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Tour company guide reccomendations for Florence, Rome and Sorrento.

Hello travelers thanks for all the advice people are giving me. Dates for Italy are basically beginning of Oct for 3 weeks I've been going onto Viatar to look at different walking tour choices etc for the the above mentioned places. I already picked a walking tour for Venice and a Grand Canal Tour going off of price,# of people per tour and reviews. If anyone has any company they used and like great. Due to Covid and the Delta V which is picking up steam in the USA, Isreal and more I might not want to join any bus tours for safety. Instead maybe a private guide which would be probably super expensive. Other option catch public transportation if it was a train and easier to social distance then a bus to location and hire someone when we get there instead.

Sorrento: 1. day Capri Trip with Blue Gratto, Island. Last time I was there in 1987 I didn't go to Gratto but did something else.

  1. Day trip to Vesuvious, Pompeii via tour bus. Most tours are over 25X in a bus and they say they have Covid protocols nevertheless I'm not sure I'm ready to chance it. Maybe just taking a bus/ train to Pompeii instead and if its possible to do the same for Vesuvuous then we can hire guides when we arrive or hire a private guide that picks us up and takes us there. I'm on a budget but Covid safety and Convenience might be better. On Viatar Private tours for just 1 person are $200 give or take. Rent a car? I personally would be concerned of getting lost but I've driven a large camper Van in Utah and I drove it totally fine after a day or so of nerves. We would have our phones so we would use GPS.

    1. Olive Oil tour and Limoncello tour of a farm. If its close enough we can catch a taxi.

Roma: 1. 3-4 hour ideally or more ancient Rome walking tour of the Colosseum, Pantheon etc etc. I've saved some possible options on Viatar based on rating, length and # of people. These are all walking so no buses involved.

  1. Vatican/ Saint Peters Church tour with guide. There is a tour that gets you into the Vatican before it opens to the general public which is great. It's 3 hours for $82 USD on Viatar. Although we could walk the grounds of the Vatican by ourselves for less I think paying a guide to get in early and avoid the noisy crowds is great. Its not just a museum with art but multiple historical buildings in In the Vatican City. Saint Peters Church is supposed to open up again when were there in Oct. We shall see.

Florence. I've saved possible walking tour choices on Viatar but if people have recommendations great. Again preferred tour time I feel is 3-4 hours to truly experience the history of Firenze with a great guide.

  1. Day trip to Siena, and or San Gimignano. On Viatar they're 12 hour tours and would be on a bus so If I'm concerned about Covid I guess I'd need to hire a private guide driver. Going on public bus like my family did last time in theory is just as unsafe as going on a tour. And actually maybe a tour bus would be safer if they have special air filters and all the windows open for flow of air. Humm. Were taking trains between cities and I feel its easier to social distance and have window open for fresh air. Obviously if I wanted to be real safe I'd stay home and not go to Italy but its a perfect time for me and possibly less tourists in Italy because of that.

  2. Favorite Olive oil grove farm to visit for tasting oil preferably a sustainable/ organic one. On the Siena day trip etc some stop at estates/ farms for Chianti wine tasting. I unfortunately am not a true Italian because I'm vegan and can't drink alcohol but most likely they also have olive groves too although maybe not. Maybe I can taste, eat some olive oil on this portion of the trip and give ourselves another full day actually in Florence to " fare niente". it would be a great time to take a fresh pasta making class and an olive and olive oil tasting class. Grazie a tutti.

Posted by
540 posts

don't use Viatar - they are a 3rd party booking company - best to go directly to the companies and give them 100% of the money, plus, if you have to cancel, it's much easier to deal with the company.

In Florence - we LOVED WalkAboutFlorence - we did 2 of their tours - THE BEST OF TUSCANY and CHIANTI WINE & FOOD SAFARI - both excellent - check out their webpage for itinerary and reviews -- you can also read reviews on TripAdvisor, but again, book straight with WalkAboutFlorence - NOT Viatar/TripAdvisor.

In Sorrento, we used the Rick Steves recommended SharedTours and took a day trip with them to Amalfi. We also followed his guidebook and took the train to Herculaneum (which we liked better than Pompeii). If you read the RS Italy book and the little pocket books for the areas, he recommends MANY tours and guides -- they are all great.

