Museum passes, Italy, Italy (Photo )

Be a sightseeing V.I.P.—Sightseeing passes grant admission to dozens of sights, avoiding the lines and saving money

Picture this: You sashay up to the front of that long line of people waiting for more than an hour outside the Uffizi Galleries in Florence... and just walk right in.

This is the VIP world of museum cards and city passes, which may cost anywhere from $30 to $90 and can get you into the lion's share of a city's sights (usually after four or five biggies, the pass pays for itself and all the rest of the sights you visit are effectively free), sometimes unlimited use of public transportation, often discounts on shopping, dining, and nightlife, and occasionally that rarest of benefits: the right to bypass the often ludicrous lines waiting to enter to top sights.

Another, unwritten benefit of city passes is that most such cards allow unlimited visits to sights, so you can split up your visit to some major sight into several shorter, more manageable visits.

Most cards come in versions good for one, two, or three days or weekly.

Personal experience has taught me that, unless you're lumping together into one day the attractions with the highest admission charges, or are sightseeing at a dead run, the one-day passes rarely pay for themselves. It's better to go with a three-day version and take your time.

A few caveats: Rarely will a pass cover guided tours, renting an audio tour you can carry around the museum, or special exhibits, and may be invalid during special events.

Keep in mind there are all sort of alternatives to full-fledged city cards, such as cumulative tickets that count at a few related museums, or passes good just on the public transport but not for sights.

There's no way to list all of those available, but going to each city's tourism web site is a good start.

Museum Passes tours
 
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Passes & Discounts links
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).

 

More on Passes & discounts

Make sure to wave your ticket past a ticket validation machine or risk a fine (Photo courtesy of ACTV)

Tickets and passes for riding the vaporetto and city (land) buses in Venice's public transit system

 
Naples transit ticket (Photo by Pechristener)

Tickets and passes for riding the Naples Métro, bus, and tram public transit system

 
 (Photo courtesy of Campania Artecard)

Enjoy free admission to various Naples sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges), free public transit, plus discounts at other attractions

 

Enjoy free admission to various Rome sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges), plus discounts at other attractions

 

Enjoy free admission to various Paestum sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges), plus discounts at other attractions

 

Enjoy free admission to various Pompeii sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges)

 

Enjoy free admission to various Herculaneum sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges), plus discounts at other attractions

 

Enjoy free admission to various Caserta sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges), plus discounts at other attractions

 
Sightseeing passes
Santa Maria Capua Vetere

Enjoy free admission to various Santa Maria Capua Vetere sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges), plus discounts at other attractions

 
Sightseeing passes
Campi Flegrei—The Phlegrean Fields

Enjoy free admission to various Campi Flegrei—The Phlegrean Fields sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges), plus discounts at other attractions

 
 (Photo courtesy of FirenzeCard)

Enjoy free admission to various Florence sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges), plus discounts at other attractions

 

Enjoy free admission to various Venice sights and monuments (along with skip-the-line privileges), plus discounts at other attractions

 
The Cinque Terre Card (left) and the trains-included Cinque Terre Treno MS Card (right) (Photo courtesy of the Parco Nazionale Cinque Terre)
Cinque Terre Card
Cinque Terre

Enjoy admission to the trail system and various Cinque Terre sights and monuments

 

Enjoy free admission to various Milan sights and monuments—and free transit—with the Milano Pass, Milan Card, or Milan Tourist Museum Card

 
★★☆

Covers 11 civic museums and sights. Worth it.

 
★☆☆

Covers 18 churches. Must visit at least 5 to make it a savings.

 
☆☆☆

Pre-booking service for sights, transit, and services offering minor discounts

 

Tickets (biglietti) and passes for riding the Rome Métro, bus, and tram public transit system

 
One of the minibuses that service the center of Florence

Tickets and passes for riding the Florence Métro, bus, and tram public transit system