Even the most independent traveler can benefit from a guided tour in Rome. Not only do they provide an easy way to get the lay of the land, they provide useful background information on Roman sites worth exploring further. By adopting the right attitude and realizing their limitations, the savvy traveler can enjoy the camaraderie of fellow travelers while being chauffeured around to do nothing more than taken in the sights and listen to the commentary.
Guided Tour Companies and Tours
Three good guided tour operators in Rome are American Express’s Vastours, Appian Line, and Carrari. Each of these guided tour operators offer half and full day tours of Rome, generally grouped into the one of the following categories: “Ancient Rome,” “Classical Rome,” “Christian Rome,” and “The Vatican Museums (with Sistine Chapel).” In the case of touring the Vatican, a guided tour in fact offers the traveler a distinct advantage. Tours never have to wait (sometimes an hour or more) in line for admission to the Museums! Many of the tour companies also offer “Rome at Night” tours (with or without dinner and evening entertainment).
Get-On, Get-Off Tour Buses
Some tour companies offer visitors the hop-on, hop-off options for visiting Rome’s sights. Stop-‘n’-Go is one Roman tour company that features this option. With 8 daily departures and 14 pre-planned stops, this may provide some travelers with a more flexible schedule than a traditional guided tour.
The least expensive version of the hop-on, hop-off form of sightseeing in Rome is offered by the municipal transportation department, ATAC. Using a double-decker bus (No. 110) leaving from Piazza dei Cinquecento (near Termini Station), an inexpensive daily ticket allows travelers to see Rome (complete with audio guided tour in English). Taking in all the major Roman sights (such as the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Square, and the Trevi Fountain among others). Buses depart from the piazza every 20 minutes.
The Archeobus (also run by city government) takes travelers to the Catacombs, Old Appian Way, and Park of the Aqueducts just outside the city proper. These smaller, 15-seat buses operate on a hop-on, hop-off basis as well and leave from the same location at the No. 110, albeit on an hourly basis.
Special Interest Guided Tours of Rome
Carrari Tour Company and Appian Line also offer excursions (during public papal audiences) to the Vatican, as well as Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence.
For boat trips on the Tiber River, travelers should check out Tourvisa Italia. Four times a day, boats leave Ponte Sant’ Angelo for a 90 minute journey. This guided tour company also offers combined bus-and-boat tours, as well as evening cruises that include dinner.
If land-based sauntering is more your style, tours of Roman fountains via horse-drawn carriages are a popular option in Rome. These are easily located in popular tourist sites (like the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Square) and do not require pre-booking. Rates can be steep, but are negotiable.
For those looking for a little more daring adventure, Aerophile 5500 provides 15 minute balloon tours over Rome. Departing from Villa Borghese (at Galoppatoio), the rates for an airborne expedition drop on Tuesdays and rise over the weekend.
Walking (and Jogging) Tours of Rome
There are likely no better tour guides than those found with the group Context Rome. This guided tour company was founded by a group of art historians, architects, archaeologists, and professors who provide specialized walking tours of the city of Rome. Offering 5-6 guided tours daily (and limiting their size to no more than 6 people), these tours are more mini-seminars than cliché-laden tours. Some examples of tours offered include “Architecture and History of the Archaeological Center,” “Underground Rome,” and “The Vatican Collections.”
Many other groups in Rome offer walking tours of the city. Just some of those tour companies include All About Rome, Through Eternity, Argiletum Tour, and Enjoy Rome. Some offer private tours of the Sistine Chapel before it opens (a clear advantage to seeing this artistic masterpiece without the hordes of tourists daily). Most of these companies require booking at least a day in advance, if not more during busier seasons.
Finally, if you like a little culture with your exercise and are in good shape, consider Sight Jogging Tours for a Roman run. Tour destinations and length are based on individual runner’s ability. Routes include “Ancient Roman Sites,” “The Villa Borghese,” and “Imperial Rome and the Colosseum.” Most runs last 45-60 minutes.
For those seeking a personal tour guide in Rome, the local tourist office (Azienda Per Turismo or APT) is the place to arrange one.
No matter what type of guided tour the traveler to Rome is seeking, there’s something to meet every interest and price tag. From inexpensive public buses to personal guides, Rome has it all.