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Tour Guide in Rome?

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My wife and MIL are going on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Rome in April, 2020.  They're going to spend three days in Rome before the cruise departs.  Can anyone recommend a tour guide/company to help them maximize their time there?  They've heard that the lines and crowds (especially at The Vatican) can get crazy, and they want to get around that as much as they can.

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Do they feel not up to the task of doing this themselves?

 

Tours have their place, to be sure, but the historic center of Rome is quite compact and easily managed on your own.

 

There are places that are better pre-arranged, like the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum, and we can help you work through that.  You can buy the tickets directly from each one on line.

 

One place where it's worth it to spend some money is on a car service, directly from their Rome hotel to the ship.  With that transfer taken care of they can relax into planning the stay in Rome that best meet their interests, rather than a generalized packaged tour.

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We used Marisa at Rome with Marisa last year for an excellent tour of the Vatican Museum. She was very helpful in answering our questions and arranging early entry into the museum to avoid the crowds. We have done several tours of the Vatican and Marisa was the best.

 

Rome is very easy to do on your own, but a guided tour of the Vatican/St. Peters or Colosseum/Forum can be very helpful.

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We used Italy Tours.eu. We were very pleased . This past September, we used a gentleman that was referred to us by some friends . His name is  Antonio. He charges 50 euros an hour but you will see a lot . He even got us a private tour guide to go into the Colosseum with us . Worth every penny . If you are interested, I will be happy to supply his email. 
 

We also used Rolling Rome Golf Cart Tours this past September. We booked the sunset tour. It started at 7Pm ( picked up at our hotel) and back at  10 pm. Our guide Eugene was fantastic. Got to see all the sites at night . Rome is absolutely beautiful lit up !! 
 

Good luck with your research .  I’m sure whatever you decide they will have a great time ! 

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6 hours ago, kuddles14 said:

He charges 50 euros an hour but you will see a lot . He even got us a private tour guide to go into the Colosseum with us. 

 

I'm sure you had a great time with this individual and I want to be clear that I'm not accusing him or you of doing anything wrong but I do want to point out something to readers.

 

Several years ago Italy made it illegal for transactions over 1,000 euro or more to happen in cash.  This was to curb the Italian "culture", if that's the right word, of avoiding taxes.  Over time the amount will likely be reduced to continue to put the squeeze on people who are not reporting their income and paying taxes on it.

 

While it's none of my business what guides who hire themselves out by word-of-mouth do or don't do, I am worried about my own ability to travel to Italy freely.  I know that the odds of being caught paying someone "under the table" are very, very low but they are not zero.  If you are caught in this situation you can be deported and prevented from entering Italy in the future.

 

I guess it comes down to your own sense of right and wrong and your appetite for risk.  As I said, the risk is really, really low.  

 

To protect yourself, always insist on seeing the licensing credentials for any tour guide you hire in Italy.  They are required to wear them while working, most have them on a lanyard around their neck.  Having a license doesn't insure that the individual is paying his/her taxes as required but it's at least a first step in making sure you are legitimately hiring someone.

 

With apps like Square or Paypal readily available now, anyone can charge by credit card.  Yes, they pay a fee and may gross up the amount they charge you to cover this fee, but you are covered.  Consider asking a supplier who wants you to pay in cash if they will accept payment this way.  

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I don’t know any particular tour guides in Rome but I can suggest you to check Viator https://www.viator.com/Rome/d511-ttd In the list you will find both group and individual tours. Each tour has a description and a number of reviews which will help you to chose a tour you want. You will get a local guide either from a local company or independent but at the same time you will pay for the service via Viator and it’s absolutely legal. No risk at all.

Jess

 

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4 hours ago, euro cruiser said:

To protect yourself, always insist on seeing the licensing credentials for any tour guide you hire in Italy.  They are required to wear them while working, most have them on a lanyard around their neck.  Having a license doesn't insure that the individual is paying his/her taxes as required but it's at least a first step in making sure you are legitimately hiring someone.