Also, download his free app on your phone as there are many FREE walking tours in those towns that are fantastic

Posted by
21243 posts

This group is not high on the guide tours concepts that you have listed. Keep in mind that Viatar is a consolidated of tours. Basically a third party vendor. So you are not sure of who is providing the tour with Viatar. When we have done local tours we have always had very good success with using the local TI. Often times you can speak directly with the guide prior to committing. We thought that the options offered at the TI were better but could just be our preference. Also look at some of the show and go tours. Some are listed in the Steves' guide book. I am not familiar with olive tours. Most of our exposure to olive oils came along with the wine tour. I am sure there are olive farm tours. It is just that we have not looked for them.

Posted by
2220 posts

As has been posted in your other thread- Viator is a reseller- they do not operate any tours. You are paying for a voucher for an unknown tour operator.
Go to actual tour company websites and book directly with them

I can highly recommend these- and if you search the forums you will find many great reviews of the same

Sorrento-
Mondo Guides is a RS affiliated small group tour company. Very affordable and the 2 tours we did were wonderful.

www.sharedtours.com

You sign up for the tour you want and once the number reaches the minimum it's a go.
We did the Pompeii tour-took Circumvesuvinana to Pompeii entrance and met our guide there. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, tour was terrific.
Capri boat tour- there were only 8 people on our boat plus the 2 crew. They pick up/drop off at your hotel. Skip the Blue Grotto-huge time suck tourist trap. The boat trip around the island was lovely, this was such a fun day, I'd probably do it again
They also offer a day trip along Amalfi with stops in Positano and Amalfi- 6-8 people. If we return to the area we would consider this tour.

There is a lovely lemon grove right in Sorrento- family run- you can visit and taste there and save yourselves a trip.

You do not need or want a car in the Sorrento/Amalfi area.

Walks of Italy-
https://www.walksofitaly.com

Rome-
Pristine Sistine worth every penny.
You can't really “walk the Vatican grounds on your own” but St Peters Square- yes
St. Peter’s Basilica is open now 7-7

An early entry to Sistine will take you there then thru the museums then back thru Sistine to “secret entrance” to the Basilica, where your tour will end after guide explains inside Basilica- you are free to stay as long as you like.

We did their Colosseum/Forum tour as well, also very good.

They have several tours in Florence, including a day trip- limited to 12- to Siena/San Gimignano that includes lunch/wine tasting etc. haven’t done but their reputation is stellar so I would recommend.

Walks of Italy may offer discounts for multiple tours booked and pretty sure they offer a RS discount- email them and ask.

Another company is www.toursbyroberto.com

If you have the RS Italy book there should be others listed.

Posted by
85 posts

Thanks People luckily I think I haven't paid yet for the Venice tours via Viatar and can cancel them up to a week before. I will do that and start back at the drawing board. I have RS's book but Its MIA so Ive bought another copy that I downloaded onto my phone and computer. I will look at suggestions for tours he recommends in each location.

When I was looking at Florence the main company he suggested was more expensive and only a 2 hour tour. When I saw Viatar prices I thought that's more price friendly.

I don't think I saw recommendations for other cities but I'm sure its listed somewhere. Not having a physical RS Italy copy that's MIA in house is annoying. Reading on my phone and computer is not great. I think I found a great company for Vatican Rome Tour early access. It has a trip advisor award for many years. https://www.walksofitaly.com/vatican-tours/pristine-sistine-chapel-tour?gclid=CjwKCAjwyIKJBhBPEiwAu7zll3l4cApMo6px-kOH8krS--vc_kBieXA8z-eiR75GseV04DtM-KVI8BoChtwQAvD_BwE and If I just google tours stuff will come up and I can check them out for quality.

