Rockin’ the Roma Pass

The Roma Pass is a tourist pass sponsored by Rome City Council and the Ministry for the Arts and Cultural Activities, in collaboration with ATAC, Rome’s public transport company. Over a three-day period, the pass gets you “no charge” admission to your first two places, (which includes a “skip the line” feature at the Colosseum complex if you choose to go there), unlimited use of ATAC (excluding “special connections” such as going out to the airport), discounts at other attractions (as well as for some events), and free access to several lesser-known museums. It comes with a map, a little guide book, and a pass code that lets you download the Roma Pass app from iTunes. The Roma Pass can be purchased at official tourist information kiosks, museums, and tobacco shops.

The Roma Pass kit
The Roma Pass kit

Since the Roma Pass is priced at €34, is it worth it? The answer is, “it depends.” Specifically, it depends on which sights you are seeing (and in what order), how often you are using public transportation, and how much stamina you have in the three days the pass is good for! Here’s how we rocked our Roma Pass to get a good value out of it in late February 2014, which was good timing because several attractions recently raised their prices.

A critical first step is you must choose your two “no charge” sights (or sites). Obviously, you should choose two of the most expensive sights for your ”no charge” visits — note that you MUST visit these two “no charge” sights FIRST (not a system requirement, but in terms of maximizing your value). Here are some of the most expensive considerations for your first two visits:

  • Colosseum/Roman Forum/Palatine Hill (only available as a combined ticket) – normal entrance fee €12 if you buy it at the ticket office (if you bought the ticket online, including the “reservation fee” and the “booking fee,” the total cost would be €16)
  • MACRO (the main branch, as opposed to the cheaper Testaccio branch) – normal entrance fee is €12.50
  • Galleria Borghese – normal entrance fee €14 (there’s also a €2 on-line booking fee, which you must pay even if using the Roma Pass)
  • MAXXI – normal entrance fee €11
  • Castel Sant’Angelo – normal entrance fee €10.50
  • Domus Romane at Palazzo Valentini – normal entry fee €10

We purchased our Roma Pass on a Friday, and used it for that day and through the weekend. For our first day, we activated our Roma Pass when we took the metro to lunch; then we visited the Castel Sant’Angelo (which meant a bus ride). The card is activated automatically upon its first use. You don’t have to start using the pass the day you buy it — you can wait until the day you’re ready.

Castel Sant'Angelo -- one the tomb of Emperor Hadrian, now a papal fortress and residence
Castel Sant’Angelo — one the tomb of Emperor Hadrian, now a papal fortress and residence

That evening, we took another bus home. That made for three trips using public transportation, at €1.50 each. So, for day one, that’s a value of €15 (€10.50 entrance fee + €4.50 in transportation).

On the morning of day two, we headed off (by bus) to the main branch of MACRO, a contemporary art museum that’s one of our favorites (and has a steep €12.50 entrance fee).

MACRO
MACRO

We then took a bus back to Villa Borghese, bringing our day-two total to €15.50 and our overall total to $30.50. But the day was still young. There are several museums that are free with the Roma Pass. They are:

We continued on to the two “free with Roma Pass” museums located in Villa Borghese. We visited both Museo Pietro Canonica and the Museo Carlo Bilotti. We had not visited either of these museums before, and probably would not have done so without the Roma Pass.  Indeed, given how small the Museo Bilotti is, we probably would not have been happy had we paid the normal €8 entry fee. But for free, it was certainly worth it.  We were also happy to discover the lovely Museo Pietro Canonica, which is like two museums in one (a gallery of the artists’s work, and then his private apartments, which are like a time capsule).

Museo Pietro Canonica
Museo Pietro Canonica

So, that’s another €13.00 — just for day two — plus another bus ride home, taking the overall “value” of our Roma Pass to €45.00.  This means we already had “broken even” and then some!

On day three, we hit the Museo Napoleonico as well as the Museo della Repubblica Romana — two small museums that also made us happy being “free with the Roma Pass.”

Napoleon himself
Napoleon himself

So, add €14.50 plus two more trips on the bus (€3) making day three’s total €17.50.  That made for a three day total value of about €63. Considering we paid €34, that’s a deal!

If the “free with Roma Pass” museums are not of interest to you, there is a discount for Roma Pass  holders at many attractions after your two “no charge” sights.  I’ve found the discount is usually relatively small, like €1 or €2 per attraction — but those discounts can add up if you are visiting several of them. And, if you were doing the Colosseum complex and the Galleria Borghese, right there that’s €30 — add in just three bus or metro rides. and you would already be breaking even. So, with a little planning, you can make the Roma Pass work for you as well!

TIPS:

1) Since mid-2013, children under 18 get in free to various sights, including the Colosseum complex and Galleria Borghese. So, the Roma Pass is probably not a good value for kids. And yes, they can skip the line with you to the Colosseum.

2) The Roma Pass does NOT apply to the Vatican Museums.

3) You MUST go to your two “no charge” choices (i.e., the most expensive places) FIRST. No exceptions — do not go to other museums, not even the museums listed above that are “free with Roma Pass”, or they will count as your first two “no charge” entrances.

4) Check which days the attractions you want to see are open (for example, Galleria Borghese is closed on Mondays). All of the “free with Roma Pass” museums are closed on Mondays – so add that into planning how to use your Roma Pass. Note that two of these are very close to Galleria Borghese, so they would be an easy add-on to a visit there.

Please note: the price information at the places we visited as well as information on the various official websites as of February 2014.

UPDATE 2014:  As of August 27, 2014, seven small museums have been made FREE everyday — including several I visited using the Roma Pass. They are:

Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco
Museo delle Mura
Villa di Massenzio
Museo della Repubblica Romana e della memoria garibaldina
Museo Napoleonico
Museo Carlo Bilotti
Museo Pietro Canonica

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