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Colosseum tour question

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I've been searching the forums for info on tours and looking at different tour sites. I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple tour operators.

My question is, does it really take 3 hours to do a tour of the Colosseum, Palatine & Roman Forum? (Do we need to see all 3?) We will be traveling in September with our 3 children (who will be 7,9 and 13) We will be staying in Orvieto and taking the train in (we will have a car so may drive to a closer station..haven't really figured that part out yet. We only have 4 nights in Orvieto so no time to actually stay in Rome)

I know we want to see the colosseum, trevi fountain and - The Mouth of Truth (La Bocca della Verità) -

I would love just to stand outside of the Vatican (being a catholic) guessing we won't have time to see really anything there but I'm okay with that.

I'm thinking to do a tour..my husband and I have traveled quite a bit on our own but think with the girls it would be worthwhile to do a tour.

Thoughts?

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    IMHO 3 hours for the sites you mention is really a very quick look - not a through exploration. (We spend about 4 hours just exploring the Forum - this was the center of ancient Rome politics and civic life and has the remains of numerous public buildings.

    Before doing that tour I would make sure the kids know in advance enough about ancient Rome (get some gladiator movies and a kids history) so they have a clue what they are looking about - or it could be a really long, hot day (all out in the open, practically no shade. And do check out the basics yourself, When we were in the forum one outraged mother in a tour group was irate when the the guide started talking about the Temple of the Vestal Virgins (she objected to the word - and somehow thought they were prostitutes - rather than a major part of the religion of the time). She created a very awkward scene and took her family and walked off muttering about unchristian. (Don;t know if she didn't understand Rome was PRE christian).

    I can;t imagine Orvieto over Rome - but them we're history buffs.

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    Do you need to see all three? If you are not interested in Roman history or architecture, none of them are relevant. Many think there is such a thing as unqualified must see list for everyone, but it really depends on what one values.

    Three hours? It is either too much or too little depending on your interest. If you look at a map, it is a large area with ups and downs. Just walking around without stopping and contemplating what marks each emperor wanted to leave on the hill and at the forum would probably take two hours. Depending on the time of the year it can be very hot and can be way beyond what small children care to do unless they have been prepped about the Roman empire and recognize things they have read or seen before. Except for the Colosseum, many things have lost shapes and unless one knows what they were and what they looked like, and what were significant about them, all you see are probably piles of stones.

    If you want to visit Vatican, and specifically inside of St. Peters, you must make through the baggage check before 8:30am, perhaps 9:00am is the limit of tolerable security line as tour groups pour into the basilica. The line progressively get longer. You really don't want to bring a large bag requiring a baggage check. The process is PITA. I would think that if you are Catholic, isn't it a not to be missed visit? For a more in depth visit, there is a resource for the U.S. Catholic visitors www.pnac.org/visitorsoffice.

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    I really can't imagine doing Rome as a day trip. There is so much to see and do. I've been there for a total of 10 days so far and there is still so much more I want to see. It took us the better part of a day to see the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill. You will need to take a bit of time to make your way over to the Vatican. Just to stand there? I would probably forget it. Plan on doing a lot of walking to get from the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain. They are not close by each other. What are your plans for your time in Orvieto?

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    With children that young, and in the summer, I wouldn't take a tour at all. If the weather is really hot, you might want to just have a look at all of it from the outside and go get a gelato. The first time I saw the Colosseum, it was during a heat wave. At that time, you could see inside a bit from the entrance. I looked at those blinding tiers of seats reflecting the sun, and said, "OK, I've seen it, let's go." However, I was much more interested in the Roman Forum and spent several hours there. The Colosseum was really just a sports stadium, after all, whereas Rome ruled most of the western world for centuries from the Roman Forum.

    On more recent trips with kids, I've found that the Palatine Hill is a bigger hit with kids than either the Colosseum or the Roman Forum. It's greener and cooler, and the kids can run about a bit. They will see the ruins of the emperor's palace, and there are also lovely views over the Roman Forum from the Palatine Hill.

    It's true that if you go to St. Peter's Basilica before 8:30, you can usually get in very quickly, and admission is free, so I would try for that. If you're coming from Orvieto, there's no way you can get there that early, though. However, the lines also start to disappear at around 5 PM. I once walked right in at around that time, in high summer, on a day when the queue was snaking right outside the piazza earlier on the same day. I would try for that; the inside is impressive, to say the least, and at least you'd see Michelangelo's Pietà sculpture and Bernini's baldacchino (altar canopy).

    I would try to get to the Colosseum area as early as possible, to avoid the worst of the heat. Walk around and see as much as you can. You can usually buy tickets at the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill without much of a wait, in case you decide to go inside the Colosseum. However, I think that even a walk around is very interesting, and you'd get to see some things that most people miss while making a mad dash from one "must-see" to the next. You could see Constantines' Arch, and Trajan's Column, and the Imperial Forums, and a good deal of the Roman Forum, just by walking up one side of Via dei Fori Imperiali and down the other side. Trajan's Market might be interesting to enter; it's fascinating to walk around inside a two-story ancient Roman building. The upper floors were mostly administrative offices and the lower floors were probably mostly shops and storage rooms, although experts are not totally agreed on this. From inside Trajan's Market, you can also exit onto the ancient Via Biberatica, one of the best preserved ancient Roman streets in Italy, with the original Roman paving blocks and Roman shops on both sides of the street. In the door sills, you can see the grooves where the shopkeepers placed the wooden shutters when they closed up shop. The last shutter had an axis that was placed in a hole in the sill (still visible). The shopkeeper entered the shop, closed this last swinging shutter, barred it on the inside, and climbed up the stairs to his dwelling above the shop. I, for one, find this more fascinating, and educational for the kids, than the Colosseum.

