Rome has many good, highly competitive tour companies. Several are listed below. Before your trip, spend some time on their websites to get to know your options, as each company has a particular teaching and guiding personality. (You can also consider taking a personal tour. Any of the listed companies can provide a private guide for around €55 an hour.)
Americans Paul Bennett and Lani Bevacqua offer walking tours for travelers with longer than usual attention spans. Their orientation walks lace together lesser known sights from antiquity to the present. Tours vary in length from two hours to four hours and range in price from €25 to €60. Try to book in advance, since their groups are limited to six and fill up fast (tel. 06-482-0911, U.S. tel. 888-467-1986, www.contextrome.com). They also offer orientation chats in your hotel that can be well worth the price (€50/hr). Similar Context programs are offered in Venice, Florence, and Paris.
This English speaking information service offers five different walking tours (€24 plus entry fees, 3 hours, groups limited to 25, reserve by phone or online). It also provides a free, useful city guide and an informative website (Monday – Friday 8:30 – 19:00, Saturday 8:30 – 14:00, closed Sunday, 3 blocks north of Termini train station, Via Marghera 8a, tel. 06/445-1843, fax 06/445-0734, www.enjoyrome.com, [email protected]).
The licensed guides give tours in fluent English to small groups (2-10 people). Sample tours include Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Walk (€51, includes admission to Colosseum, 3 hours), Scandal Tour (€40, 3 hours to dig up the dirt on Roman emperors, royalty, and popes), Vatican City Walk (€58, includes admission to Vatican Museum, 4 hours), Twilight Rome Evening Walk (€25, all the famous squares that offer lively people scenes, 2 hours), and a Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere Walk (€40, explore the backstreets of Rome, 3 hours). They also do pricier, private tours to more far-flung places such as Orvieto (for wine and olives), Ostia Antica, the Appian Way, and the Catacombs (mobile 347-795-5715m www.romewalks.com, [email protected]).
This expat-led tour company offers various two to three hour, €25-50 walks led by native English speakers who are licensed guides (tel.06-580-9902, mobile 328-912-3720, www.romanodyssey.com).
This company offers several walking tours, all led by native English speakers who strive to bring the history to life. The tours, which run nearly daily and are limited to groups of 15, do not include entry fees to museums or sights. Tours include St. Peter’s Forum (€30, 3 hours); and Rome at Twilight (€30, nightly). You can book by phone or online (tel. 06-700-9336, mobile 347-336-5298, www.througheternity.com)
Hop-On, Hop-Off Tours
Several different agencies, including the ATAC public bus company, run hop-on, hop-off tours around Rome. These tours are constantly evolving and offer varying combinations of sights. While you can grab one (and pay as you board) at any stop, Termini train station and Piazza Venezia are handy hubs. Although the city is perfectly walkable and traffic jams can make the bus dreadfully slow, these open-top bus tours remain popular. Several tour companies offer essentially the same deal.
Trambus Open 110
Operated by the ATAC city bus lines, offers an orientation tour on big red double-decker buses with an open air upper deck. In less than two hours, you’ll have 80 sights pointed out to you (with a recorded narration). While you can hop on and off, the service can be erratic (mobbed midday, not ideal in bad weather). It’s best to think of this as an efficient, two hour quickie orientation with scant information and tons of images. The 11 stops include Via Veneto, Via Tritone, Ara Pacis, Piazza Cavour, St. Peter’s Square, Corso Vittorio Emmanuele (for Piazza Navona), Piazza Venezia, Colosseum, and Via Nazionale. Bus #110 departs every 10 mintues (runs daily 8:30 – 20:30, tel. 06-684-0901, www.trambusopen.com). But the €13 tickets as your board (or at platform E in front of Termini train station).
An open top bus that runs hourly from Termini train station out to the Appian Way (with stops at the Colosseum, The Baths of Caracalla, San Callisto, San Sebastian, the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, and the Aqueduct Park). This is a handy way to see the sights down this ancient Roman road, but it can be frustrating (sparse narration, sporadic service, not ideal for hoppin on and off; €8, daily 9:00 – 16:00, hourly departures from Termini train station and Piazza Venezia, tel. 06-684-0901). A similar bus laces together all the Christian sights.