We are spending a week in Florence and Venice this September. Anyone have suggestions as to purchasing passes to all important museums and sights so we won't spend long hours in line?
We were in Florence in 2011. Prior to leaving we emailed our hotel and asked them to make reservations for us at the Academia and the Uffizi Gallery (two different days). They did that and did not charge us and it worked out fine. I understand you can also book by phone or online but booking fees are high to a middleman. Also, I understand that if you phone you have a smaller booking fee, but it sometimes takes a while to get through and you don't have to pay for the ticket until you get there. Booking online is expensive and sometimes iffy. You do want to book these places as soon as you can as they are both very busy. We did not book ahead for the Pitti Palace or the Medici chapels. It was no problem. I do have a blog on our visit to Florence on my Untours Cafe page.
We were in Venice in 2005. The only long line I remember was at St. Mark's and I'm not aware of any way to make prior reservations. However, if you have a backpack you must check it and that bagcheck tag will let you skip the line. Almost worth taking a bag, just to skip through the long line. This was an Untours and I remember our local person, Denny, told us if we were going to take a gondola ride to ask the gondollier to take us down the side canals, not the Grand canal. You will be riding that often and the side canal rides are much more interesting. We also shared the gondola ride with another couple from the Untours group. Denny had also told us to barter with the gondolier. We did and got him down in price, but I'm sure he made out ok. For a change of pace from all the other places we visited, we also included a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.
We were in Venice in April 2011. The only long lines we experienced were at St. Mark's and the best advice I can give for there is to go very early in the day, got to the campanile when it opens and ride up, then by the time the church opens you will already be there. It was glorious! Be sure to go to the Scuolo San Rocco--on the second floor are murals that will surely take your breath; much like the Sistine Chapel. Avoid the barkers in Murano if you can, don't be sucked into a tour there, but just wander around on your own. Wandering Venice turned into our favorite pastime! It is a very approachable city, and since you don't drive, you can't get lost for long! The Guggenheim Museum was fabulous if you need a change from history--all modern art, very fun. Rialto Market was another highlight, but the small Santa Margherita market was also great. We do a lot of cooking for ourselves and like to explore the markets. I also have a Venice blog on my Untours Cafe page so you can see that if you want.
Have a wonderful time.
We purchased Firenze Passes on-line. Not sure best approach to picking them up to optimize our 72 hour time frame to use them. Any experienced travelers out there?
Steve, what we usually do is look at the museums and decide which is the highest priority, then go from there. You can't see it all in 72 hours anyway, so think about what you'd hate to miss and go from there. You have to study and make a chart almost of opening times etc and estimate from the museum websites how long you think you want to spend in each one. Get to your highest priority a little before opening time and wait. You can't totally avoid some lines, even card holders may not whisk in due to separate security checks etc. Security lines are not entrance lines... But it will be faster than just going and standing.
There is a pickup point at the airport--your time starts when you enter the first museum (or if you use it to ride public transport it starts then, I think), not when you pick them up. Am sure there is one at the train station too. The hard part is deciding what you want to see and only you can do that. Leave some time for wandering along the Arno or just watching people in the big squares. It's a beautiful city. In Italy I have never been really put out by long lines to go anywhere.
Thanks Susan. Appreciate your thoughts. Makes sense. I value your help with the tip of picking up Firenze Pass at the airport. Will think kind thoughts of you when we do so! Wish us luck. Particularly when catching train to Venice. :)
We did the Florence - Venice Untour a few years ago ------- we bought our museum passes on-line before departure and put those days and times into our pre-planning. Worked out well.
Oh yes --- be sure and understand how to use the bus pass in Florence ---------- we got a stern lecture from a transit cop for not using it right.