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may 02

City Passes in Italy: Worth It or Not?

The Trevi Fountain in Rome

(Courtesy dmg33/myBudgetTravel)

Tracking down amazing Real Deals is a big part of my job here at Budget Travel, and involves breaking down the details to make sure travelers are really getting the most for their money. I decided to apply the same logic when planning out my family’s first vacation to Italy—especially when we kept running into deals that sounded too good to be true. Take the city cards and passes for Florence, Venice, and Rome. The basic idea behind them: pay a lump sum and get access to museums, historic sites, and galleries—and sometimes city buses or metro—for a discounted price rather than buying all those tickets separately. Discounts and the ability to skip enormous lines? Sounds good to me. But are they really a good deal? I looked into it and here is what I found:

Firenze Card (The Florence Card)

Price: $66 per person.

Where you can buy it: Through the website or at any of these participating attractions.

How it works: The Florence Card covers admission at 50 of the city's museums, galleries, historical villas, and gardens as well as a three–day transit pass. It remains active for 72 hours, and the clock starts when you visit your first sight. One caveat: You can only visit each place once. So savor your time with David.

The breakdown: Florence's two most popular museums, the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Gallery, cost $20 each to visit. A three–day transit ticket costs $16 per person, so entrance fees to the two must–see museums plus the transit pass already brings you to $56. For just $10 more, you get free access to 48 more sights.

The verdict: Deal!

Venice Connected (The Venice Card)

Price: $53 per person over age 30; $40 for those ages 14 to 29.

Where you can buy it: Any of these Hello Venezia ticket offices, at tourism agencies in the Mestre and Santa Lucia train stations, or at Marco Polo Airport.

How it works: You’ll get admission to the Doge’s Palace, Jewish Museum, 16 Chorus Churches, and the city’s 10 Civic Museums, plus discounts on parking outside the historic center, tours, concerts, and at shops. Plus you can take your time—the card stays active for seven days.

The breakdown: A regular ticket to the Doge’s Palace costs $26 and includes admission to the other 10 Civic Museums if you purchase the Museum Pass instead. A Chorus Pass will give you entry to 16 churches for another $13. Admission to the Jewish Museum is a mere $4 more, bringing your total to $43 without the Venice Card.

The verdict: No deal.

Roma Pass (The Rome Card)

Price: $40 per person.

Where you can buy it: Through the website or at any participating attraction.

How it works: The Roma Pass covers entrance fees to your choice of two participating museums or archaeological sites, discounted admission to more listed sites, and free use of city transit. Most of the city's attractions are covered, but note that the Vatican Museums are not part of the deal.

The breakdown: One regular ticket to the Coliseum works for two days and includes admission to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill for $24, while a three–day transit pass will set you back $15. For $1 more, you might as well take advantage of the discounts and access to another free museum. And you won't have to wait in line at the Coliseum and other typically overcrowded attractions. Which is priceless.

The verdict: Deal!

*Prices are based on one adult and include taxes and fees when purchased online. Euro–dollar conversions are shown on xe.com from April 27, 2012, and may vary over time.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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