Posted by
2220 posts

Yes I just recommended the Pristine Sistine above

You can also do any of Ricks walking tours yourself
Download the audios
Heart of Rome covers basically everything from Campo de Fiori to Piazza del Popolo

You can also search this forum for whatever else you are looking for

Posted by
439 posts

We have a couple of tours booked with The Roman Guy. I haven't taken the tours yet, so I can't speak about them from personal experience, but they are well reviewed. I am also pleased that, when we had to cancel our tours with them last year due to Covid, they were unable to refund us but gave us a credit with 25% added on. So we have rebooked our tours with them for this coming November, and we are using the additional 25% to add a tour in Venice that includes a gondola ride (something we probably wouldn't spring for otherwise, but we're glad to have this "free" opportunity.)

I've also booked a private driver to go to a couple of places not easily accessed by public transportation, and I've used My Day Trip for that. Again, no experience yet, but they had good reviews and a reasonable price.

Note that, for the Vatican, there is currently no early entry for anyone, and the "tour guide" entrance that gets you into the Sistine Chapel is closed, also. I also had an early entry tour booked, and have booked that again, but am not sure if the early entry and special entrance will reopen before I'm there.

Posted by
85 posts

Thanks People I had no Idea until someone mentioned above that Viatar is a third party Site. If it was mentioned before I missed that comment. Sorry. I honestly thought it was something similar to Groupon where I book a tour and its with a particular company that's selling tickets with their company. Nevertheless I have cancelled my two trips I reserved originally via Viatar. Yes its great we can download the audio RS Tours of Florence. I didn't do my diligence on typical tour times and ended up booking our Uffizi entrance time the first morning we've actually slept there. Right now I've started to reserve 2 Rome tours via Walking Tours company and for the quality of guides we will get price is great.. Each tour is 15X max it seems. ArtViva is also an RS recommended guide company but they charge more per tour generally than the one listed above and for less hours. Obviously they're a great company and if money wasn't an issue then of course a great option. I may use them for a tour but as of now I don't think so.

Venice Question: I've been posting advice questions lately on Italy and as some know I've mentioned being on a preferred budget. At the same time having quality guides when it is worth it is very important to me. So for $95USD each my friend and I can do this tour but it starts at 2PM . Its a skip the line tour of St Marco Square, Dogs Palace etc. https://www.walksofitaly.com/venice-tours/legendary-venice-st-marks-basilica-tours/. I'm already booking two Roman tours with this company maybe a Florence tour if I feel its a good time fit etc. So my friend and I will arrive in Venice at 10:30 AM. By the time we get to our lodging TBD it might be 12PM. Hopefully we can either check in or store our luggage somewhere until we can. We will then want to go get lunch somewhere and just relax and maybe start to walk the streets. I feel ideally to get a sense of a city and its history you want to do a walking tour ASAP. So would trying to do a 2PM tour of Saint Marcos square the first day we arrive be wise or wait until the next day and do it at same time? Maybe there's another great company listed on this forum that will have a morning tour we can do the next day instead of the first day or just stick with the same company for ease? I know RS audio tours are great so would you forgo doing an actual tour ? Grazie a Tutti

Posted by
2220 posts

Have you been to Venice?
How many days/nights will you be there?
Where are you staying?

I would not book a tour on arrival day.

Posted by
201 posts

I just booked 4 tours with takewalks.com for October. Heard a lot of good things from people on here about this company and specifically the tours we booked.

Venice- Legendary Venice: St. Mark’s Basilica with Terraces & Doge’s Palace

Florence- VIP David & Duomo Tour: Early Accademia Tour & Skip the Line Dome Climb with Exclusive Terrace Access

Rome- Pristine Sistine™ Early Entrance Small Group Vatican Tour

VIP Colosseum Underground Tour with Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

Posted by
85 posts

HI ladies, I've been to Venice before but that was back n 1987. The last time I was in Italy was 93. In 87 I was a freshman in high school. Yes I think doing the San Marco Square the next day is best and perhaps I will find one that's in the morning instead of 2PM in the afternoon. I will check out the Roman Guys tour and see what times he offers. To the person who mentioned the Roman Guy company I didn't know the Sistine Chapel was closed for early entrance?. I will google that. I'm able to order a tour for 7AM in the morning for the Vatican so if people aren't allowed in early why would this company highly rated sell tickets for that time? I could see if its a sudden decree by the popelcy ([pope) then the company hasn't had time to update website. Christine We will be in Venice for 3 nights and 2.75 days. We arrive in Venice at 10:30AM that first day buy train from Lake Como. Checking previous forums now for suggestions on Venice guides.

