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: $80 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 67 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 $25 and $9 respectively to visit. A three–day transit ticket costs $18 per person, so entrance fees to the two must–see museums plus the transit pass already brings you to $56. For just $28 more, you get free access to 65 more sights.
The verdict: Deal!
VeneziaUnica City Pass (The Venice Card)
Price: $44 per person over age 30; $33 for those ages 6 to 29.
Where you can buy it: Create your own card online with options that will make the most of your trip, whether you're planning to use public transit or just walk and see the various museums of Vence. You can also find the City Pass at 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 $27 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 $44 without the Venice Card. For the same price, you'll have access to more museums and have seven days to use it.
The verdict: Deal—if you're planning to museum-hop and see everything the Venice Pass has to offer.
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 $26, while a three–day transit pass will set you back $18. For $4 less, 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 shown here are in USD, are based on one adult, and include taxes and fees when purchased online. Euro–dollar conversions are shown on xe.com from August 17, 2015, and may vary over time.