How to Escape the Crowds in Rome

How do you escape the crowds in Rome?

Sometimes it seems impossible, but even in high season, you can do it!

Top Tips to Escape the Crowds in Rome

Rome is one of the most visited-cities in the world.

And because we are blessed with fairly mild weather, we have tourists here year-round.

And since most people come to the Eternal City to see the main tourist attractions, like the Colosseum, Vatican and Trevi Fountain, it can seem as if everything is crowded all the time.

But there are tricks!

Here are our best tips for how you can find enjoy a less-crowded Rome:

Come in low season

Are you shocked at how crowded Rome is?

I find many people don't realize when high season is, and come in spring or fall thinking it would be a "good time to come to Rome".

Yep, it is.

The weather is beautiful.

The days are long and comfortable. The nights are cool and great for strolling and eating outside.

And that's why it's high season.

So Rome is pretty busy from mid-March to mid-November.

One way to avoid the crowds in Rome is to come in low season, which is only from mid-November - early February, not including holiday dates.

In recent years, I've noticed that even during months I used to consider "low-season" and shoulder season, there are a lot more tourists than before.

I think with the help of the internet, people now know better when "low season" is, and they are coming then, so even those months are getting busier.

As of 2022, I would consider Rome to be at its quietest around the third week of November; December, 10-24; January 7 - February 7 more or less.

Yes, I know, those are pretty short periods. But that's the way it is now.

Visit less popular sites

Let's say you are here during a busy period, i.e. pretty much any time from mid-March - November. 

You can bet the hot spots like the Colosseum, Vatican, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain will be packed to the gills!

They are on your list of must-see Rome attractions just like they are on everyone's list. And of course you should see them!

But there are also some stunning museums, churches, piazzas and fountains you can see in Rome with smaller crowds, just a bit off the beaten path:

Instead of St Peter's Basilica

michelangelo moses sculptureOne of Michelangelo's most beautiful masterpieces, Moses, can be found in the basilica of Saint Peter in Chains, not far from the Colosseum.

Of course you want to visit Saint Peter's Basilica.

But if you're looking for a quieter experience, visit these amazing churches:

Visit my page about Special Churches in Rome for more ideas.

Instead of the Colosseum

You can easily spot the big ancient Roman ruins smack in the center of Rome: The Roman Forum and the Colosseum. You can also spot the crushing crowds here.

line at colosseumOf course it's worth visiting the Colosseum. But you will often find lines and crowds like this.

Yes, they are worth a visit.

In Rome, we have many ancient Roman ruins besides the Colosseum and Roman Forum, and they are also worth checking out.

And, as wonderful as they are, you are unlikely to find many people there.

If you want to visit amazing Ancient Roman ruins without the crowds, or at least with smaller crowds, add these to your list:

Baths of Caracalla

The Caracalla Bathsbuilt by the emperor Caracalla in 216 CE, were some of the largest baths in Roman history, and are some of the best preserved today.

baths of caracallaSeeing the Caracalla Baths gives you a sense of the enormity of structures the Romans were capable of building. And this site is almost never crowded.

This is without a doubt one of the best sites you can visit in Rome to really get a sense of the scale the Romans were capable of building.

You'll also see gorgeous mosaics that lined these pools and baths.

And you will definitely not find yourself in a crowd.

Visit my dedicated page all about the Baths of Caracalla for more details and how to visit.

Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica was once the most important port city in Ancient Roman.

The ruins are fairly intact, and easy to navigate.

I went here once in late spring and there was almost nobody there.

You can stroll through the ruins, under tall pine trees, and really get a sense of the city that once thrived here.

ostia antica amphitheaterThe amphitheater at Ostia Antica is fairly intact and a wonderful site to visit with hardly any crowds.

And, if you like, you can take the train one more stop and have lunch at the beach at Ostia.

Visit my dedicated page about Ostia Antica for more details and how to get there.

Appian Way and catacombs

A visit to the Appian Way (Appia Anticaand the Catacombs is a wonderful way to get away from the crowds in Rome, and still be IN Rome.

Villa dei QuintilliThe Villa dei Quintilli is one of many ruins from Ancient Rome you will find on the Appia Antica.

It's easy to get here, and you have a wealth of things to see and do: 

  • Rent a bike and ride around the ancient Roman roads and through the Caffarella park.
  • Walk through the Caffarella park and visit the shepherds who sell the cheese they make there.
  • Visit any of the three catacombs with ancient tombs here: San CallistoSan Sebastiano and Domitilla.
  • Visit some of the spectacular ancient Roman ruins such as the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella and the Villa dei Quintili.

Details: To get to the Appian Way, you can 1) take the Metro line A to San Giovanni, then take the 218 bus to the catacombs; 2) take the Metro line B to Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo) and then take the 118 bus to the catacombs. Catacombs have varying hours, but there is at least one open every day. See above links for details. 

Take in Rome's under-visited museums

The only way to visit the Sistine Chapel is by visiting the Vatican Museums.

But if you want a quieter, less crowded art experience, visit these museums:

hall of mirrors doria pamphiljThe hall of mirrors inside the Galleria Doria Pamphilj is just one of the beautiful things you'll see in this under-visited museum.

