Every summer Europe, and especially Italy, is expected to be the busiest destination for international tourism. Hordes of first-time US (and worldwide) travelers are expected to converge on the continent’s most famous museums and landmarks. With such a huge flow, the most important Italian museums and sights will be taken by storm. How to avoid queues and chaos? Plan ahead, and organize the details of your trip. Here are 5 tips to make your time in Italy fun and pleasurable despite the crowds.
1) Skip the line at museums
Spending hours in queue, under the summer sun, to enter a museum or an archaeological site can turn a holiday into a nightmare. Don’t worry; the solution is to book your tickets in advance! Reserve your tickets now for the museums that you don’t want to miss, setting the time you prefer. Not only you will skip the line at the entrance, but you will gain time for other great activities!
2) Book the most popular museums
A booking will cost you a bit more than the regular ticket, but how much is your time worth during your holiday? Much more than hours thrown away queuing up! Reservations are always suggested for any museum and historical or cultural sight to avoid unpleasant surprises, given the high season, but these are some sites where booking is highly recommended or mandatory, so take note:
> Florence: the Uffizi Gallery, the David at the Accademia Gallery, the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens, and the Medici Chapels. Last but not less important, the Cathedral with the brand new Museum.
3) Choose your visit hours
The choice of time is important to plan your day. Bookings allow you to save time, but there are some rules for an even better experience. For example, in Florence, the convenient Combo ticket allows you to visit the Uffizi in the morning and then the Academy in the afternoon (or vice-versa), making the most of your day. Similarly, the Day in Rome ticket includes the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum. Choose early morning times, to avoid the flow of cruise passengers that usually reach the city after 11AM; otherwise, use the latter half of the afternoon, when the bulk of the tourists have come and gone (which also allows you to choose a nice local restaurant for lunch!).
Summer also offers some extraordinary night openings: museums are less crowded and even very impressive at dark! In Rome, admire the Moon over the Colosseum or the Vatican under the stars, while in Florence the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries offer their usual Tuesday evening openings from 7pm to 10pm, and Palazzo Vecchio has the Secret Passages tour on Mondays at 9pm. Check out the calendar! Bookings usually open two months ahead.
4) Make use of Guided Tours
A great option is to choose some guided visits. They are more expensive, but you will learn details and secrets, getting a richer and more interesting experience with a lasting impression. In addition, good guides will help you to optimize your time taking you right to the core of large museums without losing a masterpiece! This is perfect for museums as the Uffizi Gallery, the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, the Borghese Gallery, and the Doge’s Palace.
5) Hidden places a stone’s thrown from…
Rome, Florence, Venice… are unique in the world, but Italy is huge and offers hundreds of small, lesser-known gems that will leave you speechless! While the main cities are crowded in the summer, enjoy a few kilometers getaway from major attractions with comfortable tours for an amazing holiday. From Venice, do not miss the Tour of the Venetian Islands (Murano, Burano and Torcello); visit the beautiful city of Padua (one hour away by train) with the amazing Scrovegni Chapel frescoed by Giotto; or enjoy a wonderful cruise on the Brenta River to admire its villas, many of them made by Palladio. From Milan, discover the Lakes or the enchanting ancient town of Bergamo.
Discover Tuscany from Florence, offering hundreds of suggestions, including the unmissable Leaning Tower of Pisa (always crowded, book the ticket!) or the charming nineteenth-century city of Lucca. Discover Chianti with a classic visit to San Gimignano and Siena, or including a rich traditional dinner, or the charm of Umbria and Assisi (and the Basilica of Saint Francis) with Cortona – famous thanks to the book “Under the Tuscan Sun.” If you’re a foodie, check out our Wine and Food section to find the perfect package to sample the best of wines (Sassicaia, Brunello, etc.) and culinary delights. From Rome, don’t miss Ancient Ostia, just 25km away from the city. It’s a beautiful archaeological area, no less impressive than the Forum; or Tivoli, home to Villa Adriana and Villa d’Este, two wonderful testimonies to ancient and Renaissance eras.