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If you could only afford one tour in Rome...

If you could only afford one tour in Rome...

Oct 19th, 2012, 09:30 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 258
If you could only afford one tour in Rome...

We (my husband and I in our 30s) are stretching our budget in so many places already, that I think that I am only willing to pay for a more expensive tour for EITHER the Vatican or the Colosseum/Forum. I'm thinking along the lines of Walks of Italy tours - VIP Access Colosseum Underground tour (74 E each) or Pristine Sistine tour (89 E each). If you could only do one, which and why?

To be honest, I don't have as much background knowledge as I should about either place/time and hope to do more reading before traveling. So in that sense, I think the tours would be equally rewarding to bring meaning to what we are seeing. My instinct is to do the Colosseum tour because a guide could really bring it to life, and you get access that is not otherwise available to the public. If we did that, we would probably do a cheaper tour through the Vatican that does not include special access to the Sistine Chapel.

FYI, we will probably save the Scavi tour for another trip, as neither of us have visited the Vatican before and would like the general overview tour first.

Any advice would be great! And if you have another tour company that you would recommend, please pass that along as well.
caze17 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2012, 11:58 PM
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It's always a good thing to give the URL for tours to make things easy for the responders.

I think the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's is a lot to do in 3.5 hours. I've done Vatican tours with Context and Enjoy Rome. The Context tour is 4 hours and is less money than the Walks of Italy tour (E85). I thought Context was fabulous and Enjoy Rome was a good tour.

Why won't you book the Vatican tour using the Vatican docents. It's about half the price and then take the more expensive Colosseum tour.

Any particular reason you decided to use Walks of Italy?

<< we will probably save the Scavi tour for another trip, as neither of us have visited the Vatican before and would like the general overview tour first >>

The Vatican Museums and the scavi tours are two separate types of venues. You don't have to do them in a particular order. One is museum galleries, the other is a necropolis.
adrienne is offline  
Oct 20th, 2012, 02:23 AM
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caze - I would definitely go for a tour which included the Forum. Without a guide it is likely to remain a heap of stones - it has for me, and it's about the only place that I regret having decided not to have a guide.

the Vatican museums are IMO far more easily understood and you can use a guide book or get their audio guide which I have read good things about, or the Vatican's own guides.

i agree that 3.5 hours is a short time to see the Vatican museums, the sistine chapel [which you can only access at the end of the vatican museums and seems to take an age to get to] and St Peter's. if you can afford it, do try to do the Scavi tour - IMO it is well worth it, and you don't need to go outside to get through security again to get into St. Peter's which gives you a good opportunity to see the Basilica then, rather than after the museums when you are likely to be very tired.
annhig is online now  
Oct 20th, 2012, 08:29 AM
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Caze...i did both tours you are considering a few weeks ago with Walks of Italy.

Both are excellent. We also did the Scavi tour and it is good, but I agree with your decision to wait on it. I think the Scavi experience is well worth it but totally different than the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. It is also probably a bit dependent on your guide. Ours was good but not great.

However, the guide we had at the Vatican was outstanding! We had Stuart and he is priceless.

Adrrienne asked why Walks of Italy and hear are my reasons for choosing them. Context Tours were a close runner-up. Coliseum-Context was not offering the total package that Walks did (top tier and underground). We liked that they take only 10 or 12 guests and it worked well. Context takes even fewer but they also wait for late comers. That really swayed me with the Vatican Museums.

Walks told me that don't wait for late comers and the reason that I cared about that so much is that they go straight to the SC to view it while it is uncrowded. They double back and so back to the start after that. Our guide knew his way and many of the guards, who allowed us to take a few shortcuts on the way back to save time. We took the 8am tour, so going straight to the SC and not waiting on the latecomers was appealing to me. Walks was very responsive to the emails I sent with questions and we were very happy with both tours. But, because Stuart is so knowledgeable, I felt the Pristine Sistine tour was the winner between the two (and there were no losers...both tours were excellent). I could not have understood so much about the art and the stories in the paintings in the SC and in the Raphael Rooms without Stuart. W had been to St Peter's a few days earlier and Stuart helped clear up some of the questions we had about that, during the visit to St Peter's at the end.