    You could also walk up to the Piazza del Campidoglio above the Roman Forum. This beautiful piazza was designed by Michelangelo. The equestrian statue in the center is a replica of an ancient statue of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. The original is inside the Capitoline Museums, one of Rome's top museums, which occupy the two buildings on either side of the piazza. The central building is the Rome City Hall. On weekends, you often see weddings there. If you walk around to the side of the central building, you'll have great views over the Forum.

    After you've seen all you want to see (or all the kids can take), you could get a taxi or bus to either Piazza Navona or Trevi Fountain. It's about a ten-minute walk from one to the other, and on the way you shouldn't miss the Pantheon. You really have to go inside to appreciate the dome, which was a marvel of ancient Roman engineering. For over 1000 years, it was the world's largest dome, and it's still the concrete dome in the world. (The dome of the Duomo of Florence took the title of largest dome from the Pantheon during the Renaissance.) You also might want to pop into the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which is right next to the Pantheon, to your left at you face the door. This beautiful church in one of the very few Gothic churches in Rome, at least on the inside; the outside is rather nondescript.

    You can find plenty of places to eat in this area, but I would avoid the restaurants that are very close to the major tourist sights.

    After you've had this little walk around the center of Rome, and had your lunch, it may be getting close to the time that you could head to St. Peter's and stand a good chance of getting in without a long wait. If you still have a little time to kill, depending on how much time, you might want to see the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, which has three Caravaggio paintings, a treasure that most museums would give their eye teeth for. This church is just a little north of Piazza Navona.

    Or, if you have at least an hour, you could visit the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, a wonderful museum that my granddaughter absolutely loved. It's a Renaissance palazzo still owned, and partially inhabited, by descendants of the Doria Pamphilj family. The entrance is on Via del Corso, very near the Pantheon, and more or less on the way to Trevi Fountain. There is an excellent audio guide included in the admission fee, narrated by a member of the family, in which he talks of roller skating with his cousins in one of the long hallways. The family's art collection is still hung on the walls. There are some great works of art there, but a lot of mediocre works also. They're hung all over the walls, covering nearly every inch, the way people hung paintings back in the Renaissance. St. Peter's Basilica closes at 6 PM in the summer, so you would want to get there by no later than 5:30.

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    Thank you ALL so much for your kind and very helpful responses. I need to sit and take them all in and process :)

    We live in Atlanta (aka HOTlanta) so I'm not worried about the heat. My kids and I are both used to being outdoors all day in the summer (not that we enjoy it!)

    Nytraveler that is funny...no worries about my husband and I causing a scene like that :) We don't really like cities as much as smaller towns (on our previous trip to Italy we stayed in Florence for a few days and really wished we hasn't and just done it as a day trip..I know the cities aren't the same)

    Greg...the tours are generally 3 hours which is how I got to that number. I'm thinking I will be in the "too long" category. I like to see historic things but just get the basics of what they are about if that makes sense.

    Michele..I would love to spend more time there but this trip it isn't possible. We will do what we want to see in Rome one of our first days in Orvieto so if we want to go back and see more we can. We used to live 1.5 from NYC and would do a lot of day trips. You just have to pick and choose what you want to see and realize that you just need to come back :) in the Orvieto area we are going to see Orvieto, deruta again since I think my kids would love to see where the bowls we have here came from and to watch the artists and maybe Spello again. I'm going to have itineraries for different places we want to see and if we see them we see them if not we don't..with kids flexibility is key! They are also going to do a cooking class at the farm we are staying at.

    Bvlenci...thank you!! So many fabulous ideas! I need to print it out and study it to get a plan. Thank you for taking so much time to help me. It is greatly appreciated :)

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    Take a few umbrellas for the sun. Merely a hat will leave you too hot. An umbrella does the trick.

    You don't need to do a tour, you can get a ticket for all three and go at your own pace. Unless of course you want to see the Hypogeum - underground Colosseum - which requires a tour.

    Agreed, don't buy tickets at the Colosseum as the line will be too long. Go to the Palatine Hill to get tickets. You don't have to enter it if you don't want to, the tickets are good in all three places.

    I would visit the Pantheon over the Trevi Fountain if you are pressed for time. Nearby is a very good gelato place (Giolitti) as well as Tazza d'Oro for some granita di caffe con panna (heavenly).

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    You might also consider what my friends did, hire a guide/driver for the day for the family. Not cheap of course but for the highlights. . . They were glad they did not because it was too hot (it was early spring) but because it poured rain all three days they were there. Some on here may have specific recos or you might check out www.viator.com or www.toursbylocals.com to get an idea of what might be possible.

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    You don't have to do a tour. You could rent the audioguides from the Colosseum or download Rick Steves Colosseum/Forum from Itunes (free) and also for St. Peter's. The Colosseum offers their own tour (45 minutes), but would have to be booked in advance (5€).

    http://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/audio/audio-tours/italy

    If you took the train, it's easy to hop the metro at Termini to the Colosseum or to the Vatican.

    http://www.atac.roma.it/files/doc.asp?r=4

    The Mouth of Truth is behind the Forum/Palantine. You could take the metro one stop further or just walk from the Colosseum Perhaps exit the Forum/Palantine at the Palantine entrance. There's usually a line at the Mouth of Truth.

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