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Tour experiences in Rome? Walks of Italy, City Wonders?


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We are 3 adults (in our 60's) and working on booking our tours

in Rome:

1. Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, etc (Early Entry)

2. Colosseum, Forum, etc.

Right now, we are trying to decide on tour guides/ companies.

Does anyone have any experiences they would like to share?

Currently, we are considering Walks of Italy, City Wonders, Context Travel.

We have Rick Steves books and are familiar with his recommendations as well,

however, we would like a really good guide for the two above mentioned.

We are in Rome pre-cruise for 2.5 days and this is our first trip to Europe.

Thanks!

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We used Marissa from Rome with Marissa, http://www.romewithmarisa.com/, last October. We did the Vatican Museum tour. She told us how to pre-book early entry tickets and met us at the entrance to the Museum. We've been to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel several times and this was the best. She also does tours of the Colosseum/Forum and walking tours of Rome. She was unavailable for the Colosseum when we wanted to go, but gave us information about the best times to go on our own and was very helpful even though we weren't able to do the tour with her. She is an excellent guide and the cost was reasonable. She charges a flat fee, not per person.

 

Rome is very easy to do on your own, but a guide is great for your first visit to the Vatican Museum, St Peter's Basilica and the Colosseum/Forum. I recommend combining the Vatican Museum with St Peter's Basilica so you don't have to go through security twice. The line for security to St Peters can take several hours to get through if you don't enter from the Museum.

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I can highly recommend Context Travel tours. They have small groups (not more than 6) and very good guides. Definitely more for those who like high-level information rather than canned stories.

 

I've booked several different tours in Rome with them over the years, but usually the more esoteric ones as I prefer to visit sites that are easily booked and accessible on my own, rather than with a guided tour.

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We are 3 adults (in our 60's) and working on booking our tours

in Rome:

1. Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, etc (Early Entry)

2. Colosseum, Forum, etc.

Right now, we are trying to decide on tour guides/ companies.

Does anyone have any experiences they would like to share?

Currently, we are considering Walks of Italy, City Wonders, Context Travel.

We have Rick Steves books and are familiar with his recommendations as well,

however, we would like a really good guide for the two above mentioned.

We are in Rome pre-cruise for 2.5 days and this is our first trip to Europe.

Thanks!

You can buy Vatican guided tour right from Vatican web, many options for any taste . We chooses Vatican and Sestine Chapel with guide and before that went to see St.Peters (around 7 am and no lines)

Colosseum - many tour guides right there will offer you a tour for 35$ pp.

I would not book any walking tour, I love to be my own boss and spend as much time as I want in any location.

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We are 3 adults (in our 60's) and working on booking our tours

in Rome:

1. Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, etc (Early Entry)

2. Colosseum, Forum, etc.

Right now, we are trying to decide on tour guides/ companies.

Does anyone have any experiences they would like to share?

Currently, we are considering Walks of Italy, City Wonders, Context Travel.

We have Rick Steves books and are familiar with his recommendations as well,

however, we would like a really good guide for the two above mentioned.

We are in Rome pre-cruise for 2.5 days and this is our first trip to Europe.

Thanks!

I will try to answer your question directly. In 2016, we used the services of both Walks of Italy and Dark Rome/City Wonders. Both companies provided excellent service before and during the tours. Our Dark Rome/City Wonders tour was an evening tour of Rome with an excellent guide. The Walks of Italy tour was the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill. There were no more than 12 people in either tour and the tour guide spoke only english. Since you say that you have some Rick Steves guide books. If you have any Rome or Italy guide books you can get a discount with Walks of Italy.

 

I hope my information is what you were looking for. Wishing you a wonderful time in Rome.

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We toured both the Vatican and the Colosseum/Forum last June with Tommasso of toursofthevatican.com. He speaks perfect English and is incredibly knowledgeable about Rome and its history. He is actually an archaeologist who worked on some of the digs at the Colosseum. We did private tours with just Tommasso, my young daughter, and myself but I believe he does small group tours at times also. The tours were catered to our interests and my daughter's attention level and we waited in no lines, nor we we ever rushed at any point. I will go out with him again next time I am in Rome as he made this a wonderful experience for both of us.

