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When I went to Italy last February I was surprised by all the tour options throughout the country. Certainly there are plenty of tours in Southeast Asia, but I didn’t really do many since I was living there and figuring out things on my own. I also feel like places in Europe, especially the major cities, are set up a lot better for more varied, interesting tours than in, say, Thailand. Rome, for example, has SO MUCH to do, see and learn about. So does Bangkok, but Rome is on an entirely different level with its long history…it would be crazy not to do some tours to learn and discover more than you ever would on your own.
As I start planning for my upcoming Europe trip, I’m taking another look at different tour offerings and options to see what’s interesting and try to strike a balance between sightseeing on my own and doing guided programs. I still can’t help thinking about all the tours in Rome though so wanted to do a quick roundup.
This was by far one of the coolest tours I’ve ever been on – different, fun, personalized and the right blend of touristy sights and information, mixed with local insights and hidden spots. I had a Scooteroma guide pick me up on his Vespa in the morning, drive me all around the city, take me out for a cappuccino and drop me off in the afternoon, kissing my cheeks goodbye. You can read all about it here.
For some reason, I didn’t think I needed to actually go into the Colosseum or do a tour to see the sights around it, like the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. I was wrong. Everyone that I’ve talked to since said touring the Colosseum was actually a highlight of their trip, and I honestly had no idea what I was looking at throughout that whole area. I was overwhelmed by the fact that there were so many important sites so close together and didn’t fully recognize their history or significance. Next time, I’ll do better and sign up for a guide or Colosseum tour to help me appreciate the area more.
Though I didn’t make time for the Colosseum, I made sure there was plenty of time to eat. (Priorities…) The tours run by Eating Italy were mouthwatering and the one I took through the Testacchio neighborhood was awesome starting with tiramisu and ending with gelato (with plenty of pizza, pasta and wine along the way…).
I have another confession – I didn’t go to the Vatican. Between my limited stay, busy eating schedule and zipping around the city on the back of a Vespa, I didn’t have enough time and made the decision that if I was going to go I wanted to do it right and not be rushed. So I went to the gates as I was wandering around the city one afternoon, vowed to come back, then…probably went and got gelato. When I do go back, I’ll definitely want to do some sort of Vatican City tour, especially since I will have no clue about what I’m looking at. I usually go back and forth on whether tour prices are worth it, but end up thinking that if you’re only planning on going to a place once in your life, you better make the most of it and get a more complete experience than just wandering around aimlessly.
I’m a guidebook person, but tend to stick with Lonely Planet or Rough Guides…Rick Steves just doesn’t do it for me. That said, his books do tend to include more historical and cultural details than other guides and often have directions for self-guided walking tours. Since my favorite thing to do in a new place is simply walk around, these are a great resource to have some guidance and explanation about where you are, but still be able to wander at your own pace and without an annoying group. What’s even better is that you can download some free audio tours and maps directly from his site, like these for Rome, Florence, Venice and Assisi. I’ll definitely be looking at what he has available for Barcelona, Athens, London and Paris!