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Guided tours in Rome, which one to choose ?

Guided tours in Rome, which one to choose ?

Jul 18th, 2012, 10:51 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2011
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Guided tours in Rome, which one to choose ?

I posted another post regarding our itinerary.

I figured, I would start a new post regarding the guided tour.

We are considering 2 options. (we are a family of 4)

#1. Private tour including underground tour of Colosseum, Palantine Hill and Forum. This is for 4.5 hr (incl half hour of break) and it is costing us 319 Euros including the tickets.

#2: Colosseum and Forum tour with "Roma Experience ": This is a 2.5 hr tour but not including the "underground" and top tier of Colosseum. And this doesn't cover the Palantine Hill too.. This is costing us 156 Euros !!!

Is the "underground" and top tier of Colosseum a must see ? Since the price difference is so much b/w the 2 tours, we are a bit in dilemma which one to choose.

Thanks
Shubha
shubha_r is offline  
Jul 18th, 2012, 05:19 PM
  #2  
 
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I can't decide for you, but here is something to consider....how many participants does the tour company include in one group? Consider an operator who focuses on smaller groups, rather than a private tour. I would also recommend taking a look at recent reviews for tours that you want to do on Trip Advisor...you will find reviews for the company and as you read you will find ones that are specific to the sites you are interested in.

We plan to use Walks of Italy and Context b/c they get excellent reviews on this forum, from people we know who have used them and on Trip Advisor. They focus on smaller tours and are known for excellent guides/docents. If you are going to shell out your hard earned money, you want to get the best possible experience. I don't know Roma Experience, so they may also focus on small groups and get excellent reviews.

How old are the participants? Smaller children will probably not enjoy a 4.5 hour experience, but you only say you are a family of 4. Older kids and teens may enjoy getting to see more. Just a few things to think about while planning.
denisea is offline  
Jul 18th, 2012, 06:10 PM
  #3  
 
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Last time we were there, we got a tour from the official on-site guides. We had to wait in a small line-up but as far as I remember it only cost us €10-15, that would have been about 2007. It lasted about 1 hour or so which is my tolerance level. We probably did the short tour.

I hope some-one else can weigh in on this, since we will be there in October and want to do another tour.
sundriedpachino is offline  
Jul 18th, 2012, 10:57 PM
  #4  
 
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A private guide makes such a difference when traveling with kids. I don't know yours of course, but I would lean toward that option for that reason alone. Your kids get to ask all the questions. A good guide will be prepared to make the scene come alive for them. My kids felt it was one of their absolutely favorite things when in Rome and they were 10, 7 and 5 at the time. The underground was not open yet so not an option.

The private guide I used years ago is still going strong--I recently emailed her. Daniella Hunt at Mirabilia Urbis. If it were four adults, she'd be 320E, but she charges less for children. I'm guessing she's not the only one with that policy.

http://www.rome-tours.com/tours.php

If she is busy or not what you want, I'd keep looking on that huge strand called Private Guides in Italy.

4.5 hours is kinda long--Depending on the age of your kids, I'd shoot for 3. And with a private guide, you should be able to pick what you'd want to do. I'd leave off the Palatine Hill. I would do as much of Colosseum as possible and part of the Forum with the understanding that you may need to skimp somewhere. Walter (Paradise Lost) clued me in to the different games they played at the Forum and Diana showed us where those were played, how and the markings left behind. Definitely a kid-friendly note.

Good luck!
5alive is offline  
Jul 19th, 2012, 05:51 AM
  #5  
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Thanks everyone for your suggestions.

5alive and Denisea, I have looked into both Daniella Hunt and context tours. Both are coming out more expensive than my private guide.

5alive, I like the idea of making it shorter by leaving out the Palantine Hill.. My kids are 7 and 10.5
We are also doing the Vatican with the same guide for 3 hrs.

Do you think my kids will be able to climb the dome ? They are pretty athletic

Thanks
shubha_r is offline  
Jul 19th, 2012, 08:36 AM
  #6  
 
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Then if you like him/her, go with the private guide you found, imho. Shorten it up a bit as we discussed and it will get a little closer to a pricepoint you can stomach.

For sure, your kids can climb the dome at St. Peter's. My youngest was 5 and did it with no problem.

We did not use a guide at either St. Peter's or at Vatican Museums. (I am not sure which you have your guide for.) I had taken a lot of Euro history and had been to both before, so I brushed up on some things and just gave them a few highlights. Also my husband had read Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King, and that gave him a real insight not just into the Sistene Chapel but the politics at the time all this stuff was being built. If you don't do a guide, read a decent guide book well--photocopy the pages on the Vatican so you can bring just that and literally highlight a few fun facts for the kids so you can find them in a hurry while you're standing there. Fodor's, Rick Steves or Insight will all give you enough to go on.

On the other hand--if you LOVE your guide, you may really regret not using him/her at the Vatican.

Finally for a trip this big, I would get a full guide book for you and your spouse, AND I would get one of those little Top 10 or Top 25 type guides with all the mini-pics. Let your kids have the one with the mini-pics and see what they are excited by.

You are doing a great job to research all this stuff ahead of time. My report is years old but feel free to check it out for the sense of what it's like to run around with kids in Rome (mine were 10, 7 and 5 at the time).