Posted by
1132 posts

Walk of Italy will provide all the walking tours needed for:
Rome-Pristine Sistine get you into the Vatican Early with a full walking tour
Rome-Colosseum tour
Florence-Best of Florence walking tour includes David
We booked all three and received a discount for doing so. Book Directly on their website. Make sure to look at the dates these tours are offered as not all tours run daily.

Florence- Use Walk About Florence for the all day 12 hour bus tour called "Best of Tuscany" and book the one with the lunch at the Vineyard it will take you to Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa. I HIGHLY recommend this tour.

Posted by
54 posts

Hi there Lili....
As a heads up and having looked into the Pristine Sistine tour.... the tour begins with breakfast outside the Vatican, hence the super early start. That said, they still do provide an earlier entrance to the museum. However, the Vatican has removed some accessibility between the Museum and the Sistine due to Covid / Until Further Notice. I would do some research and confirm with Walks that this tour will provide all that you hope it will. I personally found it to be too much $$$$ for a breakfast and an earlier entrance to the museum with no guarantee about the sistein, and the note that once you leave the museum with the tour, you are not able to return back to the museums.

Posted by
85 posts

Hello everyone, Letizia etc thanks for advice. LMAO I just realized RS has an actual section in his guide books on tours etc. People might think I'm an idiot but honestly this is my first copy of an RS book. In the past I've always used Rough Guides for travels not in Europe but I'm traveling to Italy and so I'm using his. I lost my physical copy somewhere in the house and have been using a Kindle version on my phone and now Computer. Finally a few minutes ago saw the section. LOL. I will contact the tour company and find out if there's a change in the early morning access tour to the Vatican. Thanks for letting me know because otherwise I would have been annoyed if I booked a tour that said XYZ was offered but then when we got there it changed. Obviously things happen all the time but if tour company knows they can't go take people in early then they shouldn't sell the tickets for that time and say they will. Now I'm getting tour suggestion overload which is a great thing. Using one or two companies for all my various tours in Italy seems easiest and maybe they would offer discount although some do have an RS code. Truthfully I might like some particular tours from one company over another and so I should just go with which ever ones I like best instead of just trying to use same company for all. Does anyone know the RS discount code for Advenure Bellisima Ie tours-Italy.com? If not I'll contact them like it says in the book. Question though Tour is only 2 hours and doesn't go inside Doges palace whereas with walks of Italy tour its a 3 hour tour and includes it so cost is $50 more. I'm now making myself go bonkers. Just pick something and go with it. No wrong answers here. This is the first time I'm booking tour guides in advance because when iIve traveled to SEA or South America in the past I just find walking tours or excursions tours when I get there from my guide books hostel etc

Posted by
12592 posts

However, the Vatican has removed some accessibility between the Museum
and the Sistine due to Covid / Until Further Notice

SOTL, I think you meant that they've removed the interior accessibility into the basilica from the Sistine. The Sistine is IN the museums. This issue came up on a previous thread awhile back, before tour companies were clearly spelling it out on their early-entrance tour descriptions.

This is the Walks of Italy disclaimer on their "Pristine Sistine" booking page:

"Note: As of July the corridor between St Peter's Basilica & the Sistine Chapel is still closed to the public due to Covid restrictions. Our guides will do their best to include the Basilica but circumstances on the day and the distance between the two sites without this access, may mean this is not always possible. In the case that there is no time for an interior visit, your guide will give you a full introduction to the Basilica from outside, so you know what to look for during your independent visit. Note also that if you book this tour on a Wednesday, due to the Papal Audience, a visit to St.Peter's Church won't be possible and the guide will spend more time inside the Museums."

So, they are still trying to include the basilica via the exterior walk from the museum...which is much longer thus the heads-up that getting into the church on the tour time allotted may not be possible. That's probably because the tour has to pass through the same security check queue for the church as everyone else, and length of that queue can differ. And as with anything else during these interesting times, anything can change at any time.

