The Truth Behind Skip the Line Tickets in Rome

Vatican City as seen from the river

Vatican City as seen from the river crossing

With the competition for visitors forever increasing, popular destinations in Rome have begun to offer "skip the line tickets", and visitors to Rome are met with more and more tempting offers to catch their eye. Many companies sell skip the line ticket access for the city’s top sites – the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, the Borghese Gallery, and visitors arrive in Rome expecting to be whisked to the front of the line, cooly entering the museum without a moment’s hesitation. While we always recommend booking tickets in advance of your trip, we want to set the record straight about what “skip the line Colosseum” and “skip the line Vatican” tickets actually mean.

If you are looking to learn more about Rome prior to a visit to the Eternal City, check out our online seminars and courses at Context Conversations. Our scholars share insights and tips that only a true expert would know, setting you up for success as you prepare to visit Rome's most important sights. 

Vatican Museum Skip the Line Tickets

There are essentially three lines at the Vatican: one for people who arrive without tickets, one for advance-ticket holders, and one for tour operators who have an account with the Vatican. For the first two, the line for advance ticket holders is shorter—essentially just a security line. But, there is still a line, which can be a surprise for many people.

Tour operators with exclusive access at the Vatican, such as Context, enjoy the dual privilege of acquiring advance tickets for their participants and also entering the Vatican a half-hour before normal visitors. We reserve tickets to the museums as soon as they become available online, so if you join our Vatican tour, you can expect a speedier entrance into the museums. Before you arrive at the Vatican, our expert guides collect the tickets on your behalf, helping you to avoid any last minute panic about booking references and entrance times. With a daily influx of around 30,000 visitors during the summer season, you may still find yourself in a line even with a reserved ticket, though a short one, and with guaranteed entry.

While waiting in the security line, our guides waste no time time. For instance, guide Ludovica Candrilli mentions how she uses this moment to discuss the Vatican City State and the significance of its location in Rome, why it’s surrounded by walls, and its history and its relationship with Italy. A brief introduction to the site, a security check, and you're on your way to enjoying the vast collection.

Colosseum Skip the Line Tickets

Similarly, the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Forum, which you enter on a combined ticket, have multiple options for entry. For visitors without tickets, it will be necessary to both queue to purchase tickets and pass through security. If you are traveling on your own and want to shorten your wait, it’s possible to purchase the combined Colosseum/Palatine Hill/Forum entry ticket online. The additional reservation fee is well worth it to gain quicker entry, but be careful about which option you select for obtaining the tickets when checking out. Print at home purchasers will be able to print their tickets, complete with bar code for entry, and skip straight ahead to the security line, while those who simply book with a reservation code will need to first visit the reserved entry booth to pick up their physical tickets before then moving toward security. The reserved entry booth has a far shorter line than that for visitors without tickets, so if you are not able to use the print tickets options, it’s still worth the reservation fee.

A quick and efficient way to secure Colosseum tickets in advance is to join a tour led by experts through the ancient site. We offer a four hour option that includes all three key historical sites, affectionately called Roma Antica.

Due to increased security measures, new screening procedures were put in place for entry to the Colosseum. With only a handful of metal detectors at the only entry point to this popular site, wait times for the security line are significantly longer than they once were. By the afternoon they can be upwards of two hours. This is why touring with Context is always done in the morning, when the line is at its shortest. Just as at the Vatican Museums, the time is always used thoughtfully as our expert historian Antonella Merletto reminds us, “even 2000 years ago, it took time to get people into the Colosseum!”

Galleria Borghese Skip the Line Tickets

Another key site where advance booking is necessary—in fact, required—is the Galleria Borghese, one of the best collections of Renaissance and Baroque art in Rome. Here, it functions similarly to the concept of skip the line at the Colosseum. Strict limits on the number of visitors allowed into the gallery at any time were implemented after vast restorations in the ‘90s and now everyone—whether on a tour or not—is required to book in advance. Reservations to one of the five daily entry time slots are made either through the museum’s phone reservation service or online booking system. This booking does not constitute a ticket. On arrival you present the booking code and retrieve a ticket. In the case of phone reservation, where prepayment is not available, you’ll also need to pay the balance of your tickets. Of course, there’s a bit of a line. All entrants are required to check their coats and bags, so anticipate a queue for the coat check as well. The best strategy is to arrive early – we usually recommend a 30 minute advance arrival to be sure to get everything sorted in time.

With a set limit of time on the interior of the galleria, it is imperative to make the most of your experience.Context also offers a Gallery Borghese Guided Tour with Art Historian that includes pre-reserved tickets and an expert guide through the gallery to show you the hidden gems of the estate. 

Do Skip the Line Tickets Exist in Rome?

While no “skip the line” is completely perfect and small waits may occur along the way, it’s a speedier and more relaxed entry that even solo visitors can take advantage of to make the most of their time in Rome.

Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and updated in February 2019.

Want to learn with a true expert? Get a comprehensive view with one of Context's private or small group tours in Rome or prepare for your trip with a dedicated scholar on a virtual tour