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-with-kids.cfm
5alive is offline  
Jul 19th, 2012, 11:55 AM
  #7  
 
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We did a 4 hr tour with Tours of Italy in May. I would definitely do the underground and upper level of the Colosseum. The Palatine Hill was the least interesting part (but it is a nice park). If you do a private tour, you can choose your emphasis, so stress the Colosseum and the Forum.
AJPeabody is offline  
Jul 20th, 2012, 09:16 AM
  #8  
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Thanks everyone.

5alive, I purchased Fodors and top 10 Rome guide books which should serve well.

We are doing Vatican tour also with the guide, but Dt.Peters is not included in her tour, just Sistine chapel & Vatican.

I will take a look at your trip report too. Do you recommend any particular restaurants ? My kids are used to fine dining in the US.

I think I will go the private guide route, but cut down the time..

Thanks
Shubha
shubha_r is offline  
Jul 20th, 2012, 01:54 PM
  #9  
 
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Your kids may like to do a gelato a day.

You could do St. Peter's yourself after the Sistine Chapel. Just tag along with the tour groups through the shortcut directly from Sistine to St. Peter's. If you have a good tolerance for long reports, click on my screen name and read my recent Italy (really just Rome and Sorrento area) report.
AJPeabody is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 02:44 AM
  #10  
 
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Check out my trip report, if you haven't already, for a review of RomaExperience.

If those were my two choices, with children, I would choose RomaExperience and request Paola as my guide. She was amazing with the kids on our tour of the Colosseum and Forum.
JerLon is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 10:26 AM
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Shubha--you are probably best to look at more recent reports for dining recs than mine. I do recall that the cafeteria in the Vatican Museums was pleasant and very easy place to take a break for pizza or pasta dishes.

One thing we loved about Italy is that Italians LOVE kids. So we go into a nice looking restaurant near the Pantheon and the waiter insists on getting my 5-year-old a special cushion so he will sit taller at the table. And they keep checking on all my kids to see if they like their food etc.
5alive is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 12:51 PM
  #12  
 
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Well, I think I'm going to give up the "No tours" rule on this trip to Rome after the good ideas given here. Thanks to all you posters...

Shubha, your kids might enjoy a place called Pizza Ciro. Our hotelier sent us there last trip, its not fine dining per se, but it is a fun place.

From the outside it looks like a tiny diner, and you wonder how all those people in line are going to get in before midnight. But the line goes fast, and when you get inside there are a lot of rooms, all filled cheek by jowl with Italian families.

It's a happy cacophony, (that may be an oxymoron and it has a really fun vibe.

TA gives it 3.5 stars, like I said not fine dining, but we enjoyed the food.
sundriedpachino is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 07:34 AM
  #13  
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thanks again for all the suggestions.

sundriedpachino, def will give Pizza Ciro a shot.. Is it around the historical center or needs some walking?

I am making my custom map to pin all the places that we would like to visit.

I am also thinking about taking kids to the Time elevator mentioned in one of the guide books which is a 5D type of show.. Has anyone seen it ?

Shubha
shubha_r is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 07:51 AM
  #14  
 
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Shubha, just google Pizza Ciro for the map. It's close in between Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.
sundriedpachino is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 11:19 AM
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Gelatto recs, google and map for when you are near one (spelling not guaranteed):

Il Gelatto del Teatro
Il Gelato di Claudio Torce
Cremerie Monteforte
GROM

All had the essential characteristics of superior gelatto:

No fluorescent colors: If the pistacchio is green and the banana is yellow or if any flavor is sky blue, walk on! (Both pistacchio and banana should be light brownish.)
AJPeabody is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 01:00 PM
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the place that you definitely need a guide, IMO, is the forum. just a pile of stones otherwise - I know this because I've been twice and still can't make head or tail of it.

I haven't been to the "restricted" parts of the colosseum, but every trip reporter who has speaks highly of it, but I think that you can buy a ticket without an expensive guide.

you don't IMO need a guide at the Colosseum or the Palatinate, which we quite enjoyed. if you buy your ticket at the palatinate entrance, you can walk straight into the Colosseum without having to queue at all.
annhig is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 05:47 PM
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I think the Colosseum underground visit requires a guide for entry. Also, I would not have understood the construction and plumbing details without one. I think the same entry requirement holds for the highest level. It's worth it for the view alone (interior and exterior).
AJPeabody is offline  
Jul 24th, 2012, 10:08 PM
  #18  
 
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I'd respectfully disagree, Annhig. The first time we went to the Colosseum, there was no Italian staff person to ask questions, and no signage about anything. My brother is fluent in Italian and we figured he could just ask. We enjoyed seeing it, sure, but we got a guide the second time I came to Rome. It was like a whole new world.
5alive is offline  
Jul 25th, 2012, 09:55 AM
  #19  
 
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We did a tour with WOI in May of the Colosseum - underground, 3rd tier, & we were allowed to go out on the arena floor too. The tour was about 3.5 hours and also included Palatine Hill, and the forum. The underground & 3rd tier is definitely worth it. They only let one group underground at a time so I'm assuming since you have a private group that you'll have it all to yourselves. I have no doubt that if you skip these, that you will feel nothing but regret standing on the main & 2nd tier of the Colosseum with all of the other people. You should see if they will let you walk out on the arena floor too.
Amyla11 is offline  
Jul 25th, 2012, 11:42 AM
  #20  
 
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5alive,

we found loads of signs [and a lot of info in English] the 2nd time we went to the colosseum [can't remember the first!] .

did we visit the same one?
annhig is offline  

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