I will contact the tour company and find out if there's a change in
the early morning access tour to the Vatican

Lilliana, "Walks" also has this disclaimer on their "Pristine Sistine" tour page so no need to contact them:

"In order to ensure that you get inside the Vatican Museums before opening time, we've upgraded all 2021 departures, until Oct 31st, of this tour to include an exclusive breakfast experience on a beautiful museum terrace. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this is currently the only way to get inside the walls of the Vatican before general opening.

You'll spend an hour enjoying the buffet before your guide whisks you to the Sistine Chapel, ahead of the public and fully fueled for the adventure ahead."

Lastly, the Roman Guy has this disclaimer on their early-entrance tour page:
https://theromanguy.com/tours/italy/vatican/sistine-chapel-vatican-tour

"The Vatican has temporarily suspended early access entrance for All tour companies. That said, we have adjusted our prices and times to reflect this change so you can book this tour with confidence. Customers have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the lack of crowds!"

So the companies are being up front about changes they have no control over. This is also a VERY good reason to book directly with tour companies themselves and not through a 3rd party like Viator. They may or may not be clearly spelling out all of the details in their product descriptors. :O)

Posted by
12592 posts

Oh, and to add:
Sorrento: I'd skip the Blue Grotto on Capri; if there's a tourist trap on the island, it's that one. Not worth it, IMHO, for the time and money it involves for the few minutes you get in the thing, IF you get in the thing. They can'y do that if the sea is too rough. There are better things to do/see there.

Don't rent a car for Sorrentine/Amalfi Coast. You do not want or need one as parking is scare and expensive, and if you had a case of nerves driving in Utah, you definitely do NOT want to take on the narrow, winding, busy coastal roads!

Posted by
201 posts

Regarding the Pristine Sistine Early entry that includes breakfast. I chatted with customer service on takewalks and regarding the disclaimer about St Peters basilica. And Access to the inside will be from the outside, and not thru the corridor. That’s what there manager told me via email when the agent asked their manager.

Posted by
2220 posts

Liliana

You might start a new thread with your questions about Venice
Anything posted in this one will just get lost

Posted by
40 posts

Viator is awful. We showed up for a tour and no guide ever showed. Another time they said our guide would be in English. He couldn't speak any English and I got injured on the boat with no boarding safety measures. I have used Walks of Italy for many tours and they have been great. I am using them again in 3 weeks for the Colosseum Night Tour. I have also used Through Eternity Tours for Vatican Tours and they were excellent. In the past there were discounts in the Rick Steves Italy guide book for them. In a few weeks I have two boat trips booked through Get Your Guide, Massa Lubrense out of Sorrento to Capri with Blu Grotto, then the next day to Amalfi and Positano. Hotel pickup and drop off, swimming stops, drinks included.

Posted by
85 posts

Hello Everyone, Thanks for suggestions. The only reason I was possibly suggesting renting a car in Sorrento was so that my friend and I could safely get to both Vesuvius and Pompei for the day. Obviously getting a car is a pain in the ass and it would only be a last resort. I'm just concerned getting on a bus with 20 plus other people and one of them having Covid. I know I'm going on a trip but I'm trying to be as safe as much as possible. W ith walking tours your outside and or in a museum social distancing which is safer I feel. If a tour bus says they have air filters and are taking less people to social distance then I could chance it.. I've traveled to various parts of the world mostly by myself and have never heard of TL until someone posted it here yesterday. I can probably, and hopefully find a person on TL for a day tour via Sorrento to Pompeii etc.

The takes walk tour is really awesome looking and I'm going to finalize which tours I want to use with them. I wasn't planning on doing the breakfast Pristine Sistine just the same one but without breakfast. Yes I read the same thing that on Wed the Basilica is closed for mass. I'll be honest I hate large crowds in museums and the loud talking noises they make. People should talk softly in a museum so people can appreciate the art in silence. With a gazillion guides obviously that makes it harder. Nevertheless for me paying more $ to get into the Sistine Chapel etc before the hoards of tourists who most probably don't even care about the art is worth it.

