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The Benefits of Having a Private Tour Guide in Rome

Updated on March 20, 2016
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

Colosseum & Forum

Colosseum from the Palatine Hill
Colosseum from the Palatine Hill | Source

If you are planning a trip to Rome then undoubtedly you are going to be visiting a few of Rome’s great tourist attractions. If you have never been to Rome I would like to suggest that you look into employing the services of a private tour guide for at least a few of Rome’s treasures. Now, let me preface this by saying that there is nothing like strolling the streets of Rome at your own pace or leisurely biding your time in St. Peters Square or any of Rome’s wonderful Piazza’s. But, when it comes to touring the Vatican Museum, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum in particular, then you would be wise to look into hiring a tour guide.

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina | Source

I say this because most of us are simply not learned enough to know the details of what we are looking at, never mind knowing the history behind it. You have to realize that the VaticanMuseum complex, made up of thirteen museums located in fourteen palaces, has miles and miles of corridors and rooms filled with thousands of artifacts. It would be virtually impossible to prepare ahead of time to know what’s in every room and to know the stories and significance behind it. The same goes for the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. It’s one thing to have a map while strolling through the Forum; it’s another thing to hear the history and have someone point it out to you clearly and concisely. Don’t get me wrong, audio guides are great, but if you have a question to whom do you direct it?

Roman Forum


On our first trip to Rome we made our way to St. Peters square hoping to see the St. Peters Basilica and the Vatican Museum. Not really having a plan we must have looked lost standing in the square when we were approached by a gentlemen touting the services of a tour guide. Not knowing any better we decided to go along and were quickly herded over to the meeting spot where our guide, Christina, was waiting with other tourists who were going on the tour. Eventually we made our way over to the Vatican Museum and skipped the very long line as advertised and had a somewhat interesting tour of the truly amazing Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. Again, not knowing any better we thought that overall things had worked our well.

I will say that I am not a big fan of large group tours and I would estimate that on this particular tour our group probably approached 20 people. Analyzing the day afterwards I came to the conclusion that while utilizing a tour guide was good, we had gone about it incorrectly. With a large group it becomes very difficult for the tour guide to keep everyone together and often times throughout the tour we had to stop and wait for the stragglers to catch up. Also, with a group of this size it can be very difficult to hear exactly what your guide is saying, especially in the Vatican Museum which always seems crowded. We vowed that if we ever returned to Rome we would do things right.

St. Peters Square

View from the cupola of St Peters Basilica
View from the cupola of St Peters Basilica | Source
With our guide Sonia Tavoletta (L) outside St. Peter's Basilica
With our guide Sonia Tavoletta (L) outside St. Peter's Basilica | Source

As luck would have it we were fortunate to be able to return to Rome a year later. We did our homework this time and made a short list of the more highly touted guides and began the process of contacting them. There are a number of tools available to help you with the process but two of my favorites are TripAdvisor and Fodors.

After doing our research which involved numerous back and forth e-mails we settled on two guides for this trip; one for the Vatican Museum and St. Peters, and one for a tour of Ancient Rome which included the Colosseum, Forum, Piazza Michelangelo and the Pantheon. For the Vatican we hired Sonia Tavoletta and for Ancient Rome we hired Francesca Caruso. Both guides came highly recommended and both are licensed tour guides who speak fluent English which is important if you do not speak Italian. There were four of us on this trip and it was nice to have a private tour guide who we could interact with when we had questions and who moved at our pace and did not rush us through things. It is a much more efficient use of your time when you have a private tour guide as opposed to a large group tour where the guide spends a great deal of energy making sure that the group stays together. For us the homework paid off as both Sonia and Francesa were wonderful and certainly worthy of our high recommendation.

With our guide Francesca Caruso (c) in the Pantheon.
With our guide Francesca Caruso (c) in the Pantheon. | Source


Francesa Caruso:

Sonia Tavoletta:

Having toured Rome on our own, done the Vatican Museum with a large tour group, and done both with a private tour guide, I can empathically say that it is worth the money to have a private guide to help you understand the history and significance of the Eternal City. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to make a second trip to Rome. For most folks a trip to Rome may be a once in a lifetime opportunity and your one and only chance to see this amazing city. Why not go the extra mile and make sure you get everything possible that Rome has to offer.

Ciao for now.


Vatican Museum and St Peters Basilica

Michelangelo's Pieta
Michelangelo's Pieta | Source
St. Peters Basilica
St. Peters Basilica | Source
With our wonderful guide Sonia Tavoletta in front of St Peters Basilica
With our wonderful guide Sonia Tavoletta in front of St Peters Basilica | Source

Rome Map:

show route and directions
A markerVatican City -
00120, Vatican City
get directions

B markerRoman Forum -
forum romanum, Via della Salaria Vecchia, 5/6, 00100 Rome, Italy
get directions

C markerRoman Colosseum -
Colosseum, Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Rome, Italy
get directions

© 2012 Bill De Giulio


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