Subject: Re: Tours of Rome and Florence
Bonjour Ziners,

The comments about taking tours have interested me because I normally like to travel on my own schedule. Years ago I took a tour that was very crowded (40+ people) and riddled with extra cost options, greedy guides who berated people if they did not tip enough, and far to many EXTRA stops at tourist trap shops while we were rushed through musems and historical sites.

But, I have taken one tour that was very good. Two years ago I took a Rick Steves one week tour of Rome. I chose the tour because I had never traveled overseas and I did not want to waste my one week fumbling around, making mistakes and wasting time. I think I made a good decision. I was very impressed by the guide and the quality of the tour. First, the guide was very knowledgable overall. In a few places such as the Borghese Gallery he had arranged for a guide who was an expert on the gallery's art work. I still remember the enthusiam and knowledge of that guide.

The tour itself was as promised. With only 24 people the tour was much smaller than many others I saw, so we were much less crowded at certain places than other tours that had up to 50 people. The guides NEVER asked for or hinted at any type of TIP or gratuity. Again, this was as advertised. Most importantly, our guide spent time teaching us how to get about Rome, where to get tickets for the bus and metropolitana, how to read the route maps, where to get reservations for museums so we did not have to wait in line, neighborhoods with less tourism and thus cheaper prices for meals and souveniers, and much more. He was generous with his advice on how to best use our free time during the tour. The guide obviously enjoyed his job, a big plus.

I learned enough to successfully plan and execute a three week trip to Italy the following year. So, if you are looking for a tour of a city like Rome or Florence, I can certainly recommend these tours. But, make sure you schedule at least two and preferably four extra days after the tour to see and do things the tour does not cover. In this way you can make good use of the knowledge you acquire from the tour.

Paul Near Seattle