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rome and vatican scenery

Do private Vatican tours include choosing places on your own?

If you’re heading to the Vatican during a trip to Rome, you’ve probably already thought about hiring a tour guide. After all, the Vatican stretches for miles, and it’s almost impossible to explore the historic site thoroughly without the helping hand of an expert.

While large group tours remain the most common type of tour that visitors take at the Vatican, there are also many tour companies operating in Rome that offer private guided tours for smaller groups of people. These types of tours are ideal for those with genuine interest in the Vatican and its artifacts, as private tours tend to only accommodate between 6 and 12 people; this means that you have a lot more time to speak with your tour guide and ask questions during the tour.

But are you able to choose your own places to visit when you opt for a private Vatican tour, or do you have to follow a strict, pre-planned programme? Let’s take a look.


What is a private Vatican tour?

A private Vatican tour is a more intimate alternative to a large group tour, and will usually accommodate between 6 and 12 visitors at one time. Private tours are increasingly popular amongst tourists, who are losing interest in the scattered, impersonal nature of large group tours. With a private guided tour, you’ll enjoy a more personalized, one-to-one experience with your tour guide, and greater flexibility over the areas of the Vatican that you choose to explore.


What does a private Vatican tour include?

While tour guide companies across the Italian capital may vary in what they offer, most private tours will include a full tour of the Vatican, unlimited questioning and answering, as well as an expert tour guide who will guide you from site to site and offer thoughtful commentary on the history and culture of the Vatican. Additionally, a private tour will also include access to areas that are not available to those who take part in large group tours, such as certain artifacts or monuments that can only be viewed by small groups.

In addition to this, some private tours (such as those offered by What a Life Tours) offer skip the line privileges, meaning that you won’t need to wait outside for hours before being granted entry to the Vatican. Some private tours also offer early morning access, where you’ll be able to explore the Vatican privately at your own leisure, before the bustle when the afternoon tourists arrive.


Can I choose where to visit with a private Vatican tour?

In general, a Vatican private tour will be somewhat pre-planned; your tour guide will usually take you through some of the following areas of the Vatican (do note that these may vary from company to company, and some private tours may not cover all of the following sites):

  • The Vatican Museums
  • The Sistine Chapel
  • Pinecone Courtyard
  • St Peter’s Square
  • Gallery of Tapestries Gallery of Maps
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Michelangelo’s Pietà
  • Bernini’s Baldachin

That being said, you do have greater flexibility with a private tour. While large group tours may rush from site to site in order to respect their given time slot, private tours can last for around 3-4 hours; plus, as you’re exploring the Vatican as a smaller group, you’ll have the opportunity to influence the direction of the tour, or spend more time visiting the areas of the Vatican that you find the most interesting.


Is a private Vatican tour worth the money?

Yes! If you’re looking for a more personalized experience, with greater flexibility – as well as the opportunity to explore parts of the Vatican that aren’t available to the general public – then a private tour is definitely worth the investment. Not only will you have an expert guide to help explain the history and culture of the historic site, but with skip-the-line privileges, you’ll be able to get in and out of the Vatican without waiting around for hours beforehand. Aka, you’ll be able to spend more time eating pizza and gelato, taking photographs at the Trevi Fountain, and exploring the beautiful Italian capital!

busy vatican city

Are skip-the-line tours more expensive than regular tours of the Vatican?

One of the best things about visiting Rome is bearing witness to the thousands of years of history across the various cultural and historic sites in the country’s capital. After all, why come to Italy if you’re not going to spend your time sightseeing?
But what’s not so great about touring Rome is the lengthy waiting times to gain entry into places like the Colosseum and the Vatican. Luckily, many private tour guides offer skip-the-line Vatican tours, where you can get early access to these sites without waiting in a long queue. In this blog, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about skip-the-line tours: what they are, what they involve, and how they’ll compare in price to a regular Vatican tour. Let’s take a look!


What is a skip the line tour at the Vatican?

A skip the line tour is exactly as it sounds; it’s a tour that enables you to gain entry into the Vatican and other attractions without waiting in line beforehand – sometimes for up to hours at a time. Not only can you skip the long waiting times, but skip the line tours are also led by knowledgeable guides who can provide additional information about the sites that you’re visiting, as well as helping you avoid the waiting time usually associated with regular entry.


How many people are included in a skip the line tour?

Skip the line tours Vatican are reserved for smaller, private groups, and can usually only accommodate up to 6 people. This is beneficial in a number of ways; not only will you get a more intimate tour experience, but you’ll also get to spend more time talking to your tour guide, asking endless questions about the Vatican’s history and artefacts while you explore the historic site.

With a skip the line tour, you also benefit from a more personalised experience; in larger group tours, tour guides typically follow pre-programmed schedules, and may often rush past the areas of the Vatican that you might find the most interesting. This is because large group tours follow a tight schedule, and individual tour guides will likely host several groups per day.

