So we plan on going to Rome and don't know much about tour guides. All suggestions are welcomed. Should we have a tour guide or explore on our own?
I think it really depends upon what you are interested in. For example, if you're interested in the history of areas or buildings that you are looking at, and have not had enough time to research all the details, a guide can supply that information. Similarly, if you are interested in art, learning which churches and museums are worth your time to explore can take a lot of research. A good guide can save you that time and effort. Or if you just want someone who knows a lot so she or he can help you with your understanding of the place/object/history, a guide can be better than any travel book. I agree with Susan Schwartz, below, that Context Travel provides excellent guides. I have ten university courses in art history, including Renaissance and Baroque art, but when I went to the Borghese Gallery for the third time, the discussion from the docent from Context Travel gave me new insight about how to look at the amazing Bernini sculptures and provided a lot of background for others who were with me who don't have an art history education.
Gotta agree with the majority here...no tour guide really needed if you do enough research before going. We spent 10 days in Rome (even did a trip to Pompei) all without the need of a tour guide and at our own pace. We noticed many of guided tours just hurried through things (probably to maximize that day)...but if planned well, you should have enough free time to hit all your "must see's" and to get lost in the beautiful streets and find your own gems.
No guide needed and if you want to get inspired in planning your days, here's a blog post about it: http://www.wheretwogoto.com/3-days-in-rome/ :)
Rome can seem overwhelming so there are two great tour companies: Context Travel and Walks of Rome. I am a travel blogger and I worked with both. Have a great time. It's my fav city in the world!
Hi Erica, if it's your first visit you should definitely start with an open-top bus tour, of which there are many different companies offering the same route all around the city. The most well known being City Sightseeing Roma. Personally, I would go for their 48 or 72 hour ticket as that way you can both enjoy the tour itself - some of the views are spectacular - and use it as transport to move around the city during that period, hopping on/off wherever you please. A few of the stops towards the end of the route aren't terribly close to the places mentioned (such as Villa Borghese & the Trevi Fountain) but one of the joys of Rome is ambling around its lovely old streets, so be prepared to walk quite a bit and pack suitable footwear. A lot of the most popular sights, such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, will offer audio guides in various languages, and for these I would advise booking tickets online, in advance, to skip the very long lines.
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You should explore on your own. Read a few books before your trip and then get lost in the city. You'll have way more fun and learn more, too.
I don't think so. At some historical places in Italy, like Pompei, a tour guide who knows the history is useful. I had a tour guide for the Vatican and found the knowledge to be helpful, but getting a tour guide is never a home run, and often times there are frustrating elements that mitigate the positives. Maybe take a tour of the Colosseo with a guide but in general with a smart phone, good maps, and some research you can do it without a guide. However, if you are fortunate enough to be in the price bracket that can afford a private guide then that might be worth your while.
I agree with Tiffany, Rome is very do-able without a guide. I used the Tripadvisor city guide for Rome (downloaded so that I could use it offline) The only exception might be the Vatican museum, which is worth a guided tour. Otherwise I wouldn't bother! Walk as much as possible, veer off the beaten track a little and don't miss Trastevere
I don't think a tour guide is necessary. We spent a nearly a week in Rome without a guide. It's an easy city to explore by foot, people are friendly, and public transportation is easy enough to navigate on your own as well.
I bought the DK book about Rome and used that and my phone map to plan a general itinerary each day.