Feeling overwhelmed. I have booked a couple of tours while in Italy but would like to book tickets ahead of time online for the typical tourist sites. Never been abroad so what is the best way to buy ahead online and figure out time schedule to book the tickets not knowing how long it takes to go through each museum, church, etc.?
You should definitely buy tickets ahead of time, especially for Italy in the summer. There are the main attractions that everyone wants to hit: Vatican City, Colosseum, Gallery of The Academy, Leaning Tower of Pisaetc. For these you can go on their sites and buy it directly from them. For the leaning tower they open up tickets for a couple months in advance I believe. For the rest you can get them more in advance. This is mainly a guessing game in terms of time. What I did when I planned our 3 weeks in Italy was to prioritize what we wanted to see and never really book tours back to back or multiple in a day really. This may be difficult if your time is limited. However, there are a lot of suggested timelines online, but it boils down to personal preference for how long you want to enjoy each attraction. For the Colosseum there are day and night tours. I suggest choosing the one with the least frills, meaning there are some that charge you more money and the promise to pick you up or take you to various sites. This may work, but I like being on my own schedule and booking the tours separately with companies specific to that attraction. The problem with booking from big tour companies is that you are with a huge crowd of people and often running to catch up or listen to the guide. I prefer the smaller tours and that can usually be accomplished by buying from the attraction itself. For the Colosseum we booked a morning tour, reserved and paid for our tickets online and then picked them up when we were there. For Pisa you can only buy it on their site in 30 minute time slots. To see the David in Florence I would definitely recommend buying a ticket as they sell out and if they do let walk-ins in, the line is really long. Depending on how much you want to hear about the place, tours are not always necessary although advanced ticket purchase is. I wouldn't worry about tickets to things like the Duomos or Cathedrals. The lines move fairly quick and you don't want to have everything scheduled.
Below is a question I answered last week about the same thing in Rome, feel free to read as I added my thoughts about the Vatican and a little trick if you don't want to book a tour:
I don't have a specific preference although I will say you do need to book everything in advance because things fill up (especially during the summer). I would recommend looking around because there are certain companies where everything is all inclusive... you can get separate tours at each, but that will end up being more expensive. There are museum/attraction cards that let you choose 2 places for a certain price. Mostly what tours will get you is a front of the line pass (and obviously a talk-through). I definitely suggest a tour of the Colosseum because all the history is really interesting and you can't really imagine everything on your own - plus they have pictures to show you. There is a night tour offered as well which will make it a lot less busy. Also, there are tunnels underneath where the people/animals/props would be before they came out - this is only available through a tour. I personally don't think the Vatican/Sistine Chapel needs a tour, it's very big and the groups get very large which means you're spending most time trying to hear the guide versus appreciate what's around you. I liked going at my own pace. I'm sure others will tell you otherwise, but that's how I feel. If you purchase your tickets online you skip the entire line outside. We arrived 5 minutes before our entrance time, waltzed passed the line and started touring around. The one thing people will tell you is that there is a bit of a walk between the different attractions and only with a tour can you take the little shortcut that leads you right to the the Basilica.I'll let you in on a little secret haha, when you get to the Sistine Chapel, look around, spend as much time as you'd like and then head to the right, that's the door that will get you straight to the Basilica, if you go to the left you will have to walk around and I hear it takes a while. When you see a group exiting just get behind them and walk out with them, there is only one guy next to the door and they aren't really checking. This saves you time and helps avoid walking in the blistering heat.
I hope this helps.
I'm sure you'll have an awesome trip!
Mentioned in this answer:
In the summer, Italy gets pretty packed. You wouldn't necessarily have to book tours for everything, but waking up and getting started early will absolutely help. That way, you can take your time in each place. As far as tours go, I would only look to book tour guides if they offer some sort of way you can skip long lines. Another tip (for travel in general) is to categorize what you absolutely must see (the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, etc.) and things you are ok if you miss. Good luck!
Go to Ciao Florence Tours & Travels Srl, they are very good and dependable and ask for Antonella Zodolini she is awesome. Lots of sites you can see on your own they have a great transportation system, you can buy train tickets by the day, so for one day you can travel on a high speed train anywhere in Italy to as many cities as you like. I recommend Cinque Terre on the west coast of Italy absolutely breath taking.
Mentioned in this answer:
Hi Tina, this is a great question and you're right to feel overwhelmed since there is so much to see and do in Italy.
I agree with Kristal in that you may just want to choose 1 pre-booked site a day and then leave the rest of your day open to see how much you really feel like doing. There are loads of churches and some smaller state museums that you most likely will not have to wait in line too long should you decide to see a second or third site during the same day.
You can book tickets online for most state museums in all major Italian cities. I have not personally used any of these sites, but I would try this site or this other site for pre-booking, especially for larger museums like The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence or the Vatican Museums in Rome, etc.
If you have specific questions about guided tours, any museums, churches or historical sites, do not hesitate to ask- there is a whole community of people that can help you answer even the most detailed questions.
Have a great time planning your Italy trip!
Mentioned in this answer: