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Seeking recommendations on tours in Rome
Old 01-05-2014, 09:24 PM   #1
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Seeking recommendations on tours in Rome

Hi everyone, I am considering a trip to Rome later this year, most likely in the Fall. I have not previously been there. In researching the trip I have run across numerous options for standard tours of the city, the main historic sites, etc. But while I may take a standard 2 hour bus tour of the city just to get my bearings, I am most interested in more specialized tours and would appreciate any recommendations from those that have been there.

Specifically I am looking for, and am willing to pay a premium for, tours that are more in-depth or provide for special access to sites. I am a big fan of ancient Roman history, so for example I'd like an extended, behind-the-scenes tour of the Colosseum. Not the one hour standard walk through, more like the 3-4 hour version. Same for other famous sites like the Forum, Circus Maximus, etc. Have any of you did these "extended" tours in Rome that you could recommend?

Also, I have already found several "Skip the Line" tours listed for busy sites like the Vatican, that supposedly allow immediate entrance with no wait for a very small group led by a presumably good English-speaking guide. Can anyone recommend a company that you used for this that was good/reliable?

Finally, while I certainly will visit all the standard historical sites that everyone visits, I'd also be interested in a tour that covers some of the tier 2 historical sites that are not as visited as the Colosseum, Forum, Vatican, etc. Any suggestions for a tour that might cover a few less visited sites would be welcome as well.

As I said, I'm finding plenty of info on tours on the web, but I'd feel more comfortable booking with tours that others have found good/reliable/etc.

Thanks for any suggestions.

Larry
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Old 01-06-2014, 07:48 PM   #2
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Several of my friends have used"Rome in Limo " for custom tours and raved about them.
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Old 01-06-2014, 08:08 PM   #3
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The young wife and I spent a week in Rome in 2012. I strongly recommend that you buy tickets for the Vatican Museum on-line. When we went to the Vatican at our appointed time, we noticed that the regular line was thousands of people long and probably hours of waiting. We were able to go up to the front and go right in. Given limited time, I'd rather be in the museum than standing in line. A tour guide in the museum sounds like a nice touch, but I don't think it is absolutely required. We did fine by ourselves with a guidebook.

To buy your tickets, I highly recommend Select Italy Museums in Italy - Tickets to Italian Museums We have used them over the last 6 years to get tickets to, among others, the Uffizi in Florence, the Last Supper in Milan and, of course, the Vatican Museum. We have had absolutely no problem with them. They have a hefty handling fee, but the comfort of dealing with someone I trust is well worth it.

A fun thing to do in Rome is to take a guided tour of the catacombs. We used Dark Rome Tours for that and were very pleased with them. Rome Catacombs Tour & Basilica di San Clemente | Dark Rome Tours

Another fun thing to do is read Dan Brown's book Angels & Demons and then seek out all the places important to the story. You can do it on your own just by walking around with a guide book. That's what we did.
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Old 01-07-2014, 06:30 AM   #4
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If you go on cruisecritic.com and search for cruise that stops in Rome, you will find great resources for organizing independent walking tours. We had one that included a church within blocks of the Coliseum that was built on another church and yet another church (as the Tiber flooded over the centuries). You might even join one of them when you are in Rome.
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Old 01-08-2014, 09:36 AM   #5
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I would highly recommend you hire a private guide in Rome for exactly the reasons you mentioned. We have done this twice in Rome and always do when we visit a European or Asian city. A good thing to do is visit Ostia when in Rome . Sorry but I can 't seem to locate the guide's contact info but I will keep trying . He was actually able to get us into the Sistine Chapel alone for about 15 minutes- Priceless!!
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Old 01-08-2014, 03:30 PM   #6
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We toured Italy, Rome for three days via American Express. I don't know if they still do tours, but it was outstanding. While this was a bus tour through several cities, we took on a local tour guide at each city. For Rome it was a history professor from the American Institute in Rome. Needless to say he was extremely knowledgeable about all the sites.
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Old 01-08-2014, 04:02 PM   #7
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Half the fun of travel is researching your destination. We have had great experience with Road Scholar and they have a Rome tour. Were it me I would take a quality tour such as theirs and then stay longer to explore sites it didn't cover or go back to those you didn't get enough of.
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Old 01-09-2014, 05:18 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Moemg View Post
Several of my friends have used"Rome in Limo " for custom tours and raved about them.
We used these folks when on a cruise a year and a half ago and were very pleased. It was great to tour with the flexibility of a small group (8) in a new Mercedes limo. The cost was very affordable at 1/2 of what the cruise ship was charging that toured in a large bus. It would still be a good price for 2. We would do it again in a heart beat.

Cheers!
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Old 01-09-2014, 03:53 PM   #9
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A couple of thoughts:

Read the discussion of "skip the line" on the blog "RoninRome". I was there in September of last year and, following his advice, we walked right in, at the right time on the right day! But, as he says, if you are limited to the day and time you can go, the "skip the line" premium may be well worth it. His blog has a lot of other really useful info.

I scored tickets from the Vatican for the Scavi tour this time too. OMG. I am not religious but this was amazing. Only 250 people a day get to do it, you email them and they either send you a reservation or don't (actually it was funny because I sent in a request, never heard, then when I added a person to our party I sent an amended request and got the confirmation back within hours). This and the Borghese Gallery were the only reservations I had and, with careful timing, we saw everything we wanted without any long lines.

I definitely second the recommendation for Ostia Antica. It's easy to do on your own, a 30 minute train ride and short walk from the center of Rome.
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:57 PM   #10
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If the timing works. go to the Sunday Brunch at the Borghese Hotel and watch all the local Italians come and mingle.
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Old 01-10-2014, 08:51 PM   #11
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In the meantime, download and then listen to all 180+ episodes of The History of Rome. Fantastic stuff! People have listened to that podcast before going on any Rome tour and have found the podcast to be an excellent accompaniment.

He used to offer annual Rome tours, but now is on to 'Revolutions.' Check out the "Tour!" link, as he may again do another Rome tour.
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Old 01-16-2014, 05:11 AM   #12
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Rome is highly walkable. If I were you I would just do some minimal homework ahead of time and skip the tour guide. There's really far "too" much to see, so paring things down to what you really want to see before you get there is imperative. Just strolling the streets, eating al fresco, etc. etc. is well worth it, so plan to go slow.

I'd recommend Ostia and Orvieto as day trips from Rome--both fascinating.
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Old 01-16-2014, 07:27 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Marita40 View Post
Rome is highly walkable. If I were you I would just do some minimal homework ahead of time and skip the tour guide. There's really far "too" much to see, so paring things down to what you really want to see before you get there is imperative. Just strolling the streets, eating al fresco, etc. etc. is well worth it, so plan to go slow.

I'd recommend Ostia and Orvieto as day trips from Rome--both fascinating.
I agree. There is something fascinating around every corner and people watching with a cappuccino, dodging the swarm of tiny cars and scooters, sitting on the Spanish steps, listening to buskers, and soaking in the atmosphere is an experience not to be missed. There is so much to see it can be overwhelming. If you do take a guided tour, leave some unstructured time as well.
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Old 03-19-2014, 07:24 PM   #14
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I haven't seen anyone mention Rick Steve's book and websites for Rome info.
We used his guides to Rome and several other European cities and found them to be exceptional.
He has several free walking tour suggestions as well as recommendations for private guides, free downloadable tours of Vatican etc.. His advice for dining and dings are usually excellent
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Old 03-26-2014, 07:40 PM   #15
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Rick Steves has a walking tour in his books - I did that - it was fairly comprehensive and took you through some really interesting parts of Rome. When I was in Berlin, I used a walking tour guide -it was about 4 hours and excellent. I believe there are similar offerings for most large European cities.

I also would give yourself some free time to just roam in Rome :-) The layers of history are great....you can do ancient Rome, medieval Rome, byzantina Rome, renaissance Rome...a side trip to Pompeii via train or plane is great - you could also take a train trip to Siena (our first trip to Rome, we stayed in Siena and took the train to Rome for the day). Depending on how much time you have, you might also get a trip into Florence and/or Naples (Naples is closer to Pompeii).

Best parts of Rome to me were looking down on Roman ruins where they were fairly sure Julius Caesar had been killed (full of cats now); being in the Coliseum....; seeing Trajan's column; seeing left over Doric order column tops used in later buildings; walking in the Forum; walking in the Parthenon; seeing all the Eqyptian obelisks in Rome; seeing the mosaics and byzantine paintings on the churches; walking through the Borghese and surrounding gardens; standing at the top of the Spanish steps; seeing the Trevi fountain; eating some great pizza (Italian style - thin crust with a salad on top); seeing the modern Italian buildings next to the Forum where Mussolini did his speeches (you can recognize it from old newsreels); St Paul's cathedral and La Pieta by Michelangelo - his second best after David.......so much more now -the Rick Steve's tour took you through so many different neighborhoods, so many different fountains, ruins, ghettos, etc.

So, lots to see - the layers of history are what got me. Enjoy!!!
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Old 03-26-2014, 09:16 PM   #16
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Rick Steves rome city tour. 7 days , actually 5 1/2, great guides and fun.
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Old 03-26-2014, 11:20 PM   #17
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Rick Steves rome city tour. 7 days , actually 5 1/2, great guides and fun.
+1
We did this trip with Rick Steve's group prob 10 years ago. Have done 6 more with them.
you can do more in a week with his program than you can do your own in twice the time.
However, his trip are not for those traveler's expecting a lot of leisure.His trips also have a motto of "no grumps allowed".
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