As an iconic historical city, it’s sometimes overwhelming to select only a few tours to do in Rome. With tons of ancient landmarks, neighborhoods and museums, figuring out exactly what to do in Rome on a single trip is quite a feat. Luckily, I was able to conquer the city’s greatest hits with three of the Roman Guy’s Rome tours. With a landmark, a museum and a food tour, I got a broad sense of Rome’s rich history and culture.
Upon exiting the Colosseo metro stop, I instantly saw the landmark I had seen in hundreds of pictures and movies. The Colosseum stands in the center of Rome, as an ancient landmark that rises above the modern city below. Dozens of other groups gathered for their Rome tours outside of the grandiose structure.
Our guide escorted us to a separate entrance to the Colosseum, passing the thousands of tourists waiting in line to enter. My guide, Damiano, provided us with some brief history and visuals on his tablet. Upon entering, the Colosseum’s interior transported me back in time to when this amphitheater functioned as a venue for gladiator and animal fights.
My group and I walked out onto the Arena floor, looking up at the charming arena that surrounded us. I watched the children on floors above us pointing down, seemingly asking their parents if they could go down to where we were standing. This definitely helped confirm the exclusivity of the tour that I had read about before going on the tour itself.
We saw stone seats that wealthy families had bought in ancient times to watch the battles. Even today, I found it fascinating that the family names are still carved into the stone, marking who these seats at one point belonged to. It made the Colosseum feel so real to me.
As we moved on to see the Roman Forum, I thought about how I had never seen anything like this–just a huge garden of ancient ruins, dating back thousands of years. Our guide’s archaeological background enhanced the tour, since he was able to go into detail about the original ground levels of the Forum and how the property has evolved over time.
I had recognized many of the structures from pictures and history, which enforced the importance of this landmark. The many pillars, arches, aqueducts and other structures reminded me just how classic this architecture really is. Thousands of buildings around the world, and even ancient artworks in Italy that came after the development of the Forum, were inspired by the impressive design of these classic structures.
Next up in my trio of Rome tours, I embarked on an in-depth tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Candidly, I was very nervous for this tour. Five hours is a long time for just about anything, even for one of the best Rome tours available.
I can honestly say that this tour is worked to a science. The Roman Guy has figured out a perfect route to ensure that the group sees the highlights without the crowds.
The Sistine Chapel
When we entered the Vatican Museums, we walked swiftly through the galleries that lead up to the Sistine Chapel. We were told not to worry, since we’d revisit these galleries later. I observed as most groups took their time in these galleries. Shortly we arrived at the Sistine Chapel.
The way The Roman Guy coordinated this was impeccable. We were one of the first groups to enter the Sistine Chapel. My guide, Franco, had maximized our waiting time in the security line to explain everything there is to know about this beautiful chapel. We had ample time to appreciate the works of Michelangelo and admire the details of the room people wait their entire lives to see.
It’s called the “Detailed” Vatican Tour for a Reason
The rest of the adventure through the museums certainly was nothing short of incredible. Seeing the maps created centuries ago of Italy and Europe fascinated me, given how little cartographers knew about the world at that time. I admired paintings of other Roman landmarks during their construction, like the Roman Forum and Spanish Steps.
I think that a guided tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the best Rome tours you can do, especially because of the secret door from the Sistine Chapel that leads to St. Peter’s. Our guide led us through the door and past the masses of people waiting to enter the grandiose basilica. I marveled at the Pieta and the bulletproof glass that protects it.
The great detail our guide went into helped us all understand the vast importance of the Vatican Museums to many religions and cultures. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to embark on an art historian’s dream as one of my Rome tours.
I read about not eating before the tour began, which ended up being incredible advice. The tour began at the large pyramid in Testaccio, which contrary to popular belief, is over two thousand years old. It just looks new because it’s impressive maintenance. We ventured to a local bar (in Italy, a “bar” means a coffee shop, not necessarily a hub for alcohol) and scarfed down a delicious cornetto and cappuccino.
Rome Street Food
Next stop: pizza! We each selected three slices of pizza at a family-owned local shop. I went with the classic margherita, prosciutto and white pizza with zucchini. I enjoyed every single bite. Little did I know, we had plenty of more stops to come!
We continued on the streets of this local neighborhood, hearing almost no English spoken. This spoke to the authenticity of the area, making me feel less like a tourist and more like a true Roman. We entered the Testaccio Market, which reminded me of Mercato Centrale in Florence. We stopped for a panino and wine on draft, as if we weren’t already full from all of that pizza! The salty meat on the panino fit incredibly well with the sweet prosecco we drank. We then stopped for a quick olive tasting before the main event: lunch time.
A Sit-Down Italian Lunch
After exiting the market, we walked right into Osteria Con Cucina, a restaurant built into Monte Testaccio. The hill was built using shards of vases. The name of the historical neighborhood of Testaccio actually comes from the root “Tests,” meaning “shards” in Italian. At the restaurant, we enjoyed delicious cacio e pepe and rigatoni amatriciana. After a morning of walking around the Testaccio neighborhood in the August heat, the restaurant provided an excellent cooling ambience. Since the restaurant is built into a hill, the holes in the wall provide what our guide described as “natural air conditioning.”
The Testaccio Food tour not only provided my group with excellent local cuisine, but also showed us a lesser known area of Rome that I would never have explored on other Rome tours.
It’s no debate to tour the Vatican and Colosseum while in Rome, since these are the two most iconic landmarks in the city. Adding a food tour into the mix of Rome tours helps add a local dose of the city of Rome outside of the main attractions. This combination of tours helps maximize your time during your visit to Rome.
I Want More Italy!
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