 

 

This is a good discussion to have, and an area that I often feel is not communicated as transparently as it should be by some of the operators of driver services.  To be perfectly clear:

 

  • Drivers and guides in Italy serve two different functions and one person is not "allowed" to do both. This is mandated by law. It is unlikely that a tourist will get "penalized" by this fact, but it does help explain why the popular driver services will obtain a licensed, official guide for you if requested (e.g., the Vatican, the Colosseum).
  • Most of the drivers that work with these services are NOT licensed guides.  While some do a good job of communicating information to you about what you will be seeing, they are not REQUIRED to do so and sometimes they do not have the knowledge or language skills. It is up to the customer to hire an actual guide, if that is what they want, or to bring along their own information (guidebook, notes, etc.)
  • When you hire a local guide independently, you should always make sure they are licensed. Licensed guides in Italy go through extensive education, training and testing to obtain their license and are very knowledgeable. Unlicensed guides are taking unfair advantage by taking work from guides who have gone through this process ....and they also are likely to provide their customers with information that is inaccurate or incomplete.

 

 

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6 hours ago, euro cruiser said:

 

I'm sure you had a great time with this individual and I want to be clear that I'm not accusing him or you of doing anything wrong but I do want to point out something to readers.

 

Several years ago Italy made it illegal for transactions over 1,000 euro or more to happen in cash.  This was to curb the Italian "culture", if that's the right word, of avoiding taxes.  Over time the amount will likely be reduced to continue to put the squeeze on people who are not reporting their income and paying taxes on it.

 

While it's none of my business what guides who hire themselves out by word-of-mouth do or don't do, I am worried about my own ability to travel to Italy freely.  I know that the odds of being caught paying someone "under the table" are very, very low but they are not zero.  If you are caught in this situation you can be deported and prevented from entering Italy in the future.

 

I guess it comes down to your own sense of right and wrong and your appetite for risk.  As I said, the risk is really, really low.  

 

To protect yourself, always insist on seeing the licensing credentials for any tour guide you hire in Italy.  They are required to wear them while working, most have them on a lanyard around their neck.  Having a license doesn't insure that the individual is paying his/her taxes as required but it's at least a first step in making sure you are legitimately hiring someone.

 

With apps like Square or Paypal readily available now, anyone can charge by credit card.  Yes, they pay a fee and may gross up the amount they charge you to cover this fee, but you are covered.  Consider asking a supplier who wants you to pay in cash if they will accept payment this way.  

Thank you for pointing this out . I did not know . Fortunately none of our tours were 1,000 euros . 

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1 hour ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

This is a good discussion to have, and an area that I often feel is not communicated as transparently as it should be by some of the operators of driver services.  To be perfectly clear:

 

  • Drivers and guides in Italy serve two different functions and one person is not "allowed" to do both. This is mandated by law. It is unlikely that a tourist will get "penalized" by this fact, but it does help explain why the popular driver services will obtain a licensed, official guide for you if requested (e.g., the Vatican, the Colosseum).
  • Most of the drivers that work with these services are NOT licensed guides.  While some do a good job of communicating information to you about what you will be seeing, they are not REQUIRED to do so and sometimes they do not have the knowledge or language skills. It is up to the customer to hire an actual guide, if that is what they want, or to bring along their own information (guidebook, notes, etc.)
  • When you hire a local guide independently, you should always make sure they are licensed. Licensed guides in Italy go through extensive education, training and testing to obtain their license and are very knowledgeable. Unlicensed guides are taking unfair advantage by taking work from guides who have gone through this process ....and they also are likely to provide their customers with information that is inaccurate or incomplete.

 

 

Fortunately our gentlemen was very good and up front about what he is allowed to do and that he was not allowed to go into certain sites because he was not licensed to do so . 
 

You are right , people need to know these things, so they are not taken advantage of . 

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We used Rome with Marisa just last month.  She was a fabulous guide.  We used her for 3 different tours, Piazzas and fountains, Ancient Rome and the Vatican.  

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We've used both City Wonders and Walks of Italy for tours throughout Italy.  Nothing but good things to say about all of the tours.  I would recommend a tour through the Vatican - you get to "skip the lines" and there is so much to see!  It's nice to know what you're looking at 🙂  Both of their websites are pretty easy to read and book online.

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Are there any of the bigger well known tour guide companies that are known to have smaller groups with their own guide when touring within the Colosseum, Vatican, etc....