With a private tour, you’ll be able to take your time exploring the parts of the Vatican that interest you most, whether it be the Vatican Museum or St Peter’s Basilica. And as we already mentioned above, you won’t be limited when it comes to asking questions; your tour experience will feel more like an interesting conversation than a rigid Q&A session.


How much more expensive are skip the line tours?

When it comes to pricing, skip the line tours are typically slightly more expensive than regular entry tickets for the Vatican: at What a Life tours, our skip-the-line VIP tour starts at $389, and includes a tour of the historic Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, Raphael Rooms, and Gallery of Maps. The tour lasts 4 hours, usually starting at 10am and finishing at 2pm.

In comparison, regular Vatican tours cost anywhere from $45 to $800, depending on what kind of tour package you’re opting for, and whether you opt for a private company or book through the Vatican’s official tour guide service. The Vatican itself does offer large group tours that cost around $45 per person, but you won’t get as intimate an experience as you would with a private tour.

Plus, given that you could end up waiting in line outside for 2-3 hours at a time, that’s 2-3 hours lost that could be spent exploring the beautiful Italian capital! So really, a skip the line tour is the most cost-effective option, especially if you’ve flown in from far to see the historic Italian site.


Is a skip the line tour worth it?

Absolutely! Aside from allowing you to gain entry to the Vatican before everybody else, perhaps the most lucrative part of a VIP tour is the undivided attention you’ll receive from your tour guide. If you – or any of your family members – are history buffs, or passionate about the Italian renaissance or Italian art, an in-depth conversation with an expert while exploring these sites is certainly worth the extra money.


Can I tour the Vatican on my own?

While it is certainly possible to tour the Vatican on your own, it’s not the best option, especially if it’s your first time visiting the historic site. Not only is it jam-packed with tourists, it’s also absolutely massive, with 26 museums and miles of history to explore. We’d highly recommend opting for a professional tour guide for the most enriching experience, whether it be a private tour or an official group tour.


Do you still need to go through security with a skip the line tour?

Yes. While a skip the line tour does mean you get priority access over other visitors, you’ll still need to go through security as usual. However, given that VIP tours tend to only include around 6 people, it shouldn’t take long for you and your group to get through security promptly. Just make sure you’ve read up on what you can and can’t take into the Vatican – this will help you move through security faster.

view of colosseum

What are some of the lesser-known aspects of the Colosseum that we might learn about on a tour?

A trip to Italy isn’t complete without a trip to the famous Colosseum, and you’ll need a guided tour if you really want to appreciate the site’s full history and beauty. While many large group tours may offer general tours around the ancient amphitheatre, if you’re looking for some lesser-known history and access to parts of the Colosseum unavailable to the general public, a private tour is your best bet.

So, what are some lesser-known aspects of the Colosseum that you might learn about on a private tour? Let’s take a look!


What is the Colosseum?

For the uninitiated, the Colosseum is one of the most recognizable monuments in Rome; it was once used for gladiator fights, public executions, theatrical performances, and even animal hunts, as well as a variety of other spectacles during the Roman period. The amphitheatre could hold up to 50,000 spectators at once, and was the site of some of the most brutal public entertainment in history. Known as the largest amphitheatre in the world, the Colosseum welcomes around 4 million visitors every year.


What secret areas of the Colosseum will I see with a private tour?

Booking a private tour isn’t just about getting skip-the-line privileges and an expert storyteller to guide you through the site – it’s also about getting access to some of the lesser-known aspects of the Colosseum:


Underground tunnels

On a private tour, you’ll have access to parts of the Colosseum usually off-limits to the general public, and this includes the labyrinth of underground tunnels and chambers known as the hypogeum. The hypogeum was once used to store wild animals and allow gladiators to enter the arena from every angle, and was also often used to prepare them for events. The hypogeum was also where prisoners were held before they were taken out into the arena, so it’s full of dark and bloody history. If you’re passionate about Ancient Rome, this is something you must see when in Rome – and you won’t get access when you book generic tours of the ancient amphitheatre.


The gladiator’s entrance

When you book private Colosseum tours with What a Life Tours, you’ll slip the long waiting lines and gain entry to the amphitheatre via the back door, also known as the gladiator’s entrance. You’ll stand where so many gladiators took their final steps – a moment you’re unlikely to forget, and an experience that isn’t possible if you only book a large group tour.


Arena floor and top tiers

While the general public isn’t allowed access to the arena floor, you’ll be able to stand where the gladiators once stood when you visit the Colosseum with a private tour guide. Not only will you be able to walk across the history-filled arena floor, but your expert tour guide will be able to give you unique and expert insight on historic battles, animal fights, gladiator battles and more. You’ll also get to visit the top tiers of the Colosseum, giving you a magnificent view of the historic arena floor – and commentary from your tour guide that will make the experience that little bit more special.