So I just talked to Walks of Tours and yes that is correct once you leave the Vatican museum to see the Basilica you can't go back in. I honestly don't think it will be an issue for me. I love art but can only take it in 1-2 hour doses. I think this 4 hour tour of the Vatican will be perfect. I don't think my friend is going to want to go back in the museum anyway to look at more art and I don't think Ill want to either. It just means I'll need to come back to Roma another day.

Posted by
2220 posts

The Circumvesuviana train will get you to Pompeii cheaply and easily

You can book a tour with Mondo or find a guide at the entrance to Pompeii. There will be plenty of them available

Are you not taking public transportation anywhere else on your trip?

Posted by
85 posts

Ciao Christine we will be taking trains from one city to the next except when we fly from Venice to Naples, which in my head hopefully will be easier to social distance if its not crowded or near a window. In Rome we might need to take the Subway possibly, and hopefully it won't be crowded. Haven't chosen a location yet to stay in Rome but my friends sister can get us a discount at any Marriot family places. I'm not sure I want to stay in a huge hotel in Rome as Id rather do a small pension or something but it would be lovely for sure.

I finally booked two tours for Rome with Walks in Tours. The tour times in Venice available was only 2pm and in Florence the time doesn't work. Because the museums are closed on Monday I booked our Uffizi tour that first Sunday in Florence. I'm sure I can find an afternoon tour available. As there's other great companies I will find ones that work with our schedules.

Posted by
2220 posts

except when we fly from Venice to Naples,

JMO- but why fly when you can take a direct train city center to city center?
True a flight is 1.5 hours vs 5.5 on the fast train but you need to get yourself to the airport in Venice -which can be a bit of a pain depending on time of day- arriving 1.5-2 hours preflight (more time, expense and exposure) and then get yourself from Naples airport to center or to Sorrento- again more time, expense and exposure.
Take a picnic on the train and enjoy the views and a bit of relaxation instead. That 5.5 hours will be less time spent transiting to Naples than the overall time it will take to fly.
I am pretty sure you will be more "socially distanced" on a train than in a plane- the fast trains now are only selling half the number of seats and every other seat is blocked out. A plane will not be doing that!

I encourage you to be careful that you don't overload on "tours". The fun in Venice is just wandering around, getting lost. That doesn't cost you anything. Get a length of stay vaporetto pass, maybe book your entry to St Mark's and do a fun tour like the Secret Itinerary tour linked above.

Posted by
85 posts

Hello Christine I haven't book any tours yet for Venice. The two that I had originally booked via Viatar one per day I cancelled. Now I know Viatar is not good to use. I just want one tour that gives an overview of the history of Venice. The St Marco Square Doges Palaces tours seem the best for that. Yes after that we will just walk around by ourselves. I've done lots of traveling by myself around the world so have no problem walking about.

Our flight from Venice is 1.5 hours and I figured we wouldn't have to get to airport super early for a domestic flight like other huge airports. I love train travel but I was thinking it would be way faster catching flight in the morning and arriving in Naples 1.5 hours later. Maybe I made a tactical error but I kinda was thinking the Venice Airport is smaller then major airports and wouldn't take as long to enter security than say other major airports. Flights via Raynair for example are around $60 USD.

When we arrive in the morning to Naples were going to The Caserta Palace to walk around for a couple hours than head over to Sorrento to start relaxing for the rest of the day. I've been told and I guess it depends on the airline carrier that they have air filtration systems to make it more safe then people think. I'm doing what I can and am not trying to be a hypocrite when it comes to C safety. Thanks for the suggestion I'm getting travel Insurance that will cover hopefully any cancellations needed due to the virus if it somehow got worse and travel had to be cancelled.

Posted by
85 posts

I got tickets that are none refundable to save $ but we arrive In Naples at 10:30AM I believe. I just need to start making reservations for various things so I can stop stressing about making this an amazing trip. I'm so used to just traveling to SEA for example without any specific plans and just let the wind take me wherever I want when I want. When I was over in SEA I had 2.5 months to travel. I just landed in Thailand and had a basic plan of route and interests but nothing else. Italy I only have 3 weeks so I want to make it relaxed but fun with some walking tours etc sprinkled here and there. Its more touristy for museums etc so some things I feel you want to book in advance.