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Helen Donegan's Vatican tour: a couple of questions

Helen Donegan's Vatican tour: a couple of questions

Old Jan 7th, 2008, 08:38 AM
  #1  
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Helen Donegan's Vatican tour: a couple of questions

If anyone reading has taken her private Vatican tour, we're planning to take it in April and I have some questions.

1. How long was it and what time did it start/end?

2. Where did you meet?

3. How many people were in the group?

4. Icky question about payment. I had emailed her about the tour a few months ago and she just now confimed the date. She sent me a payment request through Paypal for 500 euros for the 2 of us. Is paying in full 3 months out the norm? 500 euros is a lot more $$ than it was a few months ago.

We've booked 2 previous trips to Rome that were both cancelled at the very last minute; one by 9/11 and one by Katrina and I guess there's this little niggling part of my brain that's saying some other major disaster is going to preempt this trip. I try not to think about it but the closer it gets, the louder that little voice gets.
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 08:52 AM
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$700+ for two people? That must be one super tour. I love the Vatican museums and St. Peters and have done both self guided and organized tours several times over the years.

Unless you are a serious, die hard art, history, and architecture aficionado you may be getting more information than you actually want.

If in fact you do want such detail then great. Keep in mind that the Vatican museums and St. Peters will be crowded, especially around Easter. If the tour is during regular hours then you will be in, around, and jostled by crowds the whole time.

I took a 3hr group tour with Icon tours last year for ~30Euro pp and it gave me just the level of detail I wanted. Afterwards I explored the dome, roof (fee), and crypt (free) at my leisure.
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 09:04 AM
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It is quite a pop in the old wallet I'll agree.

The tour is after hours and no one is there except your group. I've had differing respones as to how large that group is, from 10 to 20 people. And the guards I suppose.
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 09:04 AM
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I toured Assisi with her last year.

She's very, very good.

But she's not worth 500 euros.
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 09:06 AM
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Since I've never experienced the Vatican tour, I'm not sure what you get for your 500 euros. That being said, why not try instead the Scavi Tour? It's a tour underneath St. Peter's through the necropolis that the basilica was built upon. Excavation began, I believe, in 1939, to confirm the story that St. Peter's was built on the grave of that saint. I've done the tour twice (2001 and 2005). My husband counts it as one of the best tours he's ever experienced, and I would have to agree. At the end of the tour, you join all other tourists inside the crypt of the basilica, so you don't have to wait in the long lines to get in. I don't remember how much it costs, but I don't think it was much more than $20, if that. You do have to make reservations asap. Here's the website: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/in...040112_en.html
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 09:10 AM
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The 500 Euros are not primarily for Helen Donegan's services as a guide; they are for access to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel when they are closed to the public.

Linda431, daveesl just did the after-hours tour. If you put his name in the search box, you should find a thread in which he refers to it. And he will probably also reply here if he sees the thread.
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 09:14 AM
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Here's a thread on the same topic, with 2 people chiming in about the HD tour.

fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=2&tid=35036800
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 11:04 AM
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I took the tour in November 2007. There were about 15 of us total, and we split into two groups so that we were not in the same places at the same time. We met at 3:15, got let in at 3:45 (I think?) and were out a bit after 6:00. 45 minutes of that was in the Sistine Chapel. You do not see the Pinacoteca, but you do see the Raphael Rooms, Map Room, Tapestries and Sistine Chapel, along with some other things along the way (statues, etc).

You meet at the regular museum entrance, which will be closed when you get there, but believe me, they open it for Helen.

Helen organizes the tour, she does not give it. She has hired guides who were excellent and from whom I learned quite a bit (and I thought I'd read everything I needed before I went!) I am a HUGE Michelangelo fan and had been in the Sistine once before with a zillion other people and was completely unable to fully appreciate it, so to have it completely empty for that long was heavenly.

For my November tour, I paid in full in April 2007. It was 250E per person when I paid then, so that's not any more than what you are paying now. With the exchange rate going to hell for the US$, maybe that's why you think it's more now?

I actually had to go and look what the price was, because now that I've done it and had such an amazing experience, I can't even remember the price, it was THAT worth it for me. But I'm one person, and it was part of why I returned to Rome anyway. But I can say that other than not seeing the Pinacoteca, I was completely thrilled at having access to this wonder with 14 other people and a handful of guards. Not a crowd in sight!
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 02:45 PM
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AmyB, thank you so much for your report. I do feel better about it now and the time frame seems perfect for our needs.

I had seen Dave's post and was hoping he would chime in. (I wish there was a private message function here!)
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 03:30 PM
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One more thing Amy if you don't mind, where did the tour end? Do you come out in a place that's easy to get a taxi? Thanks!
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 03:41 PM
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I just booked this tour for late March and having felt like Tippi Hedren at the end of "The Birds" while mashed in with hundred of people at the Uffizi, I have convinced myself it's worth the dough. I'll let you know when we get back. Anyone have a favorite documentary about the Sistine chapel they would recommend before we go?

and on another note - the highlight of our last trip to Rome was the Scavi tour - once you get through the quirky booking process, it was a dream. just four of us and the guide. Amazing!
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 04:23 PM
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I just posted my report on the tour. I absolutely recommend it.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...t=0&dirtyBit=1

dave
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 04:33 PM
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Thank you so much - we can't wait. And you're right, my kids don't talk about the souvenirs we paid too much for or the expensive bottle of wine we had at dinner. I'm sure they'll talk about being able to lie down and look up at Michelangelo's masterpiece. Thanks again.
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 04:52 PM
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Frankly, after my experience last February, I wouldn't go back except as part of a private tour.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 04:12 PM
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1. Can't remember
2. Right outside the museum entrance.
3. 7-8 tourists, two guides, three security officers.
4. yes. Get trip insurance.
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 06:49 AM
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Linda, you come back out the same entrance. And no, there weren't any taxis handy at the time (but it was after 6pm and the museum was long closed, so it was a ghost town). We actually walked to drinks/dinner nearby and caught a taxi later in the evening from a different location. I'm sure you could go into the cafe/bar right across from the main entrance and have them call a cab for you.
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 08:53 AM
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The tour is between 2-2.5 hours.

While there may not be any taxis, the bus stop is nearby and the metro stop is about 6 blocks away.

dave
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