This city of Rome has long been a romantic love affair of mine and last month I had the pleasure of visiting this gorgeous city once again, this time I wanted to soak in as many sights as possible and learn as much as I could about the rich culture and extensive history behind this incredible place.
When it comes to foreign countries I have always been of the mindset that the absolute best way to see everything in a short space of time is to book a guided tour. I usually hop on one of the famous and frequent sight seeing buses, or join a group of people on a walking tour but when time is of the essence and I want to see as much as possible I will always try and seek out a private tour guide. My friend Inge and I had booked a simple long weekend and wanted to explore as much as possible in the two full days that we had outside of our travel days.
So we booked some private guided tours with Roman Candle Tours, a luxury tour operator based in Rome who specialise in not only private but bespoke packages for the adventurous and inquisitive traveller.
Prior to our visit to Rome I was able to choose from the carefully created list of tours on the Roman Candle Tours website. Having travelled to Rome before I was really interested in doing something in the city that was a little outside of the usual tourist comfort zone and yet at the same time, having never had the luxury of exploring Rome and blogging about it, I wanted to re-visit some of the famous hotspots too. I liaised with Roman Candles Tours before flying out and they were able to help me book just the right tours to see everything that I wanted. They suggested their Hills of Rome tour and a bespoke day tour of Rome.
So first up was The Hills of Rome Tour. Inge and I were picked up from our lovely hotel Albergo del Senato and greeted by our guide, Jerry and our driver for the day. Jerry was great, he was incredibly talented, intellectual and bundles of fun, it was guide love at first sight 😉 Jerry explained our day ahead and what was planned in the tour but as we were staying so close to The Pantheon he took us in for a little guided tour to kick things off, even though it wasn’t technically included in our package which I thought was a really nice touch. We then jumped straight into our car which, in tow with our lovely driver was ours for the duration of the day.
The first stop on our official hills tour was Capitol City, for me one of the most picturesque places in Rome when it comes to the unique historical and panoramic views. Our driver knew all the best spots to park up and let us jump out to take a picture, including this amazing lookout above. We learned early on, that this was one of the best things about having a private tour, there were no restrictions when it came to going about our day, filming, taking photos, stopping for a cup of coffee even, the day was up to us!
After taking in those breathtaking views we strolled up the street towards Capitol hill. After hearing about the history of the location Jerry whisked us up to a secret little lookout 😉 Just steps away from Capitol Hill is Terrazza Caffarelli, a quiant little coffee shop in the winter and a great outdoor bar and restaurant in the summer. The views from here were incredible. If you are in town during winter this is a really great location to get yourself an uninterrupted view of the City of Domes!
After Capitol Hill we drove to Circus Maximus which was amazing to see, it’s quite a simple stretch of land nowadays but with our guide Jerry filling us in on the history of the space it was fascinating. The famous chariot racing stadium is such a spectacular sight to see, all you need is a little imagination (and a Jerry in your ear!) and it’s a location not to be missed. It was seeing the Circus Maximus reminded me just how important and handy it was to be seeing Rome with a guide rather than exploring on our own, I had driven past this exact location on the drive in from the airport but hadn’t a clue it was so monumental!
On the way out to lunch our final historic location to see was the famous catacombs of Rome, a city of ancient underground burials that are now open to the public to meander through. To go underground into the catacombs you have to be taken down by a registered guide but Roman Candle Tours arranged one of these guided tours for us and then met us in the Church of San Sebastiano as soon as we came out the other side. You can’t take photos in the catacombs for obvious reasons so i can’t share any visuals with you but it’s something I would definitely recommend. Learning about both the historical and religious details along with seeing the tombs was a unique and eye opening experience. After the Catacombs and a brief continuation of the ancient burial ground in The Church of San Sebastiano by Jerry, we were then whisked straight back into the car and continued on our journey out of the city and towards, in our case, our lunch spot above Lake Albano. We dined at the Hotel Pagnanelli which was great, a recommendation from our guide Jerry. The food was delicious and the view from the restaurant out over onto Lake Albano was incredible!
This restaurant had the most extensive wine cellar I have ever seen, it went on for what felt likes miles, it was truly ridiculous and awesome to meander through. If you go here for lunch ask to have a tour otherwise you can book one of the wine tasting evenings they run, either way I would highly recommend venturing out here! It’s pricey and exclusive but it’s worth the cost in my opinion.
That was the end of our Tour number one, so we covered the Pantheon, Capitol Hill, Circus Maximus, The Catacombs of Rome and Lake Albano and we were home in time for a quick change and an afternoon of our own exploring. We headed out to the Fountain of Trevi and finished off our day shopping in the Piazza di Spagna. Here we found all the best window shopping delights, Prada, Valentino, Gucci, Chanel, the works 😉Day two of our Roman Candle Tours was our bespoke ‘Rome in one day tour’. Jerry met us at our hotel once again and this day we set off on foot, to explore some of the most iconic sights in the city. We started out at the Sant’Ignazio Church which was incredible, the Church is a marvel art piece with so much history and splendour. The ceilings have you in absolute awe and the stories behind each and every brush stroke is fascinating. It’s a place where I would definitely recommend you see with a guide as there’s so much more than meets the eye here!
We then walked for the day roaming through Rome 😉 Down past The Capitol Building towards The Roman Forum and then eventually through to The Colosseum. This walk is my favourite in Rome and we were lucky enough to hop skip and jump it in the sunshine, whilst enjoying the may street performers underneath the beautiful blanket pines.
If you only have a few hours in Rome this is an absolute must!
The Colosseum, for me, is Rome. The immense creative architecture alone is awe-inspiring and then on top of that learning more about the torturous and harrowing history that went on inside those walls, it really does make a mark on your heart, in every which way.
The Colosseum is the world’s most famous amphitheater, not only because of it’s impressive build and capacity space for over 50,000 people but also because of the horrific games and sport that it was first created and built for. The famous animal hunts and ghastly gladiator style war games were staged here in Rome all those years ago and being within the space allows you to really get a sense of the barbaric acts that took place.
I have visited the city a few times and never had the opportunity to go inside The Colosseum itself so to be able to venture in this time with such a talented guide was great, Jerry’s addition to the already astonishing sight of the structure was, by far, my favourite part of our entire trip.
The Colosseum completed our ‘Rome in one day tour’ and we parted ways with our wonderful guide, Jerry, to enjoy the rest of the afternoon in Sunny Rome. We headed out to Vatican City to grab a gelato and take in the view, which finished off our weekend in Rome perfectly!
Booking a guide made all the difference, this was my third trip to Rome but I came away knowing more about the city than I had learned in my two prior trips put together. The fact that we had a dedicated adventurer and historian with us at all times really did make our trip. Having a private tour meant that we never missed a photo and there was never too many questions asked. Touring in a group can be daunting sometimes so paying a little extra for a private guide is something I would highly recommend.
If you are heading out to Italy and want to book a guide with Roman Candle Tours you can see their full set of itineraries and locations here, you can also contact them about any other specific tours and sights you might like to create for yourself. ASK FOR JERRY!! 😉
Thank you so much to Roman Candle Tours for organizing such an incredible few days for my friend Inge and I!
This post was in full collaboration with Roman Candle Tours. Flights to Rome, the accommodation and Tours were covered only. All views are my own.