Like City Wonders, Roman Guy...

I understand that many will join with the larger regular tours run by the site. 

 

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6 hours ago, Wishing on a star said:

Are there any of the bigger well known tour guide companies that are known to have smaller groups with their own guide when touring within the Colosseum, Vatican, etc....

Like City Wonders, Roman Guy...

I understand that many will join with the larger regular tours run by the site. 

 

 

Usually such tours will be listed on their websites as "small group" tours or "semi-private" tours. 

 

What exactly are you looking for in your Rome day?  

  • Transportation to and from port, or will you get to Rome on your own (or are you staying in Rome?
  • What sites do you want to visit (specifically -- interior visits, guided visit, etc.). What are your "must do" things?
  • What is your ideal group size, given that a private tour is going to be much more expensive than a semi-private (6-15) or larger group tour?

I've taken a lot of Rome tours over the years, but tend to do one thing at a time, not a full day crammed with highlights. I like Context Travel small group tours for their thoughtful approach and excellent guides. They do offer private full-day tours and shore excursions, but those are very pricey.  If you're staying in Rome and have several days, it might be worth it to do a few of their half-day tours (e.g., one for the Vatican, one for ancient Roman sites, etc.)

 

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We used Share a Shore Excursion in Italy and our guide was great. He got us into the Vatican without waiting in line, same at the Coliseum.  We also used Rome in Limo for other areas of Italy and it was equally good.  This is about 8 years ago.  Boy, I think we are due for a trip back!

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Thanks! 

Without knowing anything at all and never having visited Rome, this is what we have in mind. 

We have a couple days, pre-cruise.  (not counting overnight travel and check-in)

We are not getting any younger or adventurous!!!    And for me, stamina could be an issue.

 

I am looking at a centrally located hotel, maybe at Trevi area.

I would like fewer crowds at the Sistine Chapel and Vatican.  (I know, the key word is 'fewer')

So, I am looking at an early entry tour thru a sight like Roman Guy.  The EARLIEST entry would be more privileged, but the better tour might be the Early entry.  Not as exclusive, but would see more.

We would do the Colosseum and Forum the next day, before transfer to the port.  Not sure how much of the Colosseum we really want to cover.

 

That would leave perhaps a 1/2 day tour/driver for the day, to see other nice areas and sights in Rome.

Looking at tour/transfers with Rome Cabs?  for this, and for transfer to port.

 

The kicker seems to be that good tour guides and transportation are two separate things.

So, figuring out how to piece this all together.  (AND WHERE TO EAT!)  seems to be the challenge.

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2 minutes ago, Wishing on a star said:

The kicker seems to be that good tour guides and transportation are two separate things.

So, figuring out how to piece this all together.  (AND WHERE TO EAT!)  seems to be the challenge.

 

First, don't worry about where to eat -- Rome is full of excellent restaurants. On a first visit, stay somewhere central (Trevi is a good option, as is the Pantheon, or Piazza Navona) and you'll find plenty of options close to your hotel without even trying...!

 

Second, yes -- Rome tours tend not to include transportation. But Rome is pretty easy to get around on your own. If you book a Vatican tour and stay near Trevi, you can take the metro (you won't even need to transfer) out to the Vatican area to meet your tour. Same with the Colosseum -- you would need to change lines at Termini for that one. 

 

But don't discount the use of an occasional taxi. If you want to save your stamina for the actual sightseeing and you aren't sure exactly where the entrance is, let's say -- a 10-15 euro taxi ride will get you from Point A (Trevi, Pantheon, anywhere central) to Point B (the Vatican) and make it easy. You don't need a 500 euro private driver to whisk you around, ESPECIALLY if you are staying in the city. It may make a bit more sense when you have the long drive to/from Civitavecchia.....although for me, I could never see paying that kind of cost when there are other reasonable options.

 

It seems overwhelming at first but just keep researching and asking questions. :classic_biggrin:

 

P.S.  In recent years, the Vatican museum has gotten terribly overcrowded except at the lowest of low season. That's one place where either an early-morning or late evening special opening tour would make sense. Otherwise, no matter how small your own group is, you're going to be chock-a-block with thousands of others in the museum, all striving to get to the Sistine chapel!

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