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The sculptures were superb, but we left the Borghese with a bad taste in our mouths

The sculptures were superb, but we left the Borghese with a bad taste in our mouths

Jan 17th, 2008, 07:00 AM
  #1  
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The sculptures were superb, but we left the Borghese with a bad taste in our mouths

This was probably the freak exception (I hope for the sakes of the rest of you), but I have to pass along our experience at the Borghese when we there about a week ago. We'd reserved a couple days earlier for the 11:00 time slot. We got there just fine and went inside and paid for the admission. We went over to rent the headsets when the person at the desk said there was also an English language guided tour available for just a couple euros more. I asked which was better, the tour or the headsets. After a brief hesitation, the guy told us the tour would be better. So we paid the money for the tour.

Then we proceeded to wait for 15 minutes, just killing time (everyone else had already been admitted to the galleries) and becoming more irritated because we knew we were limited to 2 hours there. Finally, our guide showed up. And, it was just the 2 of us and the guide. So we thought. Great! We are getting a private guided tour. Our enchantment lasted for about the first 15 minutes.

The guide was bound and determined that we see only what he thought was important. Yes, he did a good job of explaining the pieces he showed us, and he knew his way around the galleries. But, there aren't that many rooms, and anyone with a map (which they didn't have available) or a good guidebook could have done just as well. It was quite apparent that he wasn't thrilled when we stopped to try to see other things in a room. When we'd stop to look at some of these things, he told us we'd have 20-30 minutes at the end on our own to come back and look at them later. In one room they were filming a television segment, and we were only allowed to tiptoe on the fringes of the room without making a sound. So, there we also never got a good chance to take a look at some things that would have interested us.

So, the guide left us, and we spent only perhaps 5 -10 minutes looking around when the guards started herding and prodding (there is no other way to describe it) the people out. We had wanted to go back and take another look at two particular pieces (Bernini's Daphne and a reclining woman from the special Canova exhibit) that had particularly intrigued us. We couldn't find them, and of course our good guidebook that would have described in an instant the layout of the place had been checked along with all of the rest of our belongings as we were required to check; we assumed we wouldn't need the book if we were taking a guided tour. So, we never got a chance for a second look.

We went down and picked up our checked coats and bags. I wandered into the adjacent gift shop/snack bar area to look around for a moment. There was all this shouting and screaming going on in Italian. We didn't have a clue, and I (wrongly) assumed that this one particular man had done something wrong that he deserved to be treated this way. I picked up a postcard to buy (at the obscene price of 1E for a regular postcard). Then someone started screaming at me and the others in the area too. We didn't have a clue what was going on. Finally someone told us the place was closed and we had to leave immediately. Those of us who had things to purchase were told to leave. The door was literally slammed behind us. Everyone who spoke English was appalled at the treatment. I am sure those speaking Italian were saying the same thing because ther was a lot of conversaiton going on. When we got outside we saw that there was a small sign posted saying that the museum was closed from 1-3 for a staff meeting, so this at least explained a little bit.

But, lovely as the sculptures were, we left the place having had an extremely negative experience. And, if I were asked for a recommendation, I would never take their guided tour. Opt for the headset which will allow you to wander at will while listening, or just go with a good guidebook. By the way, our time in the museum (way less than 2 hours) cost us E40 or $60 for 2 people.

julies is online now  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:07 AM
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Well, I never opt for tours or even headsets. I'd much rather look around on my own.

While some of what you describe is inexcusable (rudeness, for instance), I think you might have had unrealistic expectations about other things. For instance, if the tour guide had a certain agenda and you kept trying to do your own thing (not what a tour entails), I can understand why everyone involved would be frustrated. Also, your comment on a one euro postcard shows me you might, again, have had unreasonable expectations. One euro for a museum postcard seems very reasonable to me.

Sorry you had a bad experience. The Borghese was one of the highlights of Rome for me.
Cimbrone is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:15 AM
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We weren't trying to do our own thing. We were following the guide around the room where he would pick out one piece to focus on. We would listen attentively but then try to spend one or two minutes looking at other things in the room before moving on to the next room. This is what didn't seem to fit in his agenda.

As far as the price of the postcard, this was about double the price of postcards at the other museums we visited. And, I know because I bought some other places.

We are in agreement though about never hiring guides. This is the first time we have done so in a museum, and we will never do it again. Headsets are another story, and I'd advise you to give them a try sometime. Often, but not always, they do give a lot of really interesting info, and you can still wander at will, skipping parts of the tape or certain exhibits that don't interest you.
julies is online now  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:20 AM
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2 hours is not enough time to see everything in the Borghese Gallery.

I think you had unrealistic expectations.

We purchased a few bookmarks at 1E each. You must really think that we were ripped off! They are our favorite bookmarks, however, and I am still using one today.
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:26 AM
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You're right. (Not sarcastic.) He does sound like he was pretty inflexible to me. If you were in your home country, you probably would have felt comfortable saying, "This tour isn't working for me," and gotten your money back. Europeans can be a little snarkier than we're used to. Oh well, live and learn. Maybe someday you'll get to return and do it on your own.
Cimbrone is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:27 AM
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My reply above was to julies.
Cimbrone is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:31 AM
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Cimbrone wrote "Europeans can be a little snarkier than we're used to."

!!!
Padraig is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:38 AM
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Oh gosh. I knew that would elicit a response...

I'm just saying there's a lot of formality that we Americans don't adhere to as much. I doubt such a tour guide as described above would be found anywhere in the U.S. If there is only one couple, I imagine an American tour guide would adjust to their wishes.

Snarky is probably not as accurate as "formal" or "rigid."
Cimbrone is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:40 AM
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My main bitch here isn't the price of a postcard, so don't focus on this. It was only an aside.

We lived and learned about guided museum tours.

My main complalin is the incredibly rude behavior and the fact that we had been led to believe that one could have 2 hours in the museum. We got about 1 1/2 hours in the Borghese despite arriving well ahead of time. Our wait for the guide was until 11:15 and we were forced out of the galleries at 12:45 or 12:50. Apparently staff there believe they are such a hot commodity and such a desirable place to visit that they can treat visitors any way they want.
julies is online now  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:59 AM
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I'm not all into blaming the victim, however...

Several posts I read before I went to Rome, and indeed my own trip report, mention that you only have 2 hours and that the museum staff are fairly rigid about this...I also read that they start kicking you out before your 2 hours are up, so I wasn't surprised when this happened to me. I would also think that in hiring a private guide, you realize you are relinquishing control over what you see to them. Indeed, if I knew I "only" had two hours (as opposed to unlimited at any other museum) I think I'd be right on the guide's tail and moving with them quickly (as mine did there) in order to see as much as they could show me in 2 hours, not amble off to the side, even for "a minute or two" when I could be squeezing every last bit of knowledge out of them that I am paying for. Perhaps you hadn't taken a guided tour before, so didn't realize how it works?

Reviewing anyone's report on the Borghese, I think you'd find that none of us had enough time there, whether on a tour, alone, with the audio or whatever.

Did anything good happen to you in Rome? I just keep reading a lot of complaints, I'd like to hear if you enjoyed it as well...
amyb is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:01 AM
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>>Our wait for the guide was until 11:15 and we were forced out of the galleries at 12:45 or 12:50. Apparently staff there believe they are such a hot commodity and such a desirable place to visit that they can treat visitors any way they want.<<

The guide was 5 minutes late; if you look at the Galleria Borghese Web site, the guided visits are scheduled to start at 11:10.

Unfortunately, you ran into a staff meeting, and they cleared the museum a few minutes early. These things happen in Italy...

I'm not excusing rudeness, but no one has ever been rude to you in Minneapolis?

Thousands of people have toured the Galleria Borghese and counted it among their most memorable experiences.

This thread will eventually sink, and fortunately thousands more will not be deterred from a wonderful experience by your post.

Incidentally, how many more "we were ripped off" posts can we expect?



Zerlina is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:03 AM
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Hi julies,

Sorry about your disappointment in visiting the Borghese Galleries. It was the highlight of our most recent visit to Rome. Hopefully you will be able to visit again on your own on a future trip.

I do hope you enjoyed your trip... it seems like the majority of your posts about your trip express frustration and disappointment over expectations that weren't met. I'm curious if you have visited Italy previously?
TexasAggie is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:08 AM
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Thanks Julies. We will now know what to expect from using the Borghese's guide service.

