I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a tour guy. I don’t like doing tours because I like to move at my own pace and do my own thing. However, I took an all day tour of Rome with the Tour Guy and I was fairly impressed. It showed all the relevant places you’d like to visit in Rome while giving you a sneak peak into what else you could see on your own. If you’re on a tight timeframe, this (or other tours like it) might be just the thing for you.
So about a week before arrival, I realized that due to it being Easter when I was arriving (actually arrived on Good Friday and left Tuesday), the logistics of doing everything would be quite tough. I would be battling sites that would be closed, completely booked, or just unavailable. That’s when I knew that doing everything on my timeframe just wouldn’t be possible and the only way to do it was through a tour of some sort.
Now even getting a tour was a little difficult because of all the aforementioned closures due to Easter. Thus, my only available timeframe was Saturday where I could be sure all the sites would be open. My thought process was this way, I’d be able to go to Vatican city and see the Sistene Chapel (St. Peter’s Basilica was closed due to Covid), the Pantheon, Forum, and the Colosseum. I’d be able to check out all the places I wanted to see for sure and then have the rest of the trip to either go back to spend more time or go check out new places in the time I had left.
As I was doing research, it quickly dawned on me that many of the sites required reservations for a specific entry time that was an extra charge to the price of the ticket. It wasn’t a lot (usually around 4 Euros/ticket) but it does leave a bad taste in your mouth. And if you’re trying to hustle around the city to get to a site so you can enter at your alotted time, you run the risk of not getting to enter if you’re late. Finally, if you wanted to see 4 different sites during your trip, well that’s easily and extra 16 Euros just in reservation fees!
That said, the day tour not only handled all the reservations but also the entry admission for the sites that required it (which seemed like all of them except Trevi Fountain). I think it would have been impossible to time all that perfectly enough to get it all done in a day for someone with no experience.
My experience overall was great. We started our tour at Vatican city where we went through the museum and checked out a few parts. I’m not a big museum guy so I really didn’t get too much out of it but the highlight is definitely the Sistene Chapel, which is the last thing you visit before you exit the museum. While there, just note that you’re not allowed to take any pictures or video of anything inside the chappel and the museum staff were VERY aggressively enforcing the no picture rule. My only thought is if you’re wearing glasses with the camera built in, they’d have a tough time knowing if/when you’re taking photos.
From there, we checked out St. Mark’s Square in that we walked through it and stopped for some photos. The square was already set up for the celbration of Easter the next day so there really wasn’t much that you could do. We had already been notified that St. Peter’s Basilica was closed due to Covid so we knew we weren’t getting in. From there, we were transported to the city center where we had a walking tour of the city as we went to different squares to see different fountains on our way to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountains. Once there, we were able to stop for a bit and get a quick bite to eat and rest our legs for the final push for our trip. We finised with a tour through the Forum and ended with a trip to the Colosseum. The Colosseum was the big one I noticed was most difficult to get a ticket for because you were expected to have a ticket and a reservation if you didn’t want to spend hours in line. With our guide, we showed up around 2pm and were able to get in right away. From there, the metro is right behind the Colosseum so you can get anywhere you want without any problems.
My tour through thetourguy.com was around $150 which included entry to all the attractions as well as a private van from the Vatican to the city square. The entire tour took about 7.5 hours (including the 30mins we rested for lunch) so it was a lot. Considering we didn’t have to wait at any of the attractions and that we were able to get in without any problems, I’d say that was well worth it. On top of that, we had a great guide to talk about each attraction and give us a tour of all things we were seeing on the way. To get all that for less than $20/hour was a steal for me. Obviously your experience my vary but again, coming from a guy who doesn’t really enjoy tours, I thought it was well worth it.
I can’t stress enough how I think it would have been impossible to see and do everything we did in that timeframe if I’d done it myself. Im sure there are other tour groups out there with similar experiences so I’d recommend looking at all of them and seeing what interests you the most. You can always take audio guides at the sites you visit but that still won’t help you with the entry times and making sure you’re prepared to be somewhere at a specific time. to be honest, you might spend as much on a taxi to get from one attraction to another if you’re not careful with the timing.
I’d also say that this is A LOT of walking so if you’re not used to being on your feet for an extended period of time, it can get a little tough. Also, depending on the time of year, it can get pretty hot. It was certainly warm for us on our tour and add the mask requirement for indoor places, it can get even more uncomfortable.
Also, I’d think twice about taking a tour like this if you have small kids in tow. Not only will they get bored quickly, they may not be able to stay on their feet for that long. There were 2 kids in my gourp (maybe 6 and 10?) and they really couldn’t care less after a while. There was even a time where they unknowingly sat on some ruins and were quickly told by the official to get off. They weren’t doing anything malicious and they were just trying to sit in the shade for a bit. The ruin also wasn’t cordoned off so I don’t think they thought of anything of it. I just think it’s a long time to hold a child’s attention for that long and even the parents had clearly lost interest a few hours in.