And for archeological museums, you are spoiled for choice. Try these:

palazzo altempsPalazzo Altemps is a wonderful museum to visit if you love sculpture from Ancient Rome and Greece. It's beautifully curated and never crowded.

Visit my dedicated page about Rome Museums for more.

Go super early or go late

Several sites and museums are open late on weekends especially between April - October.

These include:

Colosseum by night

The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum all open at 9 AM. There is currently no tour that goes earlier than this.

As for visiting the Colosseum early morning, if you visit at 9 AM when they open, it will be crowded in mid and high season, although perhaps a little less so than in the middle of the day.

colosseum by nightWhen you visit the Colosseum at night, you'll have it almost to yourselves!

From spring - fall, you can visit the Colosseum at night and it is really amazing and uncrowded.

Vatican early morning tours

The Vatican Museums open at 9 AM but there are tours that go earlier than this. Some tour companies have the ability to enter at 8 AM.

The way it works is you go in early, then you pretty much race to the Sistine Chapel (usually the end of a Vatican museums visit), and you get to see it before the general public starts streaming in. Then you go back to the beginning of the museums and see them with your guide at a more leisurely pace.

There is an even more exclusive early morning tour in which you go around with the Vatican Museums key master and open the doors and turn on the lights of the museums.

vatican museums key masterOne of the best tours of the Vatican Museums is when you get to go with the Key Master and open all the rooms. It's an early tour but well worth getting up for!

It is a truly special and unique experience and I highly recommend it if you can manage a super early wake-up!

Vatican Nighttime/After Hours Visits

From April - October, the Vatican Museums are open late on Friday and Saturday nights. The later you go on these days, the less crowded it is.

greek cross room empty at vatican museumsWhen you visit the Vatican Museums late on a Friday or Saturday night, you can see the rooms like this. This is the Greek Cross room, and it's typically wall-to-wall people during the day.

My trick is to go at about 8 PM, taking my time first in the paintings galleries (pinacoteca).

I enter the Pinecone courtyard at about 9 PM, the octagonal courtyard at around 9:10 PM, the maps galleries at around 9:20 PM and I leave the Raphael rooms at about 9:40 PM.

The museums close at 10:30 PM but they need everyone out of the Sistine Chapel by 10 PM. Trust me, at this hour, hardly anyone is in there!

You can also take a more exclusive after-hours tour of the Vatican museums that costs a bit more but that guarantees you are practically alone in the Sistine Chapel with just your group.

Take a day trip to to a less-crowded destination near Rome

Most places you can go to on a day trip from Rome are less crowded than Rome itself.

tivoli gardensThe beautiful gardens at the Villa D'Este in Tivoli make for a fabulous day-trip or even half-day trip from Rome.

Exceptions are Naples and Florence, both of which will be crowded whenever Rome is.

But you can head to the beach, to Ostia Antica, to Tivoli Gardens, or to other small towns.

Click here to read about visiting very off-the-beaten towns along the Lazio Coast just outside Rome.

Get off the beaten path

One of the best ways to get away from the crush of people in Rome is to get off the main piazzas and streets.

All around the historic center of Rome, you can find small, charming, less-traveled narrow streets, often dotted with cafés, shops, and small fountains.

arco degli acetariThis hidden gem of a courtyard is steps away from the hustle and bustle of Campo dei Fiori, and it's an oasis of cuteness and quiet.

For example, the piazza of Campo dei Fiori is a bustling hive of activity pretty much from morning to night, but it is surrounded by a real Roman neighborhood with plenty of ambiance and quiet.

Just branch off and start exploring!

Change your Altitude

There are a few places you can go in Rome that have wonderful views and that will definitely put you in a less-crowded atmosphere.

rooftop views from gianicolo hill in RomeGianicolo Hill. This park was the theatre of heroic events for the Independence of Rome. The 500-acre park features a Memorial, a Museum, and other remarkable landmarks. Pack a picnic, sprawl out on the grass, take in that view, and relax for a bit.

Try these places above the fray to get away from the crowds and off the beaten path in Rome:

Visit my page here to see more options for beautiful views in Rome.

Go underground

Rome is full of things to see underground.

And because space is usually restricted, the number of visitors is also restricted.

ancient roman frescoesThese stunning frescoes from Ancient Rome are in a very uncrowded underground site called the Case Romane del Celio. It's easy to visit and a lovely escape from the chaos outside!

Some excellent sites you can visit underground to avoid the crowds above ground include:

Click here to open my page all about Rome's underground sites and how you can book them.

Views, Parks and Quiet

Rome is blessed with a number of parks and green space which are perfect places for getting off the beaten path.

They are all around Rome and very accessible, even by foot.

Some beautiful gardens and parks that are free include:

Escape the Crowds in Rome in High Season

If you can't manage any of the above suggestions, or you otherwise need to visit the major tourist attractions in Rome in high season during the day, follow these tips to ensure the least stress possible:

No matter what season you visit Rome, here are 4 things never to leave at home:

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