For some reason, it's not ok for people to relate experiences unless they're positive. Can you imagine every post on every thread raving about how wonderful everything was? This board would be of no use to anyone.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:10 AM
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Did anything good happen to you in Rome? I just keep reading a lot of complaints, I'd like to hear if you enjoyed it as well...

I was wondering the same thing...
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:12 AM
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Zerlina--

Obviously I must have touched a sore spot with you. Is one not allowed to comment on personal perceptions and experiences?

I did say the sculptures were excellent. Perhaps my expectations about the Borghese were too high since all I have read on this site are the glowing reports of many about the Borghese. Sorry I don't count it as the highlight of my trip; a number of other things would fit in there.

Has no one else had any not absolutely marvelous and positive things happen to them? I think reality has to come into play too on these forums. I don't think what I have to say will put anyone off from visiting. But, those of you who can do nothing but rave about things and places without tempering your comments with a bit of reality also do nothing to serve others.

And, we were not the only ones who felt this way about our experience that day. The couple exiting next to us also spoke English, and they were clearly extremely irritated too.
julies is online now  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:15 AM
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Obviously I must have touched a sore spot with you. Is one not allowed to comment on personal perceptions and experiences?

In fairness, many of us helped you plan this trip by answering many questions before you left but all we have read since you returned is complaints. I could reverse the question on you and say "have you ever had a trip that was completely awful?" because to us it seems that you did. I have been on trips where things didn't work out as I expected but I didn't let it affect my experience. I missed three entire rooms at the Borghese as well as the Canova exhibit, but I still think that was one of the best museum experiences of my life.
amyb is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:32 AM
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Hi julies,

Of course I have had bad things happen on trips to Italy and a variety of other countries. I've been unpleasantly surprised by meals I've ordered, by how expensive things were, at undeserved rudeness, etc. But those things happen to me in Denver too, and in Dallas, when I lived there. I think what has us all concerned is that the vast majority of your comments about your trip consist of complaints. It gives the impression that you feel your trip to Rome was 90% bad, 10% good. Going out on a limb here, I'd say the majority of folks who post on this site usually feel like their trip was closer to 90% good and 10% mishap.

It also seems like you are heavily focused on the cost and expense of your trip, and like that is partly what has jaded your experience. For what you paid for everything, you expected, while not perfection, close to it. I'm a CPA, born into a family of accountants and married to one so I have to guard against measuring experience in terms of dollars all the time. Best thing I ever did was cease doing so.
TexasAggie is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:33 AM
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Just one comment - I think any guided tour of any major museum/gallery will have a set itinerary/agenda. Tours are not for folks who want to free wheel and see whatever peaks their interest. It wouldn't be just in Italy - a pre-set guided tour can't just go off and change the route because the visitors want to linger or go off and see something else.

Now, maybe since there were just the 2 of you the guide could have been more flexible. But that definitely should not have been expected.

Aside: Why is it whenever someone posts a negative review and others try to explain another way of looking at things, they are jumped on for "not allowing negative posts". This is a discussion board and different points of view are allowed . . . . .
janisj is online now  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:38 AM
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Julies-
I appreciate the candor you've given in your reports. However, in fairness, it does seem that many are "negative" and people here often don't want to hear it. Did you not receive the same type of replies to your post about Vietnam travel? I don't know if you tend to have unrealistic expectations or if you only tend to report on the negatives and not the positives.

I'm sure if you'd posted a full trip report with both the things you enjoyed and those you didn't you probably would not get the same type of response. Believe me, I don't hold back in my reports and have sometimes been accused of having unrealistic expectations myself. But when you only make specific posts geared toward the negative, I think people natually get defensive.

I would have really liked to read about your experience in full rather than just the things you disliked.

I do have one question for you about the Borghese gallery; you said you had to check all your bags, including the one with the book. Do you know if you would have been allowed to bring the guidebook in with you?

I had been planning on taking the Borghese's tour and now I'm wondering if this is a good idea.
Anyone have a positive or negative experience with the museum's tour?

Kristina is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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Hi Kristina,
We used the audioguide and enjoyed it. We will do the same upon our return.
Liz
Tim_and_Liz is offline  

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