Is it worth getting a private tour of the Colosseum?

We certainly think so! After all, the Colosseum is steeped in bloody and cruel history, and much of what you read in history books or see in documentaries is just half the story. Your tour guide won’t simply guide you through the site and list off facts or stories that you likely already know; our tour guides are masterful storytellers, who will transport you back to Ancient Rome with tales of bloody animal fights, deathly battles, and more.

Plus, don’t forget that the Colosseum isn’t just the amphitheatre; you’ll also want to explore the surrounding areas, including the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine, Palatine Hill, and the Temple of Caesar. It’s best to visit these areas of the Colosseum with a guide, who will be able to offer expert insight while also answering any of your questions throughout the tour.

And when it comes to questions, you won’t be limited in the same way that you would be with a group tour; given that most private Colosseum tours accommodate between 5-12 people, you’ll be able to explore the historic site in a more intimate, personal and relaxed setting, conversing with your tour guide and questioning them as often as you please.


Do you need tickets for the Colosseum?

Yes, you’ll need a ticket or a pre-booked reservation in order to visit the Colosseum and be granted entry. Don’t forget that you’ll need to pass through security, so always read up on the site’s prohibited items before coming.

How long is the wait for the Colosseum?

You can expect to wait around 1-2 hours to gain entry to the Colosseum – and that’s with a general ticket! However, if you opt for a private skip the line tour, you’ll be given priority access and gain entry to the Colosseum as soon as you arrive (after passing through security checks).
Why is half the Colosseum gone?
In 1349, Rome was rocked – quite literally – by a large earthquake, which altered the structure of the Colosseum significantly. Today, only around one third of the site’s original structure remains intact.

happy family at ST Peter 39 s basilica church

How can I keep my children engaged during a Vatican tour?

If you’re planning a trip to Rome with a young family, you might be worried about your little ones getting bored or restless as you tour any of the many historic sites in the Italian capital. After all, ancient churches, art galleries and busy tourist sites aren’t exactly the most child-friendly environments.

However, travelling with young children can actually be an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience, even when visiting sites that a child might find, for lack of a better word, boring. In the following guide, we’re going to give you some of our top tips for keeping your little ones engaged during a Vatican tour, and how to deal with any problems that you might encounter during your trip. Let’s take a look!


Are children allowed in the Vatican?

Yes! The Vatican is very much a family-friendly tourist site, with millions of families bringing young children to visit every year. There’s no age limit on entry, so everyone from newborn babies to elder grandparents are welcome!

How can I keep my kids engaged during a Vatican tour?

Have realistic expectations

One of the first things we’d encourage is that you set realistic expectations for your children’s engagement in the tour. As we already mentioned above, sightseeing old historic sites isn’t exactly the most child-friendly activity, but with some planning, you can make it enjoyable for them. If they’re old enough to understand you, give them a quick talk beforehand and explain why good behaviour is key when touring the site – why not incentivise them with the promise of a delicious Italian gelato after the tour?

Be prepared

Kids and young toddlers can be quite demanding, and they won’t hesitate to kick up a fuss just because you’re in the Vatican! Make sure to come prepared with lots of different reinforcements, such as cuddly toys, snacks, dummies or pacifiers, as well as books or tablets to keep them occupied if they get bored. Don’t forget to bring earphones if you’re going to be giving them a phone or tablet to play with – you don’t want any noise to disrupt your tour.

Don’t be afraid to keep things short

Young kids have short attention spans, so taking a tour of the entire Vatican might not be the best idea. Instead, focus on just a few key sites that are particularly interesting to children and take your time there before moving onto the next spot. Shorter tours also tend to be less expensive, which can help if you’re on a budget.

Switch things up

One of the best things about being on vacation is that you can throw all the rules out the window – you’re in Rome, after all! Rather than taking a traditional group tour during the day, why not take a nighttime Vatican tour? Many tour guide companies – such as ours! – offer moonlit Vatican tours for those looking for something that little bit special. Kids might be more engaged if there’s a unique or out-of-the-ordinary aspect to things, so don’t be afraid to try something new.

Opt for a private tour

When in Rome, don’t forget that there are a number of various tour options available for visitors. If you’re really concerned about your children’s engagement level on the tour – or, for example, your children are very young – then it might be worth opting for one of many private Vatican tours. This way, a guide will be able to tailor the content to your family’s needs and interests, and you won’t need to worry about other tour-goers getting upset at the odd tantrum or telling-off.

Explore with them

Let your kids explore the Vatican on their own terms! Give them a camera to snap photos of what they’re interested in, and encourage discovery through fun activities such as a scavenger hunt. Alternatively, you could also look into taking a family-focused tour of the Vatican, which will give you and your kids a chance to learn more about the area in an engaging environment.

