Rick Steves’ guidebook suggested making online reservations for the Vatican Museums “a day or two” beforehand, and for the Borghese Gallery “at least a few days in advance.” So I started in on this a few days into the cruise, and was quite shocked to discover that, during the week we were to be in Rome, there were NO early-morning reservations to be had for the Vatican. Linda had planned to spend a whole day there, but the earliest time available was 11am on any day of our visit.
This worked out OK as her feet had different ideas anyway, and four or five hours was enough. The place was jammed, too, with many tour guides who give tours to about 30 people by use of wireless headphones, so you can have 3 or 4 guides talking at the same time in some of the larger rooms.
The situation at the Borghese was worse … until the last day of our scheduled visit, the only available times were 9am and 5pm. (The Borghese lets you in for exactly two hours.) And on the day of our visit, the next available reservations were 9 days out.
### Travel tip: While reservations are always required at the Borghese, they aren’t required at the Vatican. You can stand in line for three hours to buy tickets, and that’s what many people were doing. Yikes!
### Travel tips: This was the Vatican museum and this is when it was not crowded, later on when we were inside it was wall to wall people!The reservation system is interesting. You reserve and pay online, and of course everything is non-refundable. The Vatican sends you an e-mail you’re supposed to print and bring; the Borghese sends you an email with a code, and you only need the code. When you appear at the museum, it only takes 30 seconds to get your ticket, and no language skill at all, although of course staff in these places speak several languages.
I printed the Vatican form on the ship; if you don’t have a printer at hand, download to a USB stick or upload to the cloud, and visit an Internet cafe, which you can find on every block of Rome.
In further electronic developments, you can buy train tickets online, and download them onto your smartphone or other mobile device. You can show them to the train conductor that way — and the lady who was checking the tickets on the train seemed to prefer that, as there is nothing to punch or paper to handle.