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It's my first trip to Rome... tour guide a must?

It's my first trip to Rome... tour guide a must?

Old Jan 6th, 2006, 10:24 AM
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It's my first trip to Rome... tour guide a must?

Just looking for opinions. My husband and I will be headed to Rome for the first time in April. While we've been in Europe several times before (my husband is German and has been all over northern Italy) but never to Rome. Do you think we should spend one of our 4 days in Rome hauled around by a tour guide. From many posts, they seem to be very helpful but I also hate the idea of a canned experience. What do you think?
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 10:30 AM
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We went to the forum and ended up following a tour guide and would have been lost without her there. we were impressed enough to book a walking tour of rome at night with her and it was wonderful. i don't remember the company's name but they wore little beige bicycle caps. we also used them for a tour of the vatican museums. I would highly recommend having someone help you thru there as well as St Peters. each is a few hours and we were able to do a lot of sightseeing on our own either before or afterwards.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 10:34 AM
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Lots of people on here (myself included) have had wonderful tours with Context Rome. They are about 3 or 4 hours, group max of 6, and have various themes. Do a search on here. Not cheap - but worth every penny. We did the Forum/Colloseum (Roma Antica) and the Vatican.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 10:36 AM
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Kamilayne....nah! If you're willing to invest some time in reading a guide book (any book store offers dozens on Rome alone) and using the help from this board, don't spend the time or money on a guide...the savings can buy you a fine lunch or dinner, and forty quarts of gelato!
Do you own thing...it's part of the adventure, fun and inner satisfaction of independent traveling, rather than touring.

Stu T. (we all stand ready to help!)
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 10:59 AM
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It depends on your level of interest - and knowledge. We don;t do group tours having found that most are aimed at the least common denominator - and often the guides don't know any more than you - or they - can read in a basic guide book.

But if you have a true interest in in-depth info it makes sense to hire a guide - but only one that can really meet your needs.

We found the guides in the forum etc - just really annoying. The only one we listened to at all was an elderly woman in San Clemente who gave a really interesting talk on the religion of Mithras and the realtionship to the organization of Rome's armies - to whom the original temple was dedicated (Mithras - not the army).
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 11:12 AM
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Invest in a great guide book and set out at your own pace. True, you can ask "on the spot" questions but it's much better than being "hauled around" as you put it. You can linger when you want or skip areas that you do not find interesting.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 11:16 AM
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I brought my Eyewitness Rome with me everywhere. It has wonderfully detailed information about everything you see on a block by block basis. And after you get back it's a great reference book and memory file.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 12:13 PM
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We generally don't like tours, but loved the Vatican tour with ScalaReale (new Context Rome) and wish we'd had time for their Antica tour. Generally, in addition to the reasons given already be other posters, I would also consider a tour if I had extremely limited time and didn't know the city well enough to navigate to places I wanted to see efficiently enough to get to all my planned sites. A good guide can be very helpful in that circumstance.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 03:53 PM
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I think you could do just fine without a guide but with a guide guidebook and a map--that's what we did on our first visit, and we had no problems. It depends, of course, on how much background reading you've done and/or plan to do.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 04:29 PM
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I think we're talking about two different kind of tours. Do you need a tour guide to show you around the city? NO! NO! NO!

If you'd like a more in-depth look at a couple of specific things (like the Vatican museums or the Forum) then maybe you'd enjoy that.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 05:37 PM
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I think wliwl said it best. I happened to be on a great tour of the Forum with my daughter's high school group. The guide was informative and knowledgable. So I would agree with wliwl: if there is something in Rome that you would really like to know more about than a guide book can tell, perhaps book a tour.

On the other hand, I like to do what I want, when I want. That usually leaves me doing a lot of background reading so I know what I'm looking at on my own time, and at my own pace. I'm my DH's tour guide.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 07:08 PM
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Managing on your own can be fun, but a private tour guide (like Vatican Tours and Beyond or Context)can really enhance your experience. No need to worry about anything but learning and seeing things that you might have missed on your own.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 07:11 PM
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Hi Kamilayne,

A guide is very helpful for places like the forum and colloseum. Our family got so much more from our guided tour than we would have from me reading from a book as we walked around.

At the Vatican Museum, we paid for the "live" audioguide. It was only about 5 or 6 Euro more than admission, and we didn't have to wait in line. We had ear phones, but the guide spoke into her own microphone that we could hear. We could ask questions, etc. It was wonderful.

On the other hand, we were very happy and content with using guidebooks/maps to just explore the city.
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 01:00 PM
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We took several tours and it was worth every penny. The Vatican has a special SCAVI tour - you must reserve well in advance and it takes you to the archeological findings under St Peters and was the highlight for my husband and I (both Catholic). They only allow in a specific # of visators per day so book ahead and show up on time. The Borghese tour was essential to explain all the wonderful art I was seeing and point out the subleties and history and not miss the highlights of the Museum. You also need reservations to get into Borghese so book ahead just to get in. Our Rome Context tour of the Forum & Colliseum was lied by a College History Professor - much more knowledgeable than I could ever be on the subject and allowed for questions. Only 4 in our group.

Dont our the whole time but I would definitely choose 1 or 2 1/2 day tours.
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 05:33 PM
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My husband and I spent 4 days in Rome in April 2003, and though we spent most of the time on our own exploring the city we booked both a Vatican & Ancient Ruins tour with Scala Reale (now Context Rome)and the tours were highlights of our trip. Each tour lasted 3-4 hours (though they felt much shorter), and the guides were native English speakers, PhDs in their fields and very interesting. Imagine touring Rome's ancient ruins with a charismatic archaeology PhD who had recently obtained a permit to conduct a dig there -- it was fantastic. The tour groups were small (6 max) and the guides encouraged questions, so neither tour felt canned at all. If I remember right we paid $50 each per tour and got more than our money's worth. I highly recommend them.
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 08:14 PM
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Hired Through Eternity for a Vatican/Vatican Museum tour for five hours. Guides have art history degrees, many with PHDs. About $50 per person for our group of four. We wanted to control our own itinerary and pacing, including when to eat.

Seven hours later our guide was still enthusiastically showing us the sites! The time flew.

P.S. He met us at our hotel in Piazza Navona where we walked to the Vatican. Afterwards he escorted us to the subway so we could get to the Spanish Steps.

I plan each major trip 5+ years in advance and read as many tour and guide books as I can get my hands on. In some instances a trained tour guide is the best option and this is one instance where you won't regret it. Ramona

Hawaii 2006 (2 weeks)
Greece 2007
Japan 2008
Egypt 2009
Peru 2010
Galapagos 2011

But my heart remains in Italy!
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 08:36 PM
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A tour guide is not a must. You can have a wonderful trip doing a little reading and research on your own.
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