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When in Rome... avoid the queues

TravelBy Neil Leslie
When in Rome... avoid the queues

IN ROME everything can seem eternal. The art. The ghosts of ancient civilisation. The buildings that defy the centuries. And the crowds.

The Italian capital has been described by poets as the “city of a lifetime” because it could take an entire lifetime to begin to absorb its stunning beauty. 

Like ancient gladiators, each attraction battles the next for top billing. The Colosseum, the ruins of the ancient Roman forum, St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant’Angelo…the bucket list of must-sees goes on almost as long as the August queues.

So the challenge to the 48-hour traveller is how to sample what it has to offer while competing with the tsunami of tourists that washes over the city, particularly at peak times of the year.

The key to unlocking the treasures of this unique city is to book ahead. Ticket specialist Attraction Tickets Direct offers a range of options designed to maximise your sightseeing time.

And as we strolled past a three-hour long queue outside the Vatican Museum on a sizzling hot August afternoon, the skip-the-line passes in our pockets felt as valuable as some of the masterpieces housed within this, the world’s greatest collection of art.

We opted for a ticket combo that includes a 48-hour hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tour, and all-important skip-the-line entrance ticket to the Vatican Museum which houses the Sistine Chapel, as well as a skip-the-line ticket for the unmissable imperial Roman sites of the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill (adults €76, children €47).

It meant less time queueing in the sun, and more time to explore the world’s most comprehensive collection of art. 

The tide of visitors can still seem to propel you past galleries stuffed with masterpieces, rolling inexorably towards the main attraction, the Sistine Chapel, scene of centuries of papal elections and the canvas for Michelangelo’s most famous works, depicting the creation and the ultimate fall of mankind.

Back outside, a short stroll from St Peter’s Square across the breathtaking Ponte Sant’Angelo brings you to the stop for the 48-hour City Sightseeing Bus.

While locals urged us to walk everywhere in Rome, there is still no better way to get oriented and get a guided overview of the city’s top sights. 

Neil inside the Colosseum 

Stops include the world famous Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps and some of the city’s bustling squares like Piazza Venezia and Piazza Barberini.

But it is the sight of the Roman Forum and the iconic Colosseum rising out of the busy streets of this European capital that really marks Rome out as unique.

There really is nowhere else like it and with your skip-the-line ticket you can explore the ruins of ancient Rome, stroll around the circumference of the famous structure and imagine what it was like when the crowds roared and gladiators fought for their lives.

Afterwards, walk along the Sacred Way of the Roman Forum, where festivals and triumphal processions took place. See the very site where the body of Julius Caesar was cremated, the Arch of Titus, the Temple of the Vestal Virgins and the Senate House.

As the sun dips in the sky the charming narrow and winding Roman streets offer welcome shade and many an oasis to stop and swap sightseeing for people watching.

You may not be able to spend a lifetime getting to know the Eternal City – but it’s definitely a destination everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime.

Attraction Tickets Direct offers a Rome Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour with skip the line entry to the Colosseum, Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel priced from €76 per adult and €47 per child (aged up to 17). To book visit www.attractionticketsdirect.ie