Be flexible

Finally, remember that sometimes things don’t always go as planned when it comes to tours with young children – so be prepared to go off-route if need be, and remember that it’s important to take breaks when they need them.


Can I bring a baby to the Vatican?

Yes! All ages are welcome to explore the Vatican. That being said, nearby tourists may get slightly irritated if they hear lots of crying during a tour, so be prepared to take frequent breaks outside if your little one gets restless. But don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about it – we were all crying babies at one point!

Do kids have to pay for a Vatican tour?

Kids can only enter into the Vatican for free if they’re under 6 years old; when it comes to private tours, prices and rates for child’s tickets will vary from company to company.

Vatican tours

What is the most unique part of Vatican city?

A trip to Rome isn’t complete with a complete tour of Vatican City, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. After all, the Vatican is technically an entire country – even if it is the smallest country in the world!

In this guide, we’re going to go over some of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Vatican City, from the world famous St. Peter’s Basilica and Sistine Chapel, as well as some lesser known yet equally fascinating places, such as the Vatican Mosaic Studio. Let’s take a look!

What is the most unique part of Vatican city?

One of the most unique and fascinating parts of Vatican City has to be the Vatican Mosaic Studio, which isn’t open to the general public (although it can be visited via one of our private Vatican tours.) The Vatican Mosaic Studio was founded in the 1550s, and was used as a space to create the mosaics that decorate the ceilings and walls of some of the most iconic buildings in Vatican City, including St. Peter’s Basilica. With an expert tour guide and a private tour, a trip to the studio offers a unique opportunity to get some insight into how these incredible works of art were created.

Places to visit in Vatican City

Aside from the Mosaic Studio, here are some of the most unmissable sights that you simply have to see throughout your trip.

Benefits of a semi private tour

So, why opt for a semi private tour instead of a larger group one? While you might be put off by the possibility of an increased price, this type of tour offers the following benefits to your trip:

St Peter’s Basilica

Perhaps one of the best known places in Vatican City is St. Peter’s Basilica, which is considered to be one of the greatest architectural and artistic achievements in Italy, with its incredible frescoes, large dome and breathtakingly beautiful sculptures. It’s no wonder millions come from all over the world year after year to visit this magnificent church!

The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is another must-see destination for those visiting the Vatican: originally built at the end of the 15th century, it is renowned for its ceiling and wall frescoes, which were painted by famous Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo. There’s no better place to get a feel for the Vatican’s rich cultural history – and it’s even better when you visit with an early access morning tour.

The Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens are another popular attraction in the city: stretching from St Peter’s Square to the walls of the city, the gardens are full of sculptures, fountains and lush greenery. It’s a great place to take in some fresh air and enjoy the peace and serenity of the Vatican – and if you time your visit well, you might even get to witness one of the Pope’s weekly audiences!

St. Peter’s Square

Besides being an astonishingly beautiful piece of architecture, St Peter’s Square is also home to much secretive symbolism and artwork – you can only see them when you look closely enough! St. Peter’s Square is also home to the famous obelisk in the centre of the square, which was gifted to Pope Sixtus V by Emperor Caligula in AD 37.

The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums span 9 full miles – yes, 9 – of artwork, sculpture, tapestries and more. The Vatican Museums are the perfect place to go for those looking to explore and uncover some of the most remarkable pieces of artwork in Italian history – from classical sculpture to religious artefacts and paintings from famous Renaissance masters like Raphael.

Visiting Vatican City: tips and tricks

Before heading off on your visit to the Vatican, here are some free tips and tricks from us that’ll make the experience even better (and safer) when you arrive:

Know your dress code

The Vatican is, above all, a religious site, so it’s highly important for all visitors to respect the dress code. To be ensured entry, make sure you abide by the following dress code rules: no cleavage, no plunging necklines, no knees exposed, no obscene or offensive logos or images, shoulders covered, and all men must remove headwear when entering into the historic site. Simple!

Don’t bring prohibited times

Items such as pocket knives and glass water bottles are a no-no; bringing them with you is only going to make your security check take longer than necessary. It’s a good idea to get clued up on all prohibited items before heading to the Vatican for your trip; it’s also important to remember to leave your suitcases and any heavy baggage at your hotel; you won’t be granted entry with it.

Come with a private tour

One of the best ways to experience the Vatican is to come with a private tour guide, rather than opting for a large group tour. Large group tours can make it difficult for you to ask questions or have the time to appreciate all of the remarkable artwork, sculptures and frescoes. Private tours offer the opportunity for more in-depth discussions about the history of Vatican City, and also often come with exclusive benefits – this can include early access to some sites or special access to restricted areas.

Bring appropriate footwear

Walking around the Vatican City is no easy task, so it’s important to bring appropriate footwear – think flats or trainers, not heels! The cobblestone streets and uneven terrain in the gardens can be quite difficult to navigate in unsuitable shoes, so choose comfort over style when getting ready for your visit.

