Organized Rome Tours or On-Our-Own?

Old Jan 4th, 2006, 01:11 PM
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Organized Rome Tours or On-Our-Own?

You all have helped us tremendously with the planning of our 2006 Italy trip. I have another question: should we participate in organized tours of the Vatican and Colosseum or go on our own? I have heard that the Vatican requires headsets. Is it difficult to navigate around the Vatican and the ruins without a guide? Time is important since we have a short time in Rome (four days).

Thank you in advance and I send my wishes for a terrific 2006.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 01:40 PM
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Hi, fellow Seinfeld fan (I assume from your screen name) -

I vote for a guided tour of both. Each time we've been, we just walked up to one of the typical tour groups that gathers outside the Colosseum. They'll also take you through Palatine Hill (the admission to the Colosseum covers Palatine Hill, as well). The guide is lively and funny and makes it more fun than listening to an audio guide or reading a brochure.

We also had a guided tour each time we visited the Vatican. We've done the big random tour group and a private guide just for the two of us. We obviously learned a lot more with the private guide. She charged us $55 each for 3 hours, including the museum and St. Peter's. I can't imagine doing the Vatican without a guide. You'll have so many questions that can't be answered by an audio headset.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 03:22 PM
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Check into Scala Reale (now Context: Rome): http://rome.contexttravel.com

They have very small tour groups (on several of the tours we took, we were the only two along for the ride.

The review I include on my Italian Ceramics website:

If you've seen the sites of Rome, you've also seen the crowds of tourists scrambling after tour guides - each waving their tell-tale "follow me" signs - the yellow umbrella, the blue and white flag, the walking stick with the colorful scarf tied on. These all fall under the category of "how NOT to see Rome". A much better alternative is Scala Reale. This group offers a bevy of personalized tours (most maxing out with six participants). On our first trip to Rome we signed up for one of Scala Reale's tours and enjoyed it so much, we took two more in the days to follow. What makes them so unique? It's their guides. Most of them are American's studying or living abroad. Imagine if you will, taking their Vatican tour guided by an Art History major. Or being shown the sites of the Forum and Colliseum through the eyes of an architect. On each of our tours our small groups took well needed breaks at such places as a wine bar, a gelateria, and a lemonade stand. Each tour made for a memorable information filled half day. And in such small groups, I felt entirely comfortable asking as many questions as I came to mind.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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Francesca Caruso at [email protected]
is ALL the info you need to tour Rome. She is an awesome tour guide. She took us (me and my husband) on a tour of the Colosseum, the Forum, Pantheon and then pointed us to the best gelato in Rome. She is Roman by birth but her mother is American and father is Italian. She speaks flawless English, is passionate about her city and its culture and does not rush through any of the sites. She will form the tour around your wishes and timeline. These sites and the Vatican are much better with a guide (however, I don't think Francesca does the Vatican).
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 12:11 PM
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Hi jill_h.
How much does this woman charge? Did you have to pay in advance? Payment accepted on CC or cash only? Duration of tour? Have you taken ICON or Context Rome tours before? The latter seems super pricey and may be more than we could take in terms of duration (4 hours)...
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 12:30 PM
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We took two Context Rome tours and I thought they were great. We did Roma Antica and the Vatican tour. Worth every penny. We were in Rome for 8 days, but two tours were plenty.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 12:42 PM
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Francesca does do a tour of the Vatican. We have her booked for March!
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:06 PM
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Francesca accepts cash at the end of the tour. She charges 40 euro/hour. We scheduled the Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon for 3 hours -- we toured for 4 hours and she didn't charge us extra, but we did give her a sizable tip. It was just me and my husband on the tour, and she answered ALL of our questions no matter how inconsequential, and off the subject. She was a pure joy and we would MOST DEFINITELY tour with her again.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:07 PM
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Victoria - no I have never toured with anyone else as this was my first trip to Rome (won't be the last!!!)
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:14 PM
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I would also strongly recommend a private guide. We were VERY VERY pleased with our guide from Through Eternity (Chris). We spent an entire day with us and I can't imagine doing Rome without his expert guidance. It isn't cheap, but it is SOOOO worth it.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:37 PM
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If you can afford an organized tour for both areas, by all means do it especially since your time is limited.
We used Context Rome (contextrome.com) for tours of the Vatican and the Colosseum/Forum and were very pleased. Those tours are limited to 6 people which allows a lot of Q&A and no difficulty hearing the guide. But they are more expensive than other tours which typically allow 25 or more per tour. One of the other such tour companies that has been well reviewed on this board is ICON tours (icontours.com). The Rick Steves board also has feedback on Roman tour companies.

Dave
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:46 PM
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Well I will buck the trend as always, my wife and I hate public transport and hate any form of hostage taking (This includes guided tours) We toured all of Rome this summer by car and visitted all the sites ourselves, sometimes we took the self guided headphone tours I seriously dont think we missed a thing and we got up late and never were owing to anyone elses timetable, except maybe the vatican museum time table. Try it solo you'll love it just get good guidebooks
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 05:02 PM
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Hi Soupsazi,

I also did two Context Rome tours in Sept, the Antica Roma and the Arte Vaticano. Both were excellent and I highly recommend! I got so much more out of the Vatican museum tour with our guide, I wish I had had her with me for St. Francis' Basillica in Assisi!

Buon viaggio!
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 05:07 PM
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I can also recommend Context Rome. We took the Ancient Rome tour (with Carlos Machado) and the Vatican tour (with Cecilia Martini) this past October. Both guides were wonderful, and we definitely got a lot more out of the sights than we would have without them. Good luck!
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