When you visit a city like Rome, where tourists flock all year long in record numbers, waits can be monumental. There is a way around it, though. Forget about ticket booths. When you hire locals to guide you, you can skip the long, snaking lines of bewildered travelers and breeze right in through VIP entrances. Once inside your destination, take a back stairway or an alternate path that only those in the know are privy to.
If you agree that the “time is money” adage is true, here are some tour companies — we’ve gushed in detail about the joys of taking a City Wonders tour — that will help you spend yours wisely.
Eating Italy Food Tours
Truthfully, you’d have to work pretty hard to not enjoy eating out in Rome, but having an insider food tour helps narrow your experience to the best of the best. Eating Italy — a branch of Eating Europe, which offers tours all over the continent — has a variety of options, from cooking classes with an Italian grandmother to food and wine tastings.
In Rome, two different tours focus on neighborhoods that are usually overlooked, but after a tasting tour, you’ll be a fan for life. The four-hour Twilight Trastevere tour takes your small group of hungry diners to the charming cobblestoned area, where you’ll sample pizza, cheese, pasta and cookies; drop into a hidden wine cellar; and enjoy unusual flavors of gelato (avocado, anyone?).
On the Trastevere tour, or the similarly fulfilling Taste of Testaccio one, you’ll meet purveyors and chefs and get a chance to chat about their food, making it an experience most tourists never get.
Discover Your Italy
This Italian-owned and -operated company normally books longer all-inclusive tours, with accommodations, sightseeing and meals for a week or more, but it will work with you on shorter custom-designed itineraries with advance notice. Each exclusive tour is led by a professional local guide who was raised and still lives in the area. Excursions include entrance tickets (no lines) and the guides, who all speak English fluently, provide interesting and insightful commentary as only a local can.
While Rome wasn’t built in a day, a lot of its iconic sights can be seen in that time with Discover Your Italy’s help. Try a private guided trip to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, or opt for a Colosseum “behind the scenes” tour, both of which last between three and four hours.
Your guide sweeps you through a preferential line, avoiding the typical path through the attraction most people take (you’ll circle back later), and brings the destinations to life with historical facts told in a lively, engaging manner.
Many of the guides have college degrees (in everything from art to archaeology) and are passionate about their topics. No question is brushed aside, and any tangent or room you want to explore is up to you. It’s a fantastically satisfying way to explore these sights.
At the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Rome Cavalieri, a stunning property just 15 minutes from the heart of Rome, guests can sign up for some very special experiences. Options include training to be a gladiator; racing around the city in a Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren; or visiting a palace to take in an amazing private art collection that includes works from Caravaggio, Velázquez, Titian and Raphael.
Have something else in mind? All you need do is ask. The hotel’s concierges and resident historian will work to make it happen.