Be on the lookout for scams

Unfortunately, the Vatican is not immune to scams – so it pays to be wary of anyone offering you an ‘exclusive’ tour or deal. Some scammers even wear faux staff uniforms to feign credibility, but don’t buy tickets from anyone flogging them at the Vatican entrance – if they’re particularly insistent, threatening, or unpleasant, it’s most likely a scammer.

Protect your valuables

As Vatican City is one of the most popular tourist sites in the world, it’s no surprise that the area is plagued by thieves and pickpockets who target tourists. To protect yourself from theft, it’s important to be extra careful when it comes to protecting your valuables; make sure you keep your bags close, and keep your phone in a bumbag where possible. It’s also a good idea to leave any unnecessary items at your hotel or in a safe place before heading out for the day – this will help ensure that all of your belongings stay safe for the duration of your trip.

Semi-private Vatican tours

How many people are included in semi private Vatican tours?

When you’re planning a tour around Vatican City, one of the best ways to ensure you get the most out of your trip is to opt for a professional guided tour. Not only will a guided tour give you an expert’s insight into the history of the city and its many famous sites, but it can also be a great way to meet other visitors, while also helping you stick to a timed schedule.

When it comes to your options, you can either choose a private tour, a semi private tour, or a group tour – but what do these terms mean, and which type of tour is best for you? In this blog, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about semi-private tours: how many people can be included, what the tours cover, and whether or not it’s worth it. Let’s take a look!

What is a Vatican guided tour?

A guided Vatican tour refers to hiring a professional tour guide to show you around the Vatican site; while the Vatican itself offers many different types of group tours, a Vatican private tour is often your best option; you’ll be able to explore the site in an intimate group, while also having access to much more flexible and competitive pricing.

How many people are included in semi private Vatican tours?

Semi-private tours are larger than private ones, yet still small enough for everyone to get to know each other; typically, a semi private tour will include between 8 to 10 people. This means you don’t have to worry about being drowned out in a crowd of hundreds or missing out on your guide’s explanations.

Benefits of a semi private tour

So, why opt for a semi private tour instead of a larger group one? While you might be put off by the possibility of an increased price, this type of tour offers the following benefits to your trip:


With a group smaller than 10, you’ll be able to enjoy the Vatican experience in a much more intimate setting; rather than having to shout over loud crowds or pester your tour guide for a question, you’ll be able to engage in a freeform discussion about the topics that interest you most. You can effectively think of your tour guide as simply the 11th member of your party; you’ll be able to go back and forth asking questions and discussing the sites as you travel through them together.

Special tour packages

Another benefit of a semi private Vatican tour is that you’ll have access to a range of special and VIP tours that the Vatican itself might not offer; this includes moonlight tours, VIP tours, skip-the-line tours and early morning access. Early morning access means you’ll get to explore the site before the floods of tourists arrive, while a moonlight or VIP tour will allow you access to parts of the Vatican not typically open to the general public. With a skip-the-line tour, you’ll be able to save on hours that would have been spent sweating in the long waiting line under the Italian sun – what’s not to love?

Have greater input

When you’re touring any site with a large group – whether it be the Vatican or the Colosseum – it’s difficult to be heard, and it’s even more difficult to influence the direction of the tour. With most large group tours, the tour guide will have been given a pre-planned itinerary that is almost always followed exactly to a T, leaving you with little-to-no sway when it comes to exploring your favourite parts of the Vatican. With a semi-private tour, you’ll be able to ask the tour guide to spend more time at your favourite sites, and ask as many in-depth questions as you like about the site’s history and story.

Is a private Vatican tour worth it?

Absolutely! Without a tour guide to show you the most interesting and historic parts of the site, a Vatican tour can feel a bit like being at Disneyland – too many people, and too much to see! With the help of a professional and expert tour guide, you’ll be able to enjoy exploring the Vatican on your own terms.

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Does security check take long with the skip the line tour Vatican?

A skip the line tour is one of the best ways to tour the Vatican sites without spending hours melting away in the Italian heat – especially if you’re visiting in high season during the summer months!

However, don’t forget that even with a skip the line tour, you’ll still need to pass through security in order to be granted access to the site. So, how long does a security take, and does it still take as long when passing through as part of a private tour group? Let’s take a look.

What are skip the line tours?

Skip the line tours Vatican are a type of guided tour that allows those who book to bypass the long queues and make their way safely into the Vatican area without waiting for hours in the long waiting line outside. This is made possible through special arrangements with the authorities, allowing private tour groups to pass unhindered through the various checkpoints; however, they are still subject to standard security checks – and these can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes to complete.