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consider 2 commercial tours Rome at night and Fountains of Rome at night... both cheap.

 

I agree getting reserved tickets and a guide for Vatican Museum is a must there are 2 entrances one for regular ( the line is about 1/2 to 3/4 mile long and a entrance for guided tours... no one in that line.

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We toured both the Vatican and the Colosseum/Forum last June with Tommasso of toursofthevatican.com. He speaks perfect English and is incredibly knowledgeable about Rome and its history. He is actually an archaeologist who worked on some of the digs at the Colosseum.

 

Hmmm, this is the kind of thing that gives me pause. I fear a lot of guides embroider the truth. There haven't been any serious "digs" at the Colosseum since probably just after WWII.

 

It's possible that he may have worked on some of the areas unearthed NEAR the Colosseum as a result of the efforts to build a new metro line through the heart of the historic area. Or perhaps he had a role in recent cleaning/restoration efforts. But excavations -- no.

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THE VATICAN

 

What some responses miss here is that the early tours take care of the ticketing and get you into the Vatican museum up to 90 minutes before the general public who buy tickets online or wait in line.

 

I think it is worth every penny to get in early. First your day gets off to an earlier start, and you get to see a lot of the museums before their are "crowds" and trust me you'll be ear to ear with people after the official opening. If you like to take pictures and avoid crowds it's worth prearranging a tour with an official vatican partner. And you also get to skip the lines for the Basilica (which can easily stretch 2.5 hours in the sun).

 

We got up early and took a 6:15 am bus to The Vatican (the smallest county in the world at 109 acres) for our "First Entry: Express Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums Entrance Tickets" tour, prebooked online with Dark Rome (City Wonders) for $58.75 per person (after discount). This tour granted us pre-ticketed special entrance access to the Sistine Chapel at 7:30 am. The selling point for this tour was access "30 minutes before any other group and 90 minutes before the general public, finding this incredible room empty" along with a group size of 20 people or less. We met our group across the street from the Entrance to the Vatican Museum at 7:00 am. Our tour guide led us into the museum, through the Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of Tapestries, and Gallery of Maps, to the Sistine Chapel where we had a lot of room to view and enjoy Michaelangelo's work. At 8:30 am, we had the option to exit the Sistine Chapel via a special skip-the-line exit to St. Peter's Basilica, or go back into the museum, unescorted, to explore. We chose to explore.

 

vatican-stpeterssquare.jpg

Our tour guide was good, the museum spectacular, the 90 minute jump start on crowds and the special skip-the-line access to St. Peter's Basilica were priceless. With 20,000 visitors a day, the Vatican gets very crowded. While the tour was entirely worth it, City Wonders didn't meet their promises. Our group was over the size limit by 15% and we had around four dozen other visitors in the Sistine Chapel with us when it opened. However, contrast this with the enormous hard-to-move-around crowds we encountered after 9:00 am and we considered ourselves very fortunate to have selected an early-entry tour.

 

Our second tour for the day was "The Scavi Tour". It was scheduled for 11:15 am, with an 11:00 am meeting time about a block from St. Peter's Basilica. This gave us only about 90 minutes to explore a few key exhibits in the Vatican Museum before exiting at 10:00 am via a special skip-the-line tour group exit for a quick visit to St. Peter's Basilica. This exit allows you to enter St. Peter's Basilica without going all the way back to the museum exit, walking 10-15 minutes to the Basilica, and then waiting in a two hour line! I'm told that this line, which we saw snaking all the way across St. Peter's Square in the sun, is a fairly constant 2.5-hour line all day long. While it's actually free to get into the Basilica, it's worth booking an official vatican partner tour just to skip this line.

 

St. Peter's Basilica is the largest "church" in the world. The opulence is breathtaking, from the high ornate ceilings (the dome is 385 feet up) and statuary to the marble and gold that is employed throughout. If you have time, visit The Vatican Grottoes. They are in the level below the floor of St. Peter's where many popes are buried. You can access the Grottoes by taking the stairs near the papal altar.

