Using the Vatican and Rome Pass
Tourism in Rome is big business. The city has some of the finest sights in the world and gets up to 10 million visitors a year. At times, as you explore the streets of the Italian capital, it can feel as though you’re on a constant package holiday, shuffling along with thousands of other tourists.
Sometimes this can be a bit overwhelming. Not just the crowds themselves, but knowing where and when to buy tickets for the different attractions in the city. Walking down the street, it’s quite common to be approached by hawkers trying to sell ‘special’ tickets or telling you that something is closed this morning or that the queue will be too long. This often just adds to the confusion.
On my recent trip to Rome, I decided to try the Vatican and Rome Pass to see how that worked as a way to explore the area. Full disclosure here – I asked for a complimentary pass so I could review it. My thoughts below are completely independent.
Buying a city pass like this has a few main advantages. For a one off payment, you get free or discounted access to a bunch of sights as well as other offers. This usually means the two big benefits are that you save money and you save time.
Let’s look at how both of those things work out with the Vatican and Rome Pass.
I am usually a big supporter of the passes you can buy that give you free entry to a whole bunch of sights within a city. Obviously it is nice that you can save some money. But one of the other main reason I like these passes is because you can pop into places you might not have been willing to pay for otherwise. You can have a quick look and realise it’s not interesting to you – or, even better, you find that somewhere you thought would be boring is actually really cool. Those are the moments that I love!
This is one of the areas where the Vatican and Rome Card falls down, I think. It has a limited number of free entries and, once you’ve used them up, you then pay the concession ticket price for the rest. It means that you are less likely to check out some unknown sites during your time in Rome.
However, having said all of that, you are still going to save some money if you use it right. Let me show you the way that I would recommend using the card and how the budget works out.
Over the course of three days, these are the places I think you could visit during your stay and how much each of them would cost to do independently. This is how much it would have cost if I had done each one independently.
Without the card
- St Peter’s Basilica: Free – but €15 for priority entrance and audioguide
- Vatican Museums: €20 for entrance and priority entrance
- St John in the Lateran: Free for basilica – but €10 for entry to other areas, priority entrance and audioguide
- The Colosseum: €12
- The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill: (included in price of Colosseum)
- The Capitoline Museums: €11.50
- Castel St Angelo: €10
- Borghese Gallery: €15
- Museum of Rome: €7
- Appia Antica: €6
- Public transport: €18 (72 hour unlimited pass)
TOTAL COST: €124.50
Now, if you bought the card and used the free entries for the most expensive places and the concession tickets for the cheaper ones, this is how it would look.
With the card:
- Vatican and Rome Pass: €113
- St Peter’s Basilica: Free
- Vatican Museums: Free
- St John in the Lateran: Free
- The Colosseum: Free
- The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill: Free
- The Capitoline Museums: Free
- Castel St Angelo: €5
- Borghese Gallery: €8.50
- Museum of Rome: €3.50
- Appia Antica: €3
- Public transport: Free
TOTAL COST: €133
As you can see, with this itinerary it’s actually slightly more expensive to do all of these sites with the Vatican and Rome Pass than without it. If you squeezed a couple of more sites into the 72 hours, then you would probably find it works out about even.
What I haven’t included in the calculations above is the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour of Rome. As part of the card, you get to use it for free for 72 hours – and that’s worth €32. I didn’t include it because I didn’t use it – I preferred to either walk or use the metro.
But if you like the idea of a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour, I’ll add that into the calculations and they become:
FINAL COST WITHOUT THE CARD: €156.50
FINAL COST WITH THE CARD: €133
So, a saving of €23.50 over 72 hours.
The biggest advantage of the Vatican and Rome Pass, though, is the time it saves. If you haven’t been to Rome, I can’t stress enough how long the queues can be for the most popular attractions – particularly St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum. You will quite literally wait for hours for each of them if you don’t have some kind of priority entrance.
You can buy the fast-track entrance for each of them separately through different methods (and, at the very least, I highly recommend that) but you get it automatically for the busiest sites with the Vatican and Rome Pass.
If you add up all the hours you spend waiting in queues at the sites during busy tourist periods, it could be as much as 8 hours or more. When you’re only visiting Rome for a few days anyway, do you really want to spend that much time standing in line? I certainly don’t. And this is when the card makes the most sense.
Is the Vatican and Rome Pass worth it?
On the face value of how much money the card will save you, it is not an obvious choice. You would have to do some calculations in advance to work out what you are going to see and how much all of that would cost. It might work out slightly cheaper to not buy the pass.
Part of the problem is that, unlike city passes like the London Pass, the Dublin Pass or the Paris Pass, not all attractions are free with the Vatican and Rome Pass and you start paying concession rates after you’ve used up your free entries. The other issue is that the only option for the duration is 72 hours, so it may not be cost-effective if you’re only visiting for 2 days, for example.
But, having said all of that, I was really impressed with how easy and convenient it was to use the pass. It saved me so much time not having to queue and being able to just go straight into sights like the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums. Even not having to queue to buy tickets at places like the Capitoline Museums was really good.
Overall, I would recommend getting the pass if you’re going to have a packed 72 hours of sightseeing and there are going to be a fair amount of other tourists in the city. You’ll save a bit of money and a lot of time – and your whole experience in Rome will be a lot more enjoyable for it.
Time Travel Turtle received a complimentary Vatican and Rome Pass but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.