Have the Rome tour of your life!

Rome is a city full of surprises, a living museum with great weather, food, sites and above all people.  It’s the perfect holiday destination on many levels.  Visiting sites such as the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla, the Trevi fountain and the Spanish steps are just as pleasurable as enjoying a superb meal in the Ghetto, or taking a stroll amongst the cobbled streets of Trastevere while eating a delicious ice cream.  Either way, you will need to do some planning so that you don’t waste time queueing for tickets or wandering around the city with your nose in a map trying to find Piazza Navona!

Some places, the Vatican and Colosseum especially, have queues to overcome and can be skipped by booking a fully qualified licensed guide.  It’s worth doing not only as a way to jump the queue, but also a good guide has a wealth of knowledge and many stories to tell that will make your visit all the more interesting and worthwhile. In a group tour each person is issued with a headset so nobody will have to strain there ears above the noisy crowds in order to hear what the guide is explaining.

Many of the sites of course don’t need tickets or a guide, places like the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and the many piazzas of Rome can be seen whenever you want, a guide isn’t really necessary for these, but having someone who knows the history is always recommended, having someone who is passionate about the city and who is able to tell you stories and facts that you won’t find in any guide book, really makes a difference.

Planning your holiday makes it a much less stressful experience.  Booking ahead will save you time, and money, and by booking a guided tour you will be able to see all of what this city has to offer and still have time to relax.  Remember, Rome also has many restaurants, bars, shops and parks to see!  If you have time, why not book a trip to the island of Capri, Castel Gandolfo( the summer residence of the Pope) or even Pompeii?

Whatever you end up doing in the Eternal City, a professional tour will make your experience and unforgettable one.  This city is a treasure when it comes to architecture, history, artists and food, make sure you make the most of your time by planning ahead.  If you are not sure what to see, book a general tour of the city so that you can see the main points of interest and then you can choose where you would like to spend more time.  Whatever you see or do, one this is guaranteed, you won’t be disappointed.


The Round Room, Vatican Museums

The renowned Round Room (Sala Rotonda) is a masterpiece of neo-classical architecture, built during the papacy of Pius VI by Michelangelo Simonetti in the late 18th century. Simonetti designed some of the most elegant rooms in the Vatican Museums, using light and space to capture and then magnify the presence of rare antiquities. The Greek Cross Room, Room of the Muses, Octagonal Court and Round Room are his creations.

The dome is styled on that of the Pantheon, by the shaped design of it’s interior and central oculus, which together span 21.60 metres. The room is dominated by a monolithic porphyry basin, the circumference of which measures thirteen metres, width five metres. Believed to have been used in Nero’s Domus Aurea (Golden House), it was brought to the Vatican Museums in the late 18th century. It’s placement in the Round Room resonates throughout the entire Vatican complex. Hewn from porphyry, a dark, reddish-purple stone, the type in use here is known, perhaps appropriately, as imperial porphyry. It’s shade matches that of purple dye extracted from shellfish, which was applied to the tunics and togas of the Senatorial class to form the legendary purple band. Imperial porphyry in Italy was imported from a single mine in Egypt, Mons Porphyrites, and used in floor tiles, columns, and to embellish ceramics.

The floor of the Round Room is adorned with intricate mosaics from Otricoli Baths (Umbria) which date back to the 3rd century. Each mosaic depicts scenes of battle between Greeks and centaurs, mythological sea beasts, tritons and nereids, which together evoke a ‘water theme’. Each tile was lifted and transferred to the Vatican individually. The room per se is enclosed by ancient sculptures, all of which tower above awe-struck onlookers. The effect is quite remarkable. Among the precious busts and colossal statues of old, one can admire Jupiter’s Bust of Otricoli, a 2nd century Hercules in gilded bronze (unearthed in 1864 in the area of the Theatre of Pompey), Julia, Barberini’s Juno, Plotina (wife of Trajan), Demeter (Ceres), Claudio, Faustina, and several others. Perhaps most precious of all is the statue portraying Antinous, Hadrian’s young lover, depicted as Dionysus. Researching ‘Antinoo’, I found this website which is worth a couple of minutes of anyone’s time. Maybe less.

The Round Room is explained in detail by our expert Vatican tour guides on all our Vatican tours be they private or small group.


From Piazza Risorgimento to St Peters Square…

Another full day of videography on Saturday and St Peter’s Square, as ever, was an experience. Making one’s way there from the office, via Ottaviano station and Piazza del Risorgimento is standard procedure – 12 minutes on foot. Upon arriving at Largo del Colonnato, I espied a gatherer wielding a Vatican tours promotional leaflet for ‘(Whoever) Tours’. Curious about the origins of the company name, I engaged him in conversation and was immediately surrounded by two English lads badgering us to pay them for their Vatican tour. A bronzed, bolshy Italian female joined in, demanding that we video their slovenly efforts. We have lived and worked in Rome for many years, so of course we know how street hawkers operate around the Vatican. It’s ugly, and situations can get out of control. The problem I had with this incident was that the harassers in question were English. Blunt Sunderland accent – OK. Dirty clothes, bleary eyed, unshaven, sweaty and rude – NOT OK.  The majority of tourists milling around the Vatican have travelled half way round the world to be able to do so, and it is required that they be accorded respect at all times. Lord only knows why anyone would agree to hand money over to these next stop vagrants. If the tour guide was Michelangelo himself, i’d still feel short changed.

We gave them short shrift in the end and set up the tripod at various points around St Peter’s Square. The Police didn’t seem to be too concerned this time as the area was rich in natural beauty, elements of which may or may not make the final cut. Wonderful footage of the river followed, we spent alot of time getting the best views of Ponte Sisto, Ponte Rotto and Ponte Cestio.