 

Below the Grottoes is the ancient Necropolis and excavations of St. Peter's tomb. These can only be seen on The Scavi Tour. The tour features everything from papal tombs to an ancient Roman street and St. Peter’s mausoleum. This incredible 90-minute escorted tour into the Excavations of the Necropolis (City of the Dead) underneath St. Peter's Basilica, is one of the most fascinating tours we took our entire trip. It's also one of the toughest tickets to come by in the Eternal City. Only around 250 visitors per day are permitted to enter, and groups are composed of approximately 12 people. Tickets (a bargain at just €13 per person) can only be purchased in advance (typically months in advance), via their official website.

 

The Scavi office is accessed on the left (south) side of the colonnade (columns) as you're facing the Basilica, through the Sant' Uffico gate. They do not let you go through security until it is almost time for your tour. Go through security, show the Swiss Guards your reservation and say "Scavi". You then walk to the Scavi office which is a short walk up a driveway and to the right where you'll be checked in. If you are late, they will leave without you. Our tour guide was excellent and he was full of good historical information. This tour literally ends inside the main floor of St. Peter's Basilica. Had we not already explored it earlier, this would have been a good time to do so.

 

COLOSSEUM

 

We booked a 1:30 pm 2.5 hour tour "Colosseum Arena Floor with Roman Forum" online in advance with The Roman Guy for €49 per person (using a 10% off "ricksteves" discount code). It was well worth it. Our meeting place was just outside the Metro station across from the Colosseum (one of two places on this trip that gave us goosebumps just being there. It truly is an impressive site). Our group was small, with only 9 folks including our knowledgeable English-speaking guide. She gave us some history and an overview before we went inside. We skipped the ticket line and our security line took less than 2 minutes since we were able to enter through the lesser used "Gate of Death" on the backside of the structure. We went up some stairs, through an arch, and found ourselves on the reconstructed arena floor for about 15-20 minutes. This was AWESOME!

 

rome-colosseumfloor.jpg

Only about 25% of the arena floor has been rebuilt, giving you a glimpse at what it once looked like as well as excellent views of the underground hypogeum and a rebuilt animal trap door. From here we explored a couple different levels of the Colosseum (but not the underground nor the recently opened upper lever Bob Uecker seats, which require a different access pass).

 

Leaving the Colosseum, we walked past the Arch of Constantine to the Arch of Titus at the entrance to the Roman Forum. Our escorted tour included Julius Caesar's Temple, The Eternal Flame, Vestal Virgins Atrium, Senate House, Basilica of Atoninous and Faustina, Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine. Following the tour, we briefly hiked up Palatine Hill for some light exploring before heading back towards our hotel.

 

 

Here's our complete, very detailed information page on all of our Mediterranean Ports, with pictures: http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/mediterranean-secrets.html

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THE VATICAN

 

What some responses miss here is that the early tours take care of the ticketing and get you into the Vatican museum up to 90 minutes before the general public who buy tickets online or wait in line.

 

I think it is worth every penny to get in early. First your day gets off to an earlier start, and you get to see a lot of the museums before their are "crowds" and trust me you'll be ear to ear with people after the official opening. If you like to take pictures and avoid crowds it's worth prearranging a tour with an official vatican partner. And you also get to skip the lines for the Basilica (which can easily stretch 2.5 hours in the sun).

 

Here's our complete, very detailed information page on all of our Mediterranean Ports, with pictures: http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/mediterranean-secrets.html

 

Many thanks for these recommendations. Based upon them, we have booked the same tours through Dark Rome and Roman Guy. Can't wait to experience this.

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Have a great trip. If per chance Dark Rome oversells your tour or there are more groups in the Sistine Chapel for the first 15 minutes when you arrive, be sure to call them out. I sent them a pleasant email telling them it was a worthy tour but they didn't fulfill their promises. They quickly gave me a 10 euro refund. Not a big deal. Had they not promised otherwise, I would have been just as happy with this early entry tour. I just felt someone needs to hold them accountable.

