Do we need a private tour guide in Rome?

Aug 12th, 2003, 07:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Do we need a private tour guide in Rome?


We are going to Italy for the first time and our first stop is Rome for four days. Do you recommend a tour guide for the Vatican, Colisseum, etc. Please advise. Our hotel, Hotel de Russie, charges 55 euros per hour. Is it worth it? Please advise.
juliekenney is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 07:08 AM
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Julie, have you looked into Scala Reale. There are great things posted her about them. Cost for 4+hour Vatican museum tour is 50euro. I cant give you a first hand until after Oct 5, that is when I return home. I am booked with them for the vatican tour. Good luck, Mary
marymac is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 07:18 AM
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Scala Reale is a wonderful organization, both efficient and reliable. Guides are all native English speakers (I believe) and are scholars or teachers in art, history, architecture, etc. They offer small tours (6 or fewer people) that are both incredibly informative and entertaining. My 4 hours on the Colosseum and Forum just flew by, and my regret is that I didn't use them for the Vatican--I will next time.
No matter whom you go with, wear sturdy walking shoes in the Forum, it is rocky and pavement is uneven.

Enjoy Rome also offers tours that are I believe shorter, and often praised, perhaps for those who want less information or less walking or less time in the tour.
elaine is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 07:32 AM
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Forgive me for repeating myself from another thread:

"I'm going out on a limb here and will mention my all-time favorite Rome art guide. Her name is Elizabeth Lev and she can be contacted through
Elizabeth is a much sought after English-speaking art historian who specializes in the Borghese Collection as well as the Vatican Museum Collection. She is a particular favorite among high-powered clergy and political dignitaries from all over the globe. She also guides regular folk who have a strong desire to acquire deeper knowledge and insight into Rome's precious art. She's a modest star within Rome's art/guide curcuit. Her fee is within reach if you value the quality of your education. She's a four-star art historian and a part-time university professor in Rome. Of all the Rome guides I've had through the years, Elizabeth is passion and knowledge personified. NOBODY does an art musuem quite like Elizabeth."

Tom Rankin, Scala's founder, is also one of Rome's best guides and their inside poop is among the best you can find in Rome. This group is a favorite with the Hollywood set if anybody cares about that.

If you can afford de Russie, you can afford Scala. The real question is how much intellectual stimulation are you looking for?
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 07:42 AM
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Julie, lucky you staying at the Russie; we had dinner there last year in September, sitting outside in the garden. It was magical! It's a beautiful hotel.
Tulips is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 07:59 AM
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NYCFoodSnob ~

Do you have a guide recommendation for the Forum, Colisseum, catacombs, etc?
MizzEve is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 08:19 AM
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All of the organizations listed below have been mentioned on this forum at one time or another.

Scala Reale gets rave reviews but is a bit pricey for some folks. enjoyrome worked for me.
Aug 12th, 2003, 08:40 AM
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To answer your question directly, IMHO its not worth 55E an hour for most people.

However, unless you love to research things ahead of time, its usually worth paying $15 to $30 dollars for a two to four hour orientation or area specific walking tour. Its a great way to get your bearings in a strange town and is really a small amount of money considering what you spend on airfare and hotels.
Aug 12th, 2003, 08:43 AM
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Another hearty recommendation for Scale Reale, a cut above the usual tour guides. They charge about 50 Euros per person for a 4 hour tour, so it will be cheaper than the de Russie (who just contracts out anyway). The website for Scale Reale is

I also loved the de Russie, last stayed there about a year ago. If you want to have any spa treatments, book now as they are usually full.
Cicerone is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 10:03 AM
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MissEve: Contact Tom Rankin at ScalaReala and ask if he can put you in touch with Dr. Richard Westall. Serious inquiries only please. If you've never read "Suetonius: The Twelve Ceasars" then you might be wasting Dr. Westhall's time.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Aug 13th, 2003, 12:32 AM
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We took the tour the Colosseum ticket office offered and really enjoyed it. I forget the price but it was not expensive. I have been to the Colosseum before without a guide, but this was a much better experience. There were many guides outside of the Colosseum also trying to sell tours, but I don't know how those would be.
KathrynT is offline  
Aug 13th, 2003, 07:56 AM
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NYCFoodSnob -

" If you've never read "Suetonius: The Twelve Ceasars" then you might be wasting Dr. Westhall's time."

Why would I be wasting his time?
MizzEve is offline  
Aug 13th, 2003, 08:10 AM
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Good question, Eve. I would think that an excellent tour guide would be one who would inspire one to read a book simply based on the excellence of his tour. Not one who would make reading the book a requirement for the tour. But perhaps I misinterpret?
Aug 25th, 2003, 11:42 AM
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Used Tom Rankin's ScalaReale two years ago, including several of his guides. For the Forum and adjoining sites, request Gregory, an American scholar. His five-hour private tour is not inexpensive, but is the best I've experienced. I arranged for four of us to use him for the morning and early afternoon, and it was tremendous. Tom Rankin's outfit is 24k quality. We even used it for airport transporation services.
Aug 25th, 2003, 02:18 PM
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I agree with all the raves re: ScalaReale. We used them for both the Vatican Museum and the Coliseum/Forum. As this is your first trip to Italy I think it would be beneficial to really understand what you are looking at. You could breeze through the Coliseum on your own and think "wow - this is pretty awesome" but having someone who knows what they are talking about explain about the construction and dispell some of the myths of what when on there makes sense of the whole thing.We visited the Uffizi Gallery in Florence after Rome and tried to guide ourselves through it with a book and to be quite honest, I found it to be a total bore. Half the time I wasn't sure I was looking at the right thing.50 Euro for four + hours seems much more reasonable than the hourly charge by your hotel and the small size of the ScalaReale tours make it very personal.
lm is offline  
Aug 27th, 2003, 01:30 PM
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just got back from Itlay and couldn't agree more with Im's posting - my thoughts exactly. We wished that there was a Scala Real-like tour when we were in Florence, we probably would have enjoyed it more. We took the Navona tour (night tour) and the Ancient Rome tour. AMAZING.
jodalahh is offline  
Aug 28th, 2003, 05:11 AM
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I absolutely recommend a private guide. We would not have gotten as much out of the Vatican museums or Colloseum/Forum areas without ours. Johnny from Through Eternity ( was absolutely amazing...we were with him for 9 hours. He was so knowledgeable about art and history and very enthusiastic. However, he never overwhelmed us with too much information as some guides do. Every other guide we had or overheard in other cities paled in comparison to Johnny.
Lina is offline  

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