When you visit the Vatican Necropolis (city of the dead, or burial grounds), deep underneath Saint Peter's basilica, you will also see the site where St. Peter is said to be buried.
The site is delicate, so they only allow 12 people on each tour, and a maximum 250 people in the excavations per day. And the tours do not go every day. So as you can imagine, especially as we get into high season months, from March - November, you will have to really plan ahead to visit this amazing site.
What to do if you can't get tickets to Saint Peter's tomb?
This very special thing to do does not come cheaply.
But in my experience, it sells out FAST, precisely because it's so exclusive. So if you want to to partake, you need to book as far in advance as you can.
What to do if you can't get tickets to an exclusive after-hours visit to the Sistine Chapel?
Visiting the Colosseum is one thing.
Visiting the Colosseum underground (hypogeum), and third ring, is another.
This special visit has limited availability, in part because the areas are delicate, and they cannot accommodate the thousands of visitors who come to the Colosseum every day. This is one visit you must book in advance in Rome, year-round.
What to do if you can't get tickets to the Underground/Third Ring?
Palazzo Farnese is one of the most exquisite, and one of the most difficult to book, noble palazzos in Rome, because it is today the French Embassy.
Due to security concerns, there are a limited number of tours, with a limited number of visitors allowed each week.
Visits in English are held only once a week (Wednesdays at 5pm).
If you want to see Palazzo Farnese, you need to book as far in advance as you can (and as far in advance as their calendar allows). Bookings are not accepted less than one week before the date of the visit.
What to do if you can't get tickets to Palazzo Farnese?
Rome has one 3*** Michelin star restaurant, La Pergola, inside the Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria. Chef Heinz Beck is world-renowned for his creative, exquisite dishes, and dining at the Pergola offers a treat for the senses like no place else in Rome, perfect for a romantic meal.
You'll need to book months in advance to get a coveted spot here. Jacket and tie required.
What to do if you can't get a reservation at La Pergola?
In low season, you may be able to visit the Galleria Borghese without booking ahead, but most of the time this is one museum you must book in advance in Rome, even by a few days.
And in peak season, you need to book ahead of time by at least a week.
What to do if you can't get a reservation at the Galleria Borghese?
If you have a tight travel schedule and want to visit the Vatican Museums on a specific date and time, you should book at least a week in advance.
If you, as many visitors to Rome do, don’t book ahead for the Vatican museums, you may be able to book once you are in Rome. You just may find, especially in peak season, that you can't get a ticket online, or cannot get one for the time/date you want.
What to do if you can't get a reservation for the Vatican Museums through the Vatican Website?
Like some of the other exclusive sites in the Vatican, visits to the Vatican Gardens are something you should book in advance in Rome if you want to get a spot.
They are not held every day, and only a limited number of people are allowed in at a time, so these sell out quickly.
What to do if you can't get a reservation for the Vatican Gardens?
Visiting the Domus Aurea can be one of highlights of a visit to Rome, especially if you are into Ancient Rome. This extraordinary archeological site gives you a rare chance to see and experience what an ancient Roman Imperial palace was like.
Availability is very limited, in part because it's open for tours only on weekends. This is one site you really must book in advance in Rome.
What to do if you can't get a reservation for the Domus Aurea?
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The Domus Romana at Palazzo Valentini is an amazing visit of an ancient Rome site. Right underneath Trajan's Column and Trajan's Forum, you can see excavations of an ancient Roman domus, or home. The tour is excellent, and offers an immersive experience, including film, light shows and laser images.
Just a small warning - it made me a little dizzy to have lights going off and the floor lighting up underneath me, but I still loved it. I just leaned on the wall!
Because the number of people and visits per day is limited, you will need to book in advance if you want to visit this site.
What to do if you can't get a reservation for Palazzo Valentini?
To attend the weekly Papal Audience, it's a good idea to book at least a week in advance, if not more.
