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1st Time Visitor to Rome

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Traveling to Rome and Venice for the first time with my three adult boys on Jan 2nd. of 2016. I see a lot of information online about how crowed Rome is and about purchasing in advance all of your tour packages. Since we will be traveling in the beginning of Jan. will the city be a lot less crowded than normal? Do we really need to purchase in advance tickets to Vatican to avoid the early morning long lines?

Trying to decide if we want to spend the money on a tour guide or go at our own pace? Do we really need a tour company to assist in visiting the Colosseum and the Forum Staying near the Patheon so i'm also looking for some affordable places to eat while in Rome with my boys? Thanks Tim

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