One drizzly February evening I was locating the various archaeological sites in Rome on Google Earth in preparation for adding Italy to Archaeology Travel, and then as if by slight of mouse I was searching for flights to Rome. A few days later I was sitting in a café across from the Colosseum in bright sunshine. With tomato and mozzarella bruschetta and a glass of wine I was studying the details of the Roma Pass I had acquired on my way from the hotel to the Colosseum. If the internet made getting to Rome easy, a Roma Pass is indispensable for getting around the eternal city.

Contents of the Roma Pass wallet, the ticket, a map and information on all the attractions in the scheme.

The Roma Pass gives the holder free access to two participating attractions within the City of Rome and then discounts to the others visited thereafter, as well as unlimited use of Rome’s public transport network within zone A – this includes buses and trains. Cardholders are also entitled to medical assistance should they require it. These benefits last for three days – up until midnight of the third day (for transport purposes obviously), and starts when the holder activates the card at the first attraction or for the first journey on public transport.

If used strategically, at €30 each the Roma Pass is very good value for money. In a three day period, you can pack in a lot and the costs soon start adding up, particularly for families. So think about your three days carefully and you can save quite a bit. For example, albeit a very simple and obvious one, from your list of participating attractions that you want to visit, choose the two most expensive to go to first – they will be free.

The list of attractions in Rome participating in the scheme is extensive. It is not only for the archaeology sites of Rome, but also the planetarium and the zoological museum, as well as a number of other contemporary museums and art galleries. And in these participating institutions, temporary exhibitions and other events that are normally ticketed as extra are included. But do look at either the website, or the accompanying leaflets, for which sites and museums are part of the scheme as not all the obvious ones are – the Vatican museums are not.

The Roma Pass can be bought online, but I thought given that is so easily available in many places it is just as easy and no more expensive to buy in Rome. (NB There are restrictions when buying online.) For your €30 you get a small ‘wallet’ that includes all the necessary information about what attractions you can visit with the pass, a very good fold-out map, up-to-date information about other participating events, and details about the medical assistance should you need it. The all important ticket itself is the size of a credit card, and has a chip within it that works by a Radio Frequency Identification system. You only need to sign it, and it gets activated the first time you use it.

When using it for the metro, just don’t do what I did.

Swipe your Roma Pass card on the yellow pad

Swipe your Roma Pass card on the yellow pad

Having been politely ejected from the Palatine at 6 pm on my first day I decided I had had enough for one day and headed back to my hotel. Walking by the Colosseum I stopped to take a few more photographs. Seeing the nearby metro sign was the last straw, my feet were simply not going to go any further. So I decided to try out my Roma Pass on the metro. To my shame, the ticket gate would not accept my ticket and there was no one official in sight. I tried and tried again, until some young chap indicated I should follow in after him quickly. Which I did. I have to admit to then being concerned about how I was going to get out at the other end, as my ticket would not show I ‘started’ a journey. That fear turned out to be needless – I just walked out. Thinking there was something wrong with my Roma Pass, for two days I quickly followed in after unsuspecting ticket holders. It was not until the end of my third day I saw someone rub their card on the yellow pad of the ticket gate. Of course the instructions are quite clear: “it should not be inserted … touch your card on the yellow reader to get through buses and metro trains. A Green light indicates that the card was read correctly.” The joys of travelling!

I did not really use the metro that often, as all the sites I visited are in close proximity to each other. Walking between them was not only easy, but interesting as there are just so many bits of ruins here, there and everywhere. For more detailed information, the terms and conditions, etc., visit the Roma Pass website.

And the best companion to the Roma Pass? For anyone wanting an in depth guide to the archaeology of Rome, one that will tell you just what all those bits of ruins are (or were), I highly recommend the Oxford Archaeological Guide to Rome by Amanda Claridge (Read a review, but the book is available on both and

More Tips & Information about Visiting Rome & The Vatican

For more information about archaeology sites in Rome available on this website, start with the following pages, and follow links hat interest you:

Omnia Card for Rome and the Vatican

Above I outlined the benefits of using the Roma Pass. The Omnia Rome and Vatican Pass is another card altogether, and one that includes the Roma Pass. The Omnia Rome and Vatican Pass from Go City includes full or reduced entry into most of the main attractions in Rome and Vatican City over a three day period (consecutive days). Public transport is also available for Omnia cardholders, as is fast track entry into many sites and museums. But as anyone will tell you, the free transport is less of a benefit than skipping long queues (especially in summer) as most of the site you will visit are within easy walking distance of each other. Sometimes it really is just quicker to walk from A to B than try and find the Metro links.