So, while a skip the line tour does save valuable time and energy, it is important to bear in mind that security checks are still required before entry can be granted. As such, it pays to double-check your booking and arrive with plenty of time to spare – both for the security check itself, as well as for the tour itself! It’s also important to check what can and cannot be taken into the Vatican site; this will help the security check process move faster, and prevent you from having to throw away any valuable – but prohibited – items.

How long does a Vatican security check take?

When you arrive at the Vatican, you’ll be obliged to perform the following security checks:

  • Walking through an advanced metal detector
  • Placing certain items (such as phones) in a tray to be scanned
  • Throw away any prohibited items (such as glass water bottles)
  • Have your clothing and attire checked by a security guard

In general, the security check at the Vatican can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your group, and whether or not the security guards find an issue with any of your belongings, attire, or bags. It’s a bit like an airport security check; the more items you have to remove and scan, the longer it’ll take to reach the airport lounge – so keep that in mind before arriving.

If you’re arriving as part of a skip the line tour, you’ll likely be able to get through security much quicker, and be granted entry into the site within 5-10 minutes. Again, this process can be complicated if a member of your group is carrying prohibited items, wearing obscene or offensive clothing, or is wearing lots of metal items (such as watches, belts, and jewelry) that needs to be removed before the security check can be considered complete.

What not to bring to the Vatican

If you want to get through security quicker, it pays to double-check what you can and cannot bring into the site. Generally speaking, any dangerous items (such as weapons, pocket knives, or other sharp objects) are not allowed, as are large bags or suitcases. If your bag is deemed unsuitable by security guards, they may ask you to return it to your hotel, as there’s no storage space within the Vatican itself. This can be a massive waste of time and money, so never bring your luggage with you on your visit to the Vatican (or any other historic Italian site for that matter)!

What not to wear at the Vatican

While entering the Vatican, it’s important to remember that you’re entering a sacred religious site, so many staff members and guards will also be obliged to carry out outfit checks and ensure that all guests and visitors are dressed in appropriate attire.

In order to get approved entry as quickly as possible, dress in modest clothing and follow the instructions laid out by the Vatican to a T. This means that you must cover your shoulders and knees (you can wrap a shawl around your shoulders if need be), cover any décolleté, avoid all plunging necklines or overly tight clothing, and wear appropriate footwear )- while heels aren’t banned, they’re highly impractical. In addition to this, men must remove all headwear before being granted access to the site, although women are permitted to keep hats on.

You should also make sure that you don’t arrive wearing any obscene logos or graphic images on your clothing, jewelry or bags; t-shirts or jewelry items that feature nudity, obscene symbols, profanity, or any other image that could be deemed as offensive to the Catholic faith could result in you being asked to leave.

Plus, if you want to make things really quick, leave your jewelry, watches, and other metal accessories at the hotel – you’ll speed through security faster than you can say ciao!

Colosseum tour

How to Choose the Right Colosseum Tour?

When it comes to sightseeing in Italy, your trip isn’t complete without a tour of the magnificent Colosseum. Situated in the heart of Rome, this iconic landmark is a must-see for any traveller, even if you’re just flying in for the weekend. But with so many Colosseum tour options available, it can be difficult to choose the right one. In this blog, we’re going to give you some tips to help you find the perfect tour for your needs; from budget-friendly tours to private outings.

Choosing a Colosseum tour:

factors to consider Before getting ready to book your tour, there are a couple of important considerations to take into account. Here’s what you need to be thinking about before making your reservation:


First of all, you need to consider how much time you have available; some tours offer comprehensive visits that last several hours, while others are shorter and more affordable. If you’re jetting into Rome for a long weekend or just passing through on your way to another Italian city, you’ll want to make sure that you opt for a tour that allows you to skip the line privileges.

If you’ve already done a bit of reading up on Colosseum visits, you’ll already know that you need to wait in line before being able to access the site, and you’ll also need to pass through security checks before you’re granted entry. All of this can eat into your valuable time, so make sure you’ve taken this into consideration before booking any tour.

Exploration vs. expert guide

Next, think about what kind of experience you’re looking for: do you want to explore the history of the Colosseum in depth or simply admire its majestic facade? Would you prefer to explore alone or with the help of an expert tour guide? Whether you’re an introvert who’d prefer a self-guided audio tour, or an amateur historian who’d love to exchange facts about the Roman period with your private tour guide, you’ll want to make sure to pick a tour that suits your sightseeing style.

Group vs. private tour

You’ll also need to decide if you’d like to go on a group outing, or if you’d prefer a more personal experience with a private guided tour. There are several benefits to each option, and it’s all about picking the one that’s best for you. For example, with a group tour, you’ll have greater liberty to go off and explore your surrounding environment yourself, while also being in a great position to make new friends or acquaintances on your trip.

On the other hand, a private Colosseum tour is much more intimate, and the ideal option for small groups of less than 10; you’ll be able to discuss topics at length with your tour guide, without feeling rushed or discouraged from asking questions. Plus, with some private companies, you may be able to access a private Colosseum tour, which allows you to explore and discover certain sites in the Colosseum that aren’t open to the general public.

