If you’re heading to Italy’s world-famous cities anytime soon, chances are you’ll have a long list of the must-see sights. Whether you’re a minute-by-minute planner or prefer to wing it, there may be a few tickets that will need pre-booking before you arrive. Discover more in our essential guide – plus a few tips on how to save yourself hours of queuing…
Florence’s cathedral is the city’s most iconic sight, and you simply can’t leave Florence without seeing it. There’s a lot to see in the cathedral complex, and Brunelleschi’s incredible Dome tops our list. It’s mandatory to book a time slot to climb the 400-odd steps, and although it is possible to buy a ticket on the day, entrance is not guaranteed – if all the slots are full, you will be turned away.
Pre-booking Giotto’s Bell Tower and the museum is optional, but recommended, to skip the queues and limit numbers. Our advice? Pre-book all three. It’s a must-see in Florence, so it’s worth planning your day around it.
You can book time slots to visit all three on the website, and purchase a cumulative ticket for 30 euros up to a week before your visit. You’ll need to print the tickets yourself and bring them with you. We recommend allowing an hour each for the climb up the Duomo and the bell tower – plus time to rest and grab a gelato in between.
The Uffizi Gallery, Florence
It’s Florence’s biggest attraction and the city’s foremost museum, which makes it one of the most significant in Italy. The only problem is, you could find yourself spending as long queueing for a ticket as you are inside, marvelling at the Italian grand masters. You don’t have to pre-book your ticket, but we’d recommend it; book online for 8 euros plus a 4 euro booking fee, but potentially save yourself hours.
Once you’re inside, however, the next challenge begins. There is a lot to see here, and the best way to get to grips with it is with a guide in tow. Our Uffizi Tour departs daily, takes two hours and includes the entrance fee. Your clued-up guide will give you a little background into what you’re seeing, and once the tour is over, you can stay in the gallery and wander around at your leisure.
Borghese Galleries, Rome
The Galleria Borghese are some of Rome’s most impressive galleries, housed in the 17th-century Villa Borghese among garden that are an icon in themselves. The galleries are home to works by Raphael, Caravaggio and Bernini, to name a few.
To limit the crowds and protect the artworks, there’s a restriction on the number of visitors allowed into the gallery. You’ll need to pre-book tickets (at least a week in advance is recommended in the high season) and choose your entrance time from 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm. Visit the website here to book online.
The entrance fee is 15 euros, but if you want to make the most of your time here, we offer several excursions that include a fast-track ticket, guided tour and more. Try the half-day Borghese Gardens and Gallery tour, or include a lovely lunch in the gardens on our Borghese Gallery & Picnic in the Park excursion.
The Colosseum & underground, Rome
After years of work, the newly-excavated underground level of the Colosseum opened its door to visitors; the previously unseen area where the lions were kept, gladiators waited and the slaves worked. You’ll need to pre-book a guided tour separately to visiting the rest of the Colosseum; tickets start from 9 euros and ticket information can be found here.
While you’re at it, it’s worth remembering that queues at the Colosseum can be as epic as the site itself, particularly in summer. Instead of wasting a precious hour of your time in Rome queuing, it’s worth booking a ticket in advance. We offer a guided tour in small groups that also covers hotel pick up, as well as seeing the Roman Forum.
The Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Necropolis, Rome
Beneath one of Rome’s most famous landmarks, St. Peter’s Basilica, lies the tomb of St. Peter. Between five and 12 metres beneath the basilica itself, the tomb and its monuments are fascinating to behold, but attract far fewer visitors than the basilica above. Dating back to the 1st century, the necropolis is delicate, and only 250 visitors are allowed in each day. Tickets must be booked in advance – find out more on the website here.
While it’s not necessary to pre-book tickets to the Vatican Museums (which includes the Sistine Chapel), this is the world’s largest museum complex and Rome’s most-visited sight – the queues can be huge. You can pre-book tickets (16 euros) and join a much shorter queue by visiting the website; or even better, get priority access tickets and a guided tour on our Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Basilica excursion.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Milan
This is truly one of Italy’s most stunning works of art, and is considered Da Vinci’s masterpiece. It’s rather unceremoniously tucked away on a refectory wall beside Milan’s Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, and since the mural is in a delicate state (it’s faded considerably despite years of extensive restoration) you’re limited to 15 minutes’ face time, and pre-booking is essential. Ticket price is 10 euros, and can be booked via the website.
For art lovers, try In the Footsteps of Leonardo, an excursion that includes a queue-jump ticket to see The Last Supper and a guided walking tour in Milan to spot other significant Da Vinci sights.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
This most famous Italian bell tower is one of Tuscany’s landmarks, with its characteristic tilt owing to the soft ground it was built on during the 200-year construction. This quirky sight draws thousands of visitors each year, and the view from the top (297 steps up) is something special.
A limited number of visitors are allowed inside the tower each day, with a maximum of around 30 at a time. You need a ticket and a booked time slot to enter, and like Florence’s Duomo, its well worth booking in advance to avoid disappointment (or hanging around for hours until your allocated time slot). Tickets cost 30 euros, and are available to book online.