TripAdvisor Disparity Index

When In Rome Tours fell six places last week courtesy of a particularly vicious ‘review’ planted on our TripAdvisor Rome page. The author didn’t even take her Vatican tour, she just couldn’t get her head around the fact that we were not able to refund her deposit the way she wanted. In the end, we bent over backwards to wire and lost money in her name by doing so. At time of writing, ten days after the fact with the same number of five star reviews newly published and said slander removed by user, we’re still six places worse off. Curious situations on the internet apart, what do TripAdvisor have to say about their flailing disparity index?


Thank you for contacting TripAdvisor.

We inform you that TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index (ranking system) is driven by the information travelers highlight in their reviews. Here’s a link to more information:

As I hope you’ll understand, we cannot divulge any specifics about how this process works, as that would reveal proprietary information which could compromise the impartiality of our system. Encouraging your guests to write a review of your establishment on TripAdvisor, when they return home from their trip, is the best way to improve your ranking.

You’ll find more helpful tips and information about our service in the dedicated Owners Support section of our Help Desk:

We remain at your disposal.

Kind Regards,

TripAdvisor Support Team

Will TripAdvisor Towers return us to our previous standing? Unlikely, but watch this space anyway…

Not a rant, just a presentation of tedium.

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.

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!

Sightseeing in Rome

For the majority of visitors to Rome, an afternoon spent in the labyrinthine Vatican Museums is the absolute highlight of their stay. The Vatican tour they take must be as complete and fulfilling as possible, which is something we strive to achieve by offering four different Vatican tours. But what about sightseeing in Rome? Away from the vast collections of major works of art within the walls of the Vatican City?

A boat trip along the river Tiber from Isola Tiberina to the bridges of Duca d’Aosta and Milvio beside the Stadio Olimpico costs a couple of euros, and if you’d like to spend more time on board, two hour trips to the ancient port of Ostia can be taken from Marconi. Free time on terra firma is made available to see fine examples of ancient Roman life from as early as 1,400 BC, until the eventual decline of Ostia in the 5th century.

There are some beautiful historic gardens in Rome. In the stifling heat of summer when streets are packed with tourists, where better to go? Of course Villa Borghese in the city centre is known to all, like Zappion Gardens in Athens and Regents Park in London. In June and July, the landscaped gardens and wooded parkland around the Borghese Gallery and museum can become as busy as the city streets nearby.

Villa d’Este in Tivoli boasts perhaps some of the finest gardens in Italy, but distance from Rome is perhaps a stumbling block. Giardino degli Aranci on the Aventine hill, the Pincio overlooking Piazza del Popolo or the expansive Vatican Gardens, be sure to see all of them when in Rome.

Rome is a vibrant and culturally diverse city as much today as she was in the Imperial age. There is a constant flow of events for each and every one of us to become a part of.

In the coming weeks, When In Rome Tours will publish a ‘What’s On In Rome’ guide and news section, to make sure that the pastime of sightseeing in Rome, for our customers at least, is a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Vatican City tours 2011

Of course the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica are the mainstay of every Vatican tour one can book online or be sold offline in and around St Peter’s Square year round. Sifting through hundreds of Vatican tour descriptions online will inform the reader up to a point, but what else do these other Rome tour agencies offer visitors to the Vatican city? Of our Vatican tours, we include the Vatacombs on one of them. The Vatacombs (remaining papal tombs) lie beneath St Peter’s Basilica. On all our Vatican tours, we discuss the origins of the Circus of Nero, the ancient site where Christians were put to death from 65 AD and, it is believed, where St Peter was crucified. The obelisk on the square was moved there from Alexandria by Caligula in c. 37 AD, some 30 years before the executions began. Free of inscriptions, it was brought to Rome having commemorated the reign of Augustus in Egypt since c. 100 BC .

Standing in front of St Peter’s Basilica on Piazza Pio XII, with the taxi rank and Galleria Savelli souvenir shop right side, the eastern end of the Circus of Nero is just fifteen feet away. It’s underground ruins reach below St Peter’s Square then run behind the modern Basilica to it’s westernmost point, 50 yards from the Vatican Railway Station.

Lanciani’s study of the old basilica of St Peter and the exact location of the Circus of Nero can be seen at LacusCurtius. This illustration shows both structures as well as the (new) basilica as we see it today.

Read the following article about Vatican excavations in 1941 and the possible whereabouts of St Peter’s bones:

Petrus roga Christus Iesus pro sanctis hominibus Chrestianis ad corpus…

At the end of every Vatican tour, as at the end of every Italian dinner, there’s no better way to celebrate the past than with an appropriate liqueur, so we are duty bound to recommend ‘Nerone’ – L’Amaro di Roma (!)

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.