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Have a great trip. If per chance Dark Rome oversells your tour or there are more groups in the Sistine Chapel for the first 15 minutes when you arrive, be sure to call them out. I sent them a pleasant email telling them it was a worthy tour but they didn't fulfill their promises. They quickly gave me a 10 euro refund. Not a big deal. Had they not promised otherwise, I would have been just as happy with this early entry tour. I just felt someone needs to hold them accountable.

 

Will certainly do!

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I would advise against using the Roman Guy. We used them for two tours (Underground Colosseum and Early Entry Vatican) and neither went well. All of our pre-trip interactions were great but when it came to the actual tours (and especially the transportation to said tours) we had multiple issues. Based on our experiences with another company at other stops I feel there are better options out there. Just my opinion!

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I would advise against using the Roman Guy. We used them for two tours (Underground Colosseum and Early Entry Vatican) and neither went well. All of our pre-trip interactions were great but when it came to the actual tours (and especially the transportation to said tours) we had multiple issues. Based on our experiences with another company at other stops I feel there are better options out there. Just my opinion!

 

Can you elaborate? What issues did you have?

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OMG--I just booked three tours (Underground Colosseum, Rome Catacombs, Early Morning Sistine Chapel/Vatican/St. Peter's) with the Roman Guy. I had an issue with a date mix-up on our end, and they were very accommodating in changing it with no charge. However, now I'm worried to hear that there are bad experiences, because we have spent a lot of $$$ on these tours. Please elaborate--and hopefully, these issues have been addressed?!?!

 

 

THANKS!

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  • 1 month later...
Have a great trip. If per chance Dark Rome oversells your tour or there are more groups in the Sistine Chapel for the first 15 minutes when you arrive, be sure to call them out. I sent them a pleasant email telling them it was a worthy tour but they didn't fulfill their promises. They quickly gave me a 10 euro refund. Not a big deal. Had they not promised otherwise, I would have been just as happy with this early entry tour. I just felt someone needs to hold them accountable.

 

I'm reporting back with my experience with Dark Rome. As I said previously, we booked the same early entry Vatican-Sistine Chapel tour as you.

 

We had the early tour at 7:20 a.m. The tour guide was so-so. When we arrived at the Sistine Chapel, I was shocked as there were more than 120 people in there (I stopped counting at 120). They certainly did not fulfill their promise. Later that day I e-mailed them with my experience and they said I misunderstood. They claimed they only promise there will not be any other tour groups besides Dark Rome in the Sistene chapel the first 30 minutes. Apparently they had more than six Dark Rome tour groups in there at once?? They stated there would be no refund.

 

This is a warning to not believe the written promises of this company. I would stay away from them.

 

In contrast, our tour of the Colosseum with the Roman Guy was fabulous and I recommend it highly.

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We did walks of Italy and it was more or less what I expected and I was satisfied.

 

The main issue for me is the Vatican. First, the line to the Vatican is INSANE. It makes no sense to fly all the way over and wait for like 4 hours in the sun. I would pay and chose any of the options that allow you to avoid the line. A big consideration is how much you enjoy museums. The Vatican is humongous and you can spend as much time as you want there. If you chose one of the ones that goes early in the morning, there are less people, but then your time may be cut short if you have more itinerary afterwards. The tours that end there you can re-enter the museum section I believe (not sistine chapel) if you want before it closes.

 

The Colosseum also can have lines, but for most people, the short time most tours spend there is good enough. There are longer more detailed tours of the Colosseum if that's your thing though.

 

Even though a lot of tours list the forum, be careful as not all of them enter. The one I went on listed the Forum and we just kind of walked by parts of it and not really even the main part. It's pretty large and can take a long time to explore just by itself. We really enjoyed the Forum, we did it without a tour and spent like half a day, so I would expect any tour that actually enters the fourm to be at least a couple hours dedicated to it.

 

Rome is very english friendly so I wouldn't say a tour is really necessary for anything other than the Vatican.

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