An Ancient Rome tour with When In Rome Tours

Monday, December 09, 2013

When I travel, I like learning about the places that I see. It’s not enough for me to see the site and just have my photo taken. With the wealth of sights to explore in Rome, it was a must for me to take a tour.

I searched the net for tour agencies and When In Rome caught my attention. They offer an assortment of tours for foodies, history buffs and much more. I wanted to dive into sightseeing without getting overwhelmed so I took part in their Colosseum and Ancient Rome-PM Tour on my first day in the Ancient City.

 The meeting place was the fountain in front of the Victory Monument (whose full name is actually the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II or Il Vittoriano). My instructions said that the tour guide would have a red umbrella or folder. 

I didn’t see a fountain or the tour guide so I started asking around. I was directed to this drinking fountain – it is a fountain anyway.

It was near the call time and I still didn’t spot anyone. I asked one of the other tour guides with a different company and he finally directed me to the correct place! First and foremost, there was no water so the fountain just looked like a statue. Haha So be warned, this is the “fountain” you’re supposed to see. 

I finally joined my intimate group of 7 and our guide, Chiara. I was the only one alone; all my other 6 tour mates were couples. Haha Our tour covered the Colloseum and the Roman Forum.

Reasons why you should take the tour:
1. You don’t mind paying for comfort. 

Rome gets swarmed with tourists and that means staying in line for hours. Not only did we skip the line for buying tickets, we also skipped the line for entering the Colosseum. There was a separate line for people in tour groups.

Not only that, you save time and energy. You don’t have to think of a proper game or itinerary anymore. Everything is planned for you. You can say goodbye to going to wrong entrance and common mistakes like that.

2. Tour groups are kept small. 

It made the tour more personal. I never had a problem getting lost or not hearing Chiara.

It was easier to spot our group since my tour mate had this adorable pink umbrella.

Since we are such a small group, you get to know your tour mates. One of my tour mates visited the Colosseum when he was still a student. Now in his 60s, he visited it again with his wife and brought his handwritten notes with him. Galing!

3. You have an appreciation of art and history.  

I am fascinated by ancient structures and stories. We are far more advanced in science but structures like the Colosseum are still standing after 4,000 years, that’s amazing! Plus, the Colosseum is a Unesco World Heritage Site - 'nuff said.
It is a miracle that it is still standing up to now despite the wars, earthquakes and storms.
It is interesting to note that the Colloseum was never bombed. The structural damage we see was caused by an earthquake causing parts of the Colloseum to collapse.
When Christianity was legalized in Rome, most of the temples were converted to Churches.
This next part, I don’t love. Christians would tear down and get pieces from structures like monuments, temples, buildings to make their churches. This was called recycling. In this photo, you can clearly see a portion of the base. Chiara is pointing to a piece of marble that is decorative. This demonstrates the practice. The decorative marble was cut up and used to serve as based disregarding what is was used for.
A lot of the statues and monuments in Rome were made to immortalize events in their history. This was a way for the people in power to showcase their victory and to remind the Romans of their history. A lot of Romans were illiterate then so instead of writing the conquests, they were painted and carved instead.

Meet Titus Arc – this is the most preserved arc in Rome. This is a beautiful example of Roman history in structures. This arc illustrates the Romans’ victory over the Jews.

4. Like me, you want to learn.  

I loved learning about why the Colosseum was built, what it was used for and the stories about it. It was built by the emperors to provide free food and entertainment for the people to keep them happy and satisfied. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Politics up to this day have stayed the same.

Politicians would bring in animals to fight in the Colleseum. Do note that these animals weren’t endemic to Italy so it was the first time Romans would see the animals. This is another example of the politicians’ propaganda.
This is what the Colleseum used to look like.
What we see now is just 1/3 of the original structure.
The skeleton of the Collosseum was made of metal. It is filled with holes now because people would steal the metal bars. It’s rather alarming because that would also mean weakening the structure.

During my visit, the Italian government started work on the Colloseum’s restoration.

5. You get a tour guide. 

How would you get the info for numbers 2 and 3 without a guide? Haha

Not only do you get to know history, you get little interesting tidbits here and there like this. Did you know that the Italian government needed €25M to restore the Colloseum? The restoration is funded not by the government but by the donation of the owner of Tod’s. The Trevi Fountain will be restored from donations from the owners of Prada or Gucci.
As you’ve read in the past, I like getting great guides. Chiara is definitely part of that list.

She served not only as a tour guide but she also checked on our well being. One of my tour mates had crutches and Chiara made sure he was comfortable. She took the time to chat us individually and got to know us.

The tour normally lasts 2 hours but ours took over 3 hours to finish. It’s a testament of how good our guide was and how much our group enjoyed.
A note about tour guides, I admire people who have respectful and honest jobs. If you add passion in there, I love it even more. Having said that, PLEASE ONLY GET LICENSED GUIDES. Tours in Italy are real business. Tour guides in Italy need to go to have a degree and a license, it is a proper profession. Let’s respect the work they do and hire professionals. Unlicensed tour guides can be caught, I don’t know what happens to people who are part of the tour group when they get caught.
Chiara was a burst of energy. Like a true performer, she would deliver her lines in such an animated way. She would engage the group and ask us questions from time to time. She would insert some of the things she found out about us in relation to some of the stories she shared. For example, the story was about an important drink in Rome. She would liken the drink to the popular drink in Denmark since we had Danish tourist with us.

The Collesseum was packed with tourists but it never got too noisy and I never felt suffocated. It was the highlight of the tour for me and may have overshadowed the other areas with how much I gushed about it. Haha However I wouldn’t change a thing. I enjoyed going to all the places we went to.

If you like all the reasons I mentioned above, you should do yourself some good and book a tour as well. I consider it a good opportunity because I loved all the reasons above.

Thanks to When In Rome for this tour.

When in Rome Tours
+39 06 839 04705

The Rome leg is part of the 2013 Birthday Trip. Check out the itinerary here. The rest of my Rome posts are here:
Part 2: Gorgeous view and digs in Rome
Part 3: Campo de Fiori
Part 4: Tips for visiting the Vatican
Part 5: Porta Portese Flea Market
Part 6: A free tour of Trastevere
Part 7: The Free Rome Walking Tour

Part 8: Rome Travel Guide

For other hotel options in Rome, click here

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  1. Great pictures of Rome and an interesting read. It's clear that you've taken many tours before and that you appreciate the value of an expert guide.


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