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Our tour guide, Rachel, arranged to meet us near the Spanish Steps. Our tour group consisted of myself, my wife Julie, and Howard Blount from Backroad Planet. Pre-tour communication was fantastic. Rachel advised us which train to take from the port and requested our cell phone numbers to stay in touch (but the three of us had no cell phone service).
While in front of the Spanish Steps, Rachel provided nice history and information of the Spanish Plaza (Piazza di Spagna), the Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Spagna), the Column of the Immaculate Conception (Colonna Dell’Immacolata), and the Valentino store (his lawsuit against McDonalds resulted in drastic changes to the ventilation system and signage).The Spanish Steps are currently closed for cleaning and renovation; scheduled to reopen in Spring 2016.
Very interesting to me was a quiz. Rachel asked if we could figure out why it is named Spanish Steps. She even gave us clues. I will not reveal the answer, in case you want to figure it out on your next visit. One clue was that adults usually cannot guess correctly but children do.
Rachel said our tour encompassed much of what LivItaly’s Heart of Rome tour guests would see, along with a very special addition (stay tuned).
LivItaly Tours advantages include:
- only small groups (maximum of 6 persