Tours and Guides

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Tours and Guides

Orientation Tours

Some might consider them campy and kitschy, but guided bus tours can prove a blissfully easy way to enjoy a quick introduction to the city's top sights—if you don’t feel like being on your feet all day. Sitting in a bus, with friendly tour guide commentary (and even friendlier fellow sightseers, many of whom will be from every country under the sun), can make for a delightful and fun experience—so give one a whirl even if you're an old Rome hand. Of course, you'll want to savor these incredible sights at your own leisure later on.

Appian Line, Carrani, Vastours (in collaboration with American Express), and other operators offer half-day and full-day tours in air-conditioned buses with English-speaking guides. The four main itineraries are: "Ancient Rome," "Classic Rome," "Christian Rome," and "The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel." Half-day tours cost around €35 and full-day tours (including lunch and entrance fees) are between €100 and €137. The Musei Vaticani tour costs €60, but offers the advantage of not having to queue (sometimes for an hour or more) at the museum doors, awaiting your turn for admission. All the companies pick you up at centrally located hotels.

All operators can provide a luxury car for up to three people, a limousine for up to seven, or a minibus for up to nine, all with an English-speaking driver, but guide service is extra. Almost all operators offer "Rome by Night" tours, with or without dinner and entertainment. You can book tours through travel agents.

Various sightseeing buses following a continuous circle route through the center of town operate daily. Stop-'n'-Go has eight daily departures and makes 14 scheduled stops at important sites, where you can get on and off at will. Check with the Rome tourist information kiosks or inquire at your hotel for prices and further information.

The least expensive organized sightseeing tour of Rome is that run by ATAC, the municipal bus company. Double-decker Bus 110 leaves from Piazza dei Cinquecento, in front of Termini station, but you can pick it up at any of its 10 stopover points. A day ticket costs about €18 and allows you to stop off and get on as often as you like. The price includes an audio guide system in six languages. The total tour takes about two hours and covers the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, St. Peter's, the Trevi Fountain, and Via Veneto. Tickets can be bought on board. Two-day and three-day tickets are also available. Tours leave from Termini station every 20 minutes between 9 am and 8:30 pm.

The Archeobus, which takes you to the Old Appian Way, the Catacombs, and the new Park of the Aqueducts in the open countryside, also operates with the stop ’n' go formula. Little 15-seater buses leave from Piazza della Cinquecento every hour between 10 am and 4 pm. Tickets cost €12 and are valid all day. A combined 110 and Archeobus ticket costs €25 and is valid for one day.

Of course, you get a real bargain if you do your sightseeing "tours" of Rome by public transport. Many buses and trams pass major sights. With a single €1 ticket you can get in 75 minutes of sightseeing (or an entire day, with a €4 giornaliero ticket). Time your ride to avoid rush hours. The little electric Bus 116 scoots through the heart of Old Rome, with stops near the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and Piazza del Popolo, among others. The route of Bus 117 takes in San Giovanni in Laterano, the Colosseum, and the Spanish Steps.

Since certain parts of the historic center are open to pedestrians only, some walking is involved in most escorted bus tours of the city. Don't forget to dress appropriately for visits to churches. Tour operators can also organize minibus tours for small parties.

Bus Line

ATAC (06/57003. www.atac.roma.it.)

Tour Operators

American Express (06/67642250. www.americanexpress.com/italy.)

Appian Line (06/48786601. www.appianline.it.)

Carrani (Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando 95, Repubblica, Rome, 00185. 06/4742501. www.carrani.com.)

Ciao Roma Trolley Tour (06/47824580. ciaoromaopenbus.com.)

Stop-'n'-go City Tours (06/48905729.)

Vastours (06/4814309. www.vastours.it.)

Rex Segway Tours (www.rex-tours.com.)

Special-Interest Tours

You can make your own arrangements (at no cost) to attend a public papal audience at the Vatican or at the pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. The easiest way is to request them online through the Santa Susanna Church, the American Catholic Church of Rome (www.santasusanna.org/popevatican/tickets.html). You can also book through a travel agency for a package that includes coach transportation to the Vatican for the audience and some sightseeing along the way, returning you to your hotel, for about €35. The excursion outside Rome to Castel Gandolfo on summer Sundays for the pope's blessing costs about €45. Agencies that arrange these tours include Appian Line and Carrani.

Tourvisa Italia organizes lunch and dinner boat trips on the Tiber, departing and returning to Ponte Sant'Angelo. Boats leave four times daily for a cruise that covers all of the main historical bridges of Rome and other important sights. Tickets cost approximately €35 for lunch and €55 for dinner. The company also does combined bus and boat tours lasting 2½ hours.

A ride in a horse-drawn carriage is the Rome equivalent of a gondola ride in Venice. Coachmen can be contacted directly at popular sights like St. Peter's Square and the Colosseum. An hour's ride for four passengers to view the fountains of Rome will cost around €150, depending on your bargaining skills.

Centro Studi Cassia organizes courses in Italian cooking, art, music, and current events in simple Italian. This is an enjoyable way to learn to speak some of the language and, at the same time, find out more about the culture and traditions of the country.

Tour Operators

Appian Line (06/487861. www.appianline.it.)

Carrani (Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando 95, Repubblica, Rome, 00185. 06/4742501. www.carrani.com.)

Centro Studi Cassia (06/33253852. www.centrostudicassia.it.)

Tourvisa Italia (06/448741. www.tourvisa.it.)

Walking Tours

In Rome, there are tours and there are tours. Why pay to be led around by someone who just memorizes some lines and gives you the run-of-the-mill tour, when you can learn firsthand from the experts? Context Rome is an organization formed by a group of architects, archaeologists, art historians, sommeliers, and professors that give specialized walking seminars to small intimate groups (no more than six people) in and around Rome. Every day of the week offers five or six theme walks, which might include Imperial Rome: Architecture and History of the Archaeological Center; Underground Rome: The Hidden City; Baroque Rome: The Age of Bernini; Vatican Collections, and even Rome Shopping. Prices range from €55–€75 per person. If you want to get graduate "summa cum laude" as a serious Rome tourist and aficionado, the walking tours of Context Rome—with 26 PhDs and 25 Masters docents in its ranks—can't be beat. Similar to Context, Walks of Italy focuses on sustainable travel and also gives specialized tours of Rome in small, intimate groups.

All About Rome, Enjoy Rome, Through Eternity, and Argiletum Tour also offer some fascinating walking tours of the city and its sights. Argiletum and the cultural association Genti e Paesi offer regular walking tours and museum visits in English, including private tours of the Sistine Chapel before all the hordes arrive. Book at least one day in advance. For a popular food tour that’s off-the-beaten path, check out Eating Italy Food Tours, in Testaccio. Owner Kenny Dunn takes you behind the scenes at the Testaccio open-air food market, various mom-and-pop restaurants, and specialty food shops and explains the history of this working-class neighborhood and the “slow food” movement in Italy. If you have a reasonable knowledge of Italian, you can take advantage of the free guided visits and walking tours organized by Rome's cultural associations and the city council for museums and monuments. These usually take place on weekends. Programs are announced in the daily papers and in the weekly magazine roma c'è.

Those who want to see everything during their trip to Rome without eliminating their daily run or workout might consider hiring a guide from Sight Jogging Tours. The company consists of highly experienced trainers that give tours of Rome based on the level of difficulty chosen by the client. Routes may take in Villa Borghese, Imperial Forum and Colloseum, St. Peter's Basilica, and many other sights. Trainers meet tourists at their hotel and take them back after the run is over. Most tours take 45–60 minutes and cost about €85 per person per hour.

Tour Operators

Argiletum Tour (Via Madonna dei Monti 49, Monti, Rome, 00184. 06/45438906. www.argiletumtour.com.)

Context Rome (Via Santa Maria Maggiore 145, Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, 00184. 06/97625204 within Italy; 800/691–6036 within the U.S. www.contexttravel.com.)

Eating Italy Food Tours (800/838–3006 from the U.S. or Canada; 800/4118881 within Europe. www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com.)

Enjoy Rome (Via Marghera 8/A, Termini, Rome, 00185. 06/4451843. www.enjoyrome.com.)

Genti e Paesi (Via Adda 111, Parioli, Rome, 00198. 06/85301755. www.gentiepaesi.it.)

Sightjogging (347/3353185. www.sightjogging.it.)

Through Eternity (06/7009336. www.througheternity.com.)

Walks of Italy (334/9744274 within Italy; 202/684–6916 within the U.S. www.walksofitaly.com.)

Excursions

Most operators offer half-day excursions to Tivoli to see the fountains and gardens of Villa D'Este. Appian Line's afternoon tour to Tivoli includes a visit to Hadrian's Villa, with its impressive ancient ruins, as well as the many-fountained Villa D'Este. Most operators also have full-day excursions to Assisi, to Pompeii and/or Capri, and to Florence.

Tour Operator

Appian Line (Piazza Esquilino 6/7, Esquilino, Rome, 00185. 06/48786601. www.appianline.it.)

Personal Guides

You can arrange for a personal guide through the main APT (Azienda Per Turismo) Tourist Information Office.

Tour Operator

APT (Via Parigi 11, Repubblica, Rome, 00185. 06/51687240.)

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