To spit or not to spit, a wine tours Rome primer

Having a good glass of wine is not a luxury in Rome, but standard. Beer drinkers beware; Rome is in serious need of more pubs. Fortunately, the lack of pubs is compensated by a great deal of wine bars.

Romans care very much about tradition and etiquette. Nasty facial expressions and piercing glances will shoot at you in every direction after ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon. So, if you have never been to a wine tasting, try to embrace the art of etiquette.

To spit or not to spit? Professional wine tasters have discovered that if they swallow all the wine they taste, they become far less thoughtful and capable of evaluating each glass of wine (especially as the day goes on). These wine connoisseurs! So spitting became acceptable. In some wineries (which you are unlikely to find in city center Rome), tasters would sometimes spit right onto the floor or into drains. But in most wine tasting bars, they provide a spittoon, which is usually just a bucket or plastic container for each customer. To some people this is disgusting, and at first, most people are unwilling to spit out wine. Two reasons why spitting can seem impolite; first, most people are taught from mother never to spit in public; it’s rude. Second, it usually costs a fair bit to go wine tasting and it’s a shame to waste the wine…

Well, if you decide to drink all of your wine at one of the many wine tours in Rome, which many people do, you could possibly miss out on other things. At many wine bars, they will advise that you don’t drink all of the wine for a couple reasons. One, evaluating the wines after glass 4-5 will become much more difficult. Wine usually ranges between 11-13% alcohol. The alcohol is masked by sweet fruity of grapes but wine is a creeper, and will sneak up on you before you know it. Second, swallowing isn’t necessary to completely taste the wine. Eight to ten seconds should be enough time to completely taste the wine. Thirdly, and most importantly, (especially in chaotic Rome) if you are driving to the tasting, it would be smart to have one person be the “spitter”.

In the end, the decision is completely the taster’s choice. If you choose to spit out the wine, which may seem strange, it’s not, and has actually become quite customary (it may even make you seem more experienced than you are!). But, if you cannot bring yourself to spit, no matter what reason, make sure you indulge in the cheese, crackers, and snacks provided so that you will make it home happy, safe and sound.


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.


Rome, Rome tours, and Romanians

They live out in the sticks, betwixt and between the back of beyond. They bus into Rome every day to hammer and drill holes in the walls of apartments owned by middle aged Italian women who either 1. need the company, or 2. want to remind the neighbourhood that they are still Madrone. No neither unfortunately, but aneither serve nay real purpose. Romanian builders are perhaps the most misunderstood immigrant sub-set in Italy; do they really come all the way here from Dacia to build / destroy walls? The more likely reason is lack of work back home, but opportunities here on the peninsula are middling at best. As for the Italian ladies who hire them, why? History tells us that the most accomplished builders the world has ever known were Roman. Well, second generation Roman-born North African slaves. I wonder if our Rome tours retell the lives and times of slaves during the reign of Trajan, or that of Augustus? Yes, I am sure they do. Certain of it.


Rome, whose crest is the Capitoline she-wolf (after the bronze statue portraying the legendary animal feeding the twins Romolus and Remus, founders of Rome), is the capital of the Italian Republic. It is the most densely populated city in Italy and among the main European capitals for territorial extension.

Rome is also the city with the world highest concentration of historical and architectural goods. Its centre, circumscribed by the perimeter of the Aurelian walls, which materialize and document an overlap of almost three thousands years of history, is the unique expression of an enormous historical, artistic and cultural heritage whose influence has spread all over the world; in 1980, together with the extraterritorial properties of the “Holy See” inside the city and San Paolo’s Basilica “outside the walls”, it has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage. Rome, heart of Catholic Christianity, is the only city in the world to host a foreign State within its territory – the Vatican City’s enclave: for this reason it is often defined as capital of two States. More than 16% of world cultural goods are located in Rome (70% of the whole Italian territory).

With its 52,000 hectares of rural areas, Rome is also the “greenest” city in Europe. Beside the historical villas, there are many other green areas, and many cultivated plots of land in the outskirts. Protected areas covers an overall surface of 40,000 hectares, and with a surface of 517 square kilometers destined to agricultural use (about 40% of the total municipal territory) Rome is also the biggest agricultural municipality in Europe.

Today Rome is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to the incalculable number of archaeological and artistic treasures, its peculiar traditions, the lyrical beauty of its panoramic views, and the majesty of its parks. Visitors and resident can enjoy plenty of museums (Capitoline Museums, National Gallery of Modern Art, the Vatican Museums, Galleria Borghese, and many others) historical buildings, churches, palaces, the monuments and ruins of the Roman Forum and the Catacombs. Roman fountains and its imposing acqueducts (water system) are also very distinctive elements of the city.

