Traveling has always been one of my passions. I love the joy of experiencing new cultures and the excitement of exploring our amazing world.
If you are planning a trip to Rome, you are undoubtedly going to be visiting a few of the city's great historical attractions. If you have never been to Rome, I would like to suggest that you look into employing the services of a private tour guide for at least a few of Rome’s treasures. Now, let me preface this by saying that there is nothing like strolling the streets of Rome at your own pace or leisurely biding your time in St. Peters Square, or any of Rome’s wonderful Piazzas. But, when it comes to touring the Vatican Museum, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum, in particular, you would be wise to look into hiring a tour guide.
1. If You Have Questions, Your Guide Has Answers
This is important because most of us are simply not learned enough to know the details of what we are looking at, never mind knowing the history behind it. The Vatican Museum complex is made up of thirteen museums located in fourteen palaces, has miles and miles of corridors, and rooms filled with thousands of artifacts. It would be virtually impossible to prepare ahead of time to know what’s in every room, and to know the stories and significance behind what you are seeing. The same goes for the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. It’s one thing to have a map while strolling through the Forum; it’s another thing to hear the history, and have someone point it out to you clearly and concisely. Don’t get me wrong, audio guides are great, but if you have a question, to whom do you direct it? With a guide and a small group, you can ask questions, converse freely, and not be competing with hordes of others to simply hear what your guide is telling you.
2. Group Size Matters
I will say that I am not a big fan of large group tours. I have been on large group tours, and I have been on small private tours, and the difference is immeasurable. With a large group it becomes very difficult for the tour guide to keep everyone together, and often times throughout the tour they will inevitably have to wait for stragglers to catch up. This is not only frustrating but a waste of your time. Also, with a large group, it can be very difficult to hear exactly what your guide is saying, especially in the Vatican Museum, which always seems loud and crowded. When it’s just you and your guide it becomes a much more efficient tour, with less downtime, and makes for a much more enjoyable experience.
3. Skip the Lines
On our first trip to Rome we made our way to St. Peters Square hoping to see St. Peters Basilica, and the Vatican Museum. Not really having a plan, we must have looked lost standing in the square staring at the very long lines. The best way to avoid the long lines at any of Rome‘s sites is to have a private tour guide. Whether it’s the Roman Colosseum or the Vatican Museum, your guide will be able to skip the lines, and you’ll be on your way while everyone else wonders what made you so special. It can be a huge time saving, and definitely worth the expense. Just look at the line to get into the Vatican Museum on any given day as it snakes its way around the walls of the Vatican, and you’ll be glad you are not waiting in it.
4. Set Your Own Pace
The last thing you’ll want to experience when in Rome is to be rushed from one historical site to another. And conversely, you also don’t want to visit places that are not on your hit list or to spend too much time at a site because your large group has become dispersed. What you want is to set your own pace, and the best way to do this is with a private guide. The most highly touted guides will ask you what you want to see and will tailor your time to your interests. They will schedule your day or half-day at your pace and will let you know ahead of time what to expect. It should be a stress-free experience, and with a private guide, chances are good it will be.
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5. How to Find a Guide
After our first trip to Rome, where we pretty much did everything wrong, we learned a few valuable lessons. Among them was the fact that there are many highly acclaimed guides in Rome. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to return to Rome, and for our second visit, we did our homework and made a shortlist of the more highly touted guides. There are a number of tools available to help you with the process, but two of my favorites are TripAdvisor and Fodor's. You can go directly to either of these online travel websites or simply Google what you are looking for.
After doing your research, which may involve numerous back and forth e-mails, you can settle on a guide that you feel comfortable with. Make sure they are highly recommended and are licensed tour guides who speak fluent English or whatever your primary language is. You don’t want a great guide who speaks only Italian, especially if all you know is “Buongiorno”. After settling on a guide, be sure to confirm your day and time, and also what you want to see during your time together. Now is the time to ask questions and to settle on an itinerary.
St. Peters Basilica
Having toured Rome on our own, done the Vatican Museum with a large tour group, and done both with a private tour guide, I can empathically say that it is worth the expense to have a private guide to help you understand the history and significance of the Eternal City. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to make a second trip to Rome. For many folks, a trip to Rome may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and your one and only chance to experience this amazing city. Why not go the extra mile, and make sure you get everything possible that Rome has to offer.
Ciao for now.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you have a private tour guide recommendation for Rome?
Answer: Yes, I can recommend either Francesca Caruso or Sonia Tavoletta. Both were excellent, highly engaging, and speak excellent English.
© 2012 Bill De Giulio