There are an awful lot of tour guides and companies operating in Rome, from the well-organised outfits staffed by experienced professionals to the touts who stand outside the metro stations in tourist areas, doing their best to waylay passing foreigners. If you want to take a guided tour while you're in the city, it's best to do your research, decide exactly what you want to see in the company of a guide, and book before you leave home.
Choosing a Tour Guide Company
Here are some questions to consider when you're choosing which guide to book with:
- What do you want to see? There's a lot to see in Rome, and whatever your budget, no guide is going to be able to show you everything. You'll also probably want to do some exploring for yourself, so think about which sites would most benefit from the company of an experienced guide.
- How many people will be on the tour? This really does make a difference. Smaller or even private groups allow you to interact much more with your guide, meaning that they'll be able to take better care of you, and you'll learn more.
- What's the guide's background? Gap year students just don't have the experience it takes to run a good tour. Check that your guide has the appropriate qualifications for the specific theme of the walk.
Italy runs a somewhat controversial licensing system for its tour guides. The scheme, which requires all tour guides to carry licenses, has been criticized for being badly run and blocking potential new guides through unnecessary bureaucracy. It's also been accused of contravening European law. However, it does exist, and licensing is one way of determining the potential quality of the guide. (But only one way: there are also good guides without the license, and bad guides who have it!) There's a little more about the licensing system in our guide to working as a tour guide in Rome.
Tour Guide Recommendations
A couple of good tour companies we've used in the past are Romaround and Context Travel, who offer in-depth private and small-group walks. Both companies also provide day trips to places like Pompeii and Tivoli, and Context also has a range of food-related walks.