As so often happens in this city, day’s end brought some curious moments. The journey home by metro was chaotic, a young woman was upset by a 5 minute delay and she made her way through our carriage trying all the doors and then attempting to pull the emergency stop bar. Panic, anxiety, claustrophobia – who knows? The absolute lack of concern shown by everyone present was extremely disturbing, we shouted across the heads of 200 people but no one closer to the woman did anything to help her. 500 anti-vivisection supporters joined us for two stops and then we made our escape. Come to think of it, the early morning metro ride into the city centre was no less eventful, a group of people from Naples on a day trip to Rome made everyone laugh, but that’s another blog for another day.

Italy in Poland

When Toto Di Natale’s goal put Italy ahead last Sunday, screams of ‘daje’ from neighbouring apartments punctuated an otherwise peaceful Roman evening. Those of us who pay attention to the appalling state of Italian football could not hide our disappointment. Football here has fallen far. Players who pay friends who pay acquaintances who know others to bet, or worse, pay business associates on the other side of the world to close match fixing deals are alive and well, and in Stefano Mauri’s case, in jail. The Lazio captain may have been scapegoated, but after the Doni affair and a host of other worrisome incidents, it is clear that corruption in Italy is a bloodline which runs deep. Nick Squires of The Telegraph summed up the reality of Italy last November.

If it is possible to clear the names of those involved, it’ll be a massive boost for a country in the doldrums in every sense. The Italian football fans I know have, to their credit, become thick skinned to block the endless stream of newsbytes detailing the many soap operas of corrupt football players they used to support, for whom the lure of lucre seems to be overpowering. As ambassadors for the city in which they play, and in many cases, their country, astronomical salaries ought to control economic woes. The solution, unfortunately, is life bans for the guilty. Club football here can still win the day. For now, however, it’s in the hands of the national team against Croatia and the Republic of Ireland.

For visitors to Rome, for the time being, we don’t recommend paying to watch a football match in the Stadio Olimpico, as who knows who’s paid who to perform or underperform. We can, however, recommend one or more of our Vatican tours in Rome which offer excellent value for money. Ok, Raphael may have plagiarized Michelangelo but that’s another article for another day.

Five new Vatican tours online!

We’re developing our in depth Vatican tours at time of writing to incorporate the works of Bernini and Raphael as stand alone tours, with more in the pipeline. For now, our new Vatican tour options, namely ‘One day at the Vatican’, ‘Two days at the Vatican’, ‘Private Vatican Tour’,  ’Vatican tours for Schools and Colleges’ and ‘Vatican tours for Pilgrims’ can be booked online by visiting the When In Rome Tours website. Our long standing Vatican highlights morning, afternoon, and subterranean Vatacombs tours are now regarded as the best Vatican tours in Rome.

However, despite the fact that our modern, comfortable office premises are located just 150 metres away from the historic Vatican Museums gate, Vatican tours are but a small part of the full spectra of Rome tours and Italy tours we provide. We do of course have many years experience in Vatican tours, and our fully licensed guides know the Vatican city inside out, but the work we do is not limited to Vatican tour guides working in the Vatican city. We are currently working on tours in Florence, Venice, Parma and Sicily, all of which will become a big part of our work in 2011 and 2012.

We’ve restructured most of our Vatican tour prices this month, so you can book Vatican tours by person as opposed to having to book within ‘range’ tours, for example, 5-7 persons for a family of five (5), billed @ seven (7) persons rate. This is an important step for us as now our Vatican tour services are not only the best Vatican tours in Rome, but they also offer great value. We are fast approaching 100 reviews on Trip Advisor and our Facebook profiles are seeing alot of new members, alot more ‘likes’, alot more everything! Now is a good time to like When In Rome Tours, so thankyou very much for your continuing support!

Vatican tours in Rome

We have four different Vatican tours to choose from, each starting at a different time of day, and each with a varied itinerary to suit all ages and all interests. Our Vatican tours begin from the When In Rome Tours office on Via Sebastiano Veniero 21, close to the Vatican Museums entrance.

The Vatican tour types are as follows:

Vatican Highlights Morning Tour

Vatican Highlights Afternoon Tour

Vatican Museums, Vatacombs & St Peter’s

Private Vatican Tour

Morning and afternoon tours of the Vatican, which commence at c. 10:45 and 14:00 respectively (our afternoon Vatican tour starts at 11:00 between the months of November – March), include all the major works of art and important rooms such as those of Raphael inside the Vatican Museums, followed by an introduction and look inside the Sistine Chapel, before exiting the Vatican by St Peter’s. For those of you who wish to see St Peter’s Basilica, click here for details. Tour cost is 45 euros which includes priority entrance admission fees, ergo no waiting in line at the Vatican Museums. Children under 10 years of age accompanied by a paying adult can join either tour free of charge. Please note, however, that for children over 7 years of age, Vatican museum tickets must be paid for (20 euros each, no waiting in line).

Vatican Museums, Vatacombs, St Peter’s commences twice daily at 10:30 and 14:00 from our tours office between April – October, or once a day at 11:00 between November – March. This extended Vatican tour covers the museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s and the papal tombs below the basilica. First architect of St Peter’s Basilica as it appears today, Donato Bramante, made sure of the destruction of over half the original tombs during construction of his new basilica in 1506. Tour cost is 55 euros including skip the line entrance admission fees.

Our exclusive private Vatican tour can be viewed here on the When In Rome Tours website.