I am not certain all the Walks guides go straight to the SC, but you could email them to inquire (and request Stuart). We found out about him by reading the reviews of the tours on Trip Adviser. We posted reviews there when we returned.

For me 3.5 hours is about as long as I want to be on a tour. Sure, you could stay longer and you cannot see it all but the time frame was right for us.

However, if you do the Vatican Museums on your own, an audio guide I am sure would be very helpful with the story behind many of the paintings and other pieces.

Certainly, the Vatican docents are excellent, I am sure and Adrienne does offer a good alternative...there is no right answer.

You can't lose with either of these and we did learn a lot on both.

Here is the link to our T/R for more details and pictures, if you are interested.

denisea is offline  
Oct 20th, 2012, 11:33 AM
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Thanks for all of your help! Though I'm definitely considering Walks of Italy, I was just using those as examples as the type of tours that I'm considering. My main thing is trying to determine if the tour money is better spent on a Vatican tour or a Colosseum/Forum tour. Basically, which one is easier to do on your own or that works well with a less expensive tour (like with a Vatican docent).

If anyone else has an opinion, that would be great! Thanks again!
caze17 is offline  
Oct 20th, 2012, 01:25 PM
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I've taken 2 different types of Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica tours with Context, 1 was their regular 4hr tour and the 2nd was a 3hr early admission that mainly focused on the Sistine Chapel with an art historian.

They were both excellent and worth the price.

But no matter what tour company is used because of the time limitations (3-4hrs) you will only see *some* of the highlights in detail in the museum.

As there is so much to see and everyone's interests vary, I believe if you are a museum loving person the best bet for a 1st and even only visit is to do it on your own with their audioguide and if somethings are of special interest perhaps print-outs from online research or from memory.

Example; I would rather focus my main visit on anything from ancient Rome and Egypt and the great Renaissance paintings would only be of a passing interest to me. But I would still view them and most of the other items in the museum and would be content just with the audioguide's information.

Now with an ancient sites like the Colosseum and Roman Forum you can get all the 'facts and figures' from the excellent 'Oxford's Archaeological Guide-Rome'.

But the big 'But' here is you won't get the stories!

That's what makes an ancient ruin come alive!
And that is what you will remember years later and a good guide knows the stories.

I wouldn't put off the Scavi Tour because you never know how things might change in the future.

My 1st visit (with an appointment) was cancelled due to recent structural problems.

The following 2 visits it was open but no access to the tomb of St. Peter due to those same structural problems and that was my main interest.

The next 2 visits the tomb was open.

On my 1st visit to Rome with so much to see I never got around to seeing the Ara Pacis (Augustus' Altar of Peace) which was on my hit list.

It was closed off a short time later and then finally reopened ~7yrs afterwards and was the 1st site I hit that year...just in case . Regards, Walter
ParadiseLost is offline  
Oct 20th, 2012, 02:22 PM
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I also would suggest not skipping the Scavi tour, the cost was 12 euro (in 2011 so probably not much more now). But the tour was amazing. It was probably my favorite thing on our trip. The whole city is obviously full of ancient sites but on this tour you are walking through a 4th century-ish (I'm not sure of the exact age, sorry) necropolis. That was just so cool, and then there is the fact of seeing St. Peter's tomb, wow. I will probably do the tour the next time I'm there just because.
jscarbary is offline  
Oct 20th, 2012, 02:42 PM
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The availability of the Scavi tour in the future, is a point I had not considered.

We did enjoy it but we did so many great things in Rome that it gets a little lost in all the greatness. Maybe the fact that we had an older couple that I thought might pass out or die duting the Scavi tour has clouded my judgement!
denisea is offline  
Oct 21st, 2012, 08:41 AM
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Excellent point about the unknown future of the Scavi tour. I will have to keep this in mind. Thanks again to everyone!
caze17 is offline  
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