Different types of Colosseum tour

So, now that we’ve gone over all the important considerations to take into account, what type of Colosseum tours are available for visitors? Here are some of the main tours on offer, both by private tour companies as well as the Colosseum itself:

Group tours

Many private companies offer large group tours of the Colosseum, and these tours can usually accommodate up to 25 people at once. Group tours are usually the cheapest option and ideal for those on a budget, but they’re not the best option if you’re looking for an in-depth, expert analysis of the historical site.

Semi-private group tours

Semi private group tours can accommodate up to 10 people, and are usually much more intimate than a larger group tour. With fewer people in your group, you’ll be able to ask your tour guide more questions, while also having greater influence and sway over the direction of the tour itself.

Private Colosseum tours

Private Colosseum tours are ideal for the amateur historian; for those who truly want to learn about the Colosseum’s history – as well as learn little-known facts about the former amphitheatre – a private tour is the best option. Private tours are more intimate than semi-private tours, and will usually include 6 people – although do note that this figure may be higher or lower depending on your chosen tour company.

Aside from a more intimate tour setting, a private guided tour may also come with “skip the line” privileges, meaning that you won’t need to stand around for hours outside waiting to get in. Plus, as your group is smaller, you won’t need to spend half as long going through security as you would with a larger group tour.

Underground Colosseum tours

If you’re interested in the authentic Colosseum experience, certain private tour companies – such as ours – now offer underground Colosseum tours. With an underground tour, you’ll usually explore the Arena floor, the Roman forum and Palatine Hill, while also enjoying VIP access to areas underneath the amphitheatre that are usually closed to visitors. On top of that, most underground Colosseum tours are private, so you’ll be accompanied by an expert storyteller who will be happy to answer each and every one of your questions.

Ultimately, the best Colosseum tour depends on your time limits and sightseeing style; what’s certain is that from self-guided audio tours to underground private tours, there’s something for everyone when in Rome.

Colosseum Tours Made For You

10 mistakes to avoid when visiting the Colosseum

A trip to the Colosseum is an absolute must if you’re visiting Rome, but many tourists end up either being denied entry, blistering their feet, or altogether having a forgettable experience. And no, it’s not because the Colosseum doesn’t live up to expectations – quite the contrary!
It’s because a trip to the Colosseum requires a little bit of pre-planning.

In this guide, we’re going to go over 10 mistakes to avoid when visiting the Colosseum, so you can make the most of your trip and avoid common tourist pit-falls. Let’s take a look!

Forgetting to book tickets in advance

The Colosseum is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, which means that it’s always crowded and almost always fully booked for the day. It’s important to remember that you can only enter the Colosseum with approved Colosseum tours and tour guides, so it’s highly recommended to book your tickets online in advance. Not only will this ensure that you gain entry to the site, but it’ll also save you time spent waiting around in long lines.

Not wearing comfortable shoes

It’s easy to forget how much walking you’ll do when visiting the Colosseum, but you’ll be doing a fair bit of it! Not only that, but the grounds of the Colosseum are quite uneven and rocky, so it’s important to wear comfortable shoes that provide good support. Flip-flops are a definite no-no, as are high heels; opt for trainers or hiking boots if you want to make sure your feet don’t get too sore during the day.

Not scheduling enough time

With all the things to see at the Colosseum, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of time to explore everything it has to offer. Many tourists end up skipping incredible sites, such as the Roman Forum, as they don’t programme enough time for sightseeing into their day. This is another reason that pre-booked tickets are a must!

Visiting during high season

If you’re visiting the Colosseum during the high season, you can expect to encounter large crowds and long waiting times – even if you have a pre-booked ticket. One of the easiest ways to avoid the tourist crowd is to visit the Colosseum during quiet periods, such as the winter months. While you can still expect to run into crowds, it won’t be nearly as hectic as during the summer months.

Not bringing a water bottle

Lots of walking + unpredictable Italian weather = dehydration. Make sure to bring a bottle of water with you when visiting the Colosseum, especially if it’s hot out; dehydration can set in quickly with all the walking! Plus, Rome is filled with public water fountains where you can fill up your bottle for free, so it’s a must-have for any sightseeing trip in the Italian capital.

Getting the wrong ticket

When booking your tour tickets for the Colosseum, it’s important to remember to pick a tour that actually interests you; there are different tickets for different sites, such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. You can even opt for an audio tour, which is great for those who are interested in learning more about the historical sites while also wanting to explore the site at their own leisure.

Going at the wrong time of day

Just like the high seasons, certain times of day are more crowded than others at the Colosseum. It’s best to avoid visiting during peak hours (between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm), as this is when most tourists flock to the site. Try and visit in the early morning if you want to be one of the first visitors to the famous amphitheater.