Rome is the third most visited city in the European Union, after London and Paris, and receives an average of 7-10 million tourists a year, which can double on holy years. The Colosseum (4 million tourists) and the Vatican Museums (4.2 million tourists) are respectively the 39th and 37th most visited places in the world. In 2005 the city registered 19.5 million of global visitors, up of 22.1% from 2001, and in 2006 Rome has been visited by 6.03 million of international tourists, reaching the 8th place in the ranking of the world’s 150 most visited cities. Rome has also been nominated 2007’s fourth most desirable city to visit in the world after Florence, Buenos Aires, and Bangkok.


Scootering in Rome

When I first moved to Rome, I had never been on a scooter in my life, to be honest I was petrified of them. I was fine on my Raleigh Boxer zipping round the streets as a kid, but any form of motorbike was out of the question. Once in Rome, I met a girl who’s only form of transport was a scooter, and so whenever we would go out I was forced to perch on the back and cling on for dear life. Despite the fear, it was a great way to see the city. If you are brave enough to open your eyes you get clear view of everything around you, the sites, the smells, the sounds and of course that feeling of freedom as we’d ride on the pavement to avoid the traffic, even if they were blocked by those pesky pedestrians…

After a while I got used to riding pillion whilst my girlfriend would confidently zip through gaps with only centimeters to spare on each side and speed round corners using her stilettos as a counterbalance. It was fun. It was only a matter of time before I plucked up the courage to have a go myself, and as it turned out it wasn’t half as bad as I thought. Despite being surrounded by a thousand Evel Knievels, you feel surprisingly safe on a scooter, everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing, and once you get used to it you discover that there really is no better way to get around. Parking is never a problem, they are cheap to run and it doesn’t cost too much to hire one. Of course, there are many horror stories of people who have had accidents on scooters abroad, they are a dangerous form of transport and I would really only advise hiring one if you have previous experience, Rome is not the place to learn how to drive a scooter. However, if you know what you are doing and with a little bit of common sense, awareness and confidence, the back of a scooter can be a great way to see the many beautiful sites of Rome.

If scooters really aren’t your thing, then there are other mobile site seeing options. When in Rome Tours offer bicycle, Segway, and rickshaw tours on request, all great alternatives to the scooter experience.


Villa Ada

I want to tell you about a magical place that I know. The only thing is, you have to keep it to yourselves okay? It’s such a magical place that the other day I saw four bright green parrots flying in formation, squawking amongst themselves. Parrots I tell you. In Rome. At first I wasn’t sure if they were parrots, but once they had settled in a nearby tree I saw that they were, in fact, parrots. In Villa Ada you can already find red squirrels jumping amongst the pines trees, terrapins and fish swimming in the lake and countless dogs bounding around happily in the many open green spaces, and these are just a few things that make it so special.

Villa Ada is Rome’s second biggest park and can be found off the Via Salaria in the north of the city. There aren’t many tourists here, visitors to Rome prefer the just as beautiful and more well known Villa Borghese which is a little closer to the city centre and thus more popular with foreign visitors. Villa Ada is a mainly public park, the only private land belongs to the Egyptian embassy, and is covered with vast open spaces as well as scenic pathways that snake their way through the awesome pine trees that provide shade on a hot summers day. Families come here to picnic, to enjoy time together and to play.

Villa Ada is named after the wife of Count Tellfner who owned the park in the 1870’s, since then it’s been home to several kings and during the second world war a bunker was built by Mussolini next to the Villa Savoia, it was here on the 26 July 1943, soon after the Allies invaded Italy, that he was arrested and taken to prison. The villa and bunker still exist today, but unfortunately have been left abandoned and in a state of disrepair. While visiting Villa Ada, why not take a guided tour of the nearby Catacomb of Priscilla, which can be found by the northside entrance to the park.

At the lake entrance you can hire a bike for 3 euros, an ideal way to explore, if you are the sporty type there are many jogging routes and even an ‘outdoor gym’ with wooden exercise equipment. For a more gentle visit, just pick one of the many park benches that line the banks of the lake, close your eyes, bask in the sun and…….relax. Villa Ada is an ideal park to explore, to discover, but mostly to relax.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this, I want this place to remain my little secret, so don’t go telling everyone about it. It’s bad enough that the parrots have come, you know how much they like to talk….