Depending on how busy it is in Rome, you can sometimes book 1-2 days in advance.
What to do if you can't get a reservation for the Papal Audience?
Some of the below are ALSO in the sections above about what to book in advance in Rome by a week or more.
They are in this section as well because you can sometimes book them during your visit, or with short notice, if you are here in low season, or, in high season, if you get lucky.
Just know that even if it's the same day, you SHOULD book.
So the exact time when to book in advance in Rome for these things is up to you.
If you are a planner, err on the side of caution and book ahead.
If you like to play it by ear, you will probably get bookings to the below, perhaps just not exactly when/how you want to:
I always suggest booking (even same day) ahead for the Vatican Museums, purely to make sure you get skip-the-line tickets.
The Pantheon is free to visit and in most cases, you not only don't need to book ahead, you can't. It's simply a matter of waiting in line, or arriving first thing in the morning when you can usually find it line-free.
However, since things reopened after Covid lockdowns, you now do need to book on weekends and holidays to visit this monument.
It's still free but you must book. Visit my dedicated page all about Pantheon tickets to find out how.
Unless you have a specific, high in-demand concert or opera you know you want to see, you can usually find tickets to an opera or concert last-minute in Rome.
This includes concerts at Rome's auditorium, operas in Rome's opera house or at the Caracalla baths, and of course, the smaller concerts held in churches around Rome. So even if you book the same day, you will find something to see.
As I mentioned above, in low season, you can often just go to the entrance of the Swiss Guard at 7am and ask if they have tickets. And in high season, you can try this as well, although in general, the Papal Audience is one thing I suggest you book in advance in Rome by at least a week.
My advice to you is to relax about this and not over-plan.
I’ve seen so many of our hotel guests book a restaurant, and then cancel at the end of a long day, because they either “are too tired to go very far” or, “ate some pizza along the way and now are not hungry, we might just go out for some drinks.”
Once you are in Rome, you can see how you feel, and decide even on the same day where you want to have dinner. Believe me, there is always someplace good to eat in Rome.
However, there are exceptions to my above advice:
So if you are coming on a weekend-break to Rome, consider if there is a special event or reason you are coming.
Chances are, thousands of others are coming too, so you should book in advance in Rome if you know where you want to eat.
When I say that for the below, you don't need to book in advance in Rome, I mean, you do not need to book at all. Just show up.
Visiting the Vatican usually entails seeing the Vatican Museums (for which I highly recommend booking in advance, see above), and visiting St. Peter's Basilica. You can visit one and not the other, and you can also visit them on separate days.
It's free, but you do have to go through security. So you do not need to book this in advance.
You CAN purchase tickets to skip the line, but that can also be done a day in advance and often on the same day.
One of the best ways to see the Pope in Rome is to attend the Sunday Angelus.
Held (just about) every Sunday when the Pope is in Rome, this short greeting is free for everyone and does not require a ticket.
Just come to St. Peter's square around 11:30, and wait for the Pope to appear in the window above, and greet the crowd. The Angelus starts at 12 noon and lasts about 15 minutes.
You can buy this ticket even on the same day of your visit, as long as you do not also plan to visit the Colosseum.
If you want to visit the Colosseum normally, you now do have to book online (i.e. in advance), but you probably can get tickets even on the same day even in high season, as long as it's not for anything special like the arena, underground, or a night visit.
Other than the Galleria Borghese, and Palazzo Farnese, you can count on being able to visit other Rome museums without booking ahead. This includes (but is not limited to):
While this page is about what to book in advance in Rome, while you're at it, you might as well book ahead for Florence and Venice too. Here are just a couple of things you should book in advance in those cities:
Without a doubt, you should book the Uffizi Gallery, Accademia (where Michelangelo's David is), and the Duomo (cathedral), especially if you want to climb to the top.
You can visit the Doge's Palace in Venice on your own, but if you want to book the Secret Itineraries tour at the Doge's Palace, you need to book that in advance.
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