Bringing a rolling bag or large rucksack

Getting denied entry to the Colosseum can put a damper on anyone’s holiday, but this can easily be avoided by paying attention to the size of your bag. Due to security concerns, rolling bags, suitcases and large backpacks are strictly prohibited in the Colosseum – make sure you check the size of yours before heading off! If you’re looking to do a quick tour of the Colosseum on the day you leave for the airport, you can easily find somewhere to store your luggage for the duration of your tour.

Bringing prohibited items

Alongside large bags and suitcases, there are also a number of prohibited items that could see you being denied entry to the Colosseum. These include pets, sharp objects (including small scissors), glass bottles, and selfie sticks (yes, really!) You’ll also be unable to enter the Colosseum if you have an aerosol spray with you, so if you’ve been carrying deodorant in your handbag to combat the summer sweats, make sure you’ve disposed of this before trying to enter the site.

Forgetting to use sun protection

In Rome, temperatures can easily soar in the summertime – meaning it’s important to remember to bring sunscreen with you, even if you’re visiting in the Autumn or Winter months. Rome weather can be incredibly unpredictable, and you don’t want to leave your holiday with unsightly, painful sunburn! Apply sunscreen before your visit just in case – you never know when a Rome heatwave might decide to hit.

group and private tours in Vatican

What’s the difference between group tours and private tours in the Vatican?

If you’re going to be visiting the Vatican, it’s always best to do so with a professional guided tour. While you’re free to visit the historic site on your own, a guided tour will allow you to learn more about the various Vatican sites in more detail, and even allow you certain tour privileges, such as being able to skip the queue or access the Vatican outside normal hours.

In general, there are two types of Vatican tours on offer: a private guided tour, and a group tour. But what’s the difference between the two? In this blog, we’ll be comparing and contrasting private and group tours of the Vatican, so you can make the best decision for your upcoming trip. Let’s take a look!

What’s the difference between group tours and a private tour in the Vatican?

A private tour of the Vatican tends to accommodate up to 6 people, whereas a group tour can accommodate up to 12 visitors at a time. The size of the group isn’t the only difference between a private and group tour – most private tours tend to offer VIP benefits and perks, such as nighttime tours, VIP access, or skip the line privileges.

Here are just a few other differences between a group and private tour:

Intimate vs. group setting

With a private tour, you’ll be able to enjoy a more intimate, cosy setting to enjoy the Vatican’s historic sites. You won’t need to move swiftly through each site or pass quickly by each artefact – you’ll be able to linger and take your time at each site, while also being able to ask as many questions you like to your professional tour guide.

With a group tour, the atmosphere will be more energetic and fast-paced, with large groups of people moving quickly through each site. While you won’t have the same level of intimacy as a private tour, group tours can still be an enjoyable experience, allowing you to meet new people and carry out your sightseeing quickly.


Another major difference between a group tour and a private Vatican tour is the cost – group tours tend to be much lower in cost per person (anywhere from $40 to $80) while a private tour will be slightly more expensive.

However, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. With a private Vatican tour, you’ll be able to enjoy visiting the site at a more relaxed pace, and be able to ask questions and converse with your guide throughout the duration of your tour. Plus, many private tours come with VIP perks and benefits that a basic group tour just doesn’t offer; for example, a private Under the Stars Vatican tour allows you to explore the site at nighttime, while an early bird tour allows you to enter the site before most tourists arrive, offering a more peaceful, quiet setting for your visit.


If you opt for a group tour, it’s likely that the tour is already pre-planned, with a set itinerary and schedule for visiting the various Vatican sites; you likely won’t have much flexibility regarding what you see, or how long you spend at each site. Group tours also tend to adhere strictly to a planned schedule – this is to ensure good timekeeping, as professional tour guides will carry out a number of tours with different groups every day.

However, this can be slightly limiting if you’re interested in learning more about certain Vatican sites, specific art pieces, or if you simply want to explore the museums or chapel at your own pace. A private guided tour will allow you to take your time and participate in the tour, giving you the opportunity to pick and choose what sites you’d like to explore, and how long you’d like to spend at each location.

Private Vatican tour vs. guided tour: which is best for me?

The best option for your group will depend on your preferences, as well as your sightseeing schedule. If you’re looking to save money and you’re tight on time, a group tour will offer you a chance to visit the Vatican’s many historic sites and artefacts, albeit in a more rushed and less intimate setting.

If you’re interested in exploring the Vatican at your own pace and don’t want to be limited by a set itinerary, a private tour is most likely your best option. You won’t be impacted by time constraints in the same way, and the intimate group setting means everyone gets a chance to ask questions and direct the group to sites they find interesting. With the added VIP perks and skip-the-line privileges, a private tour is the ideal option for those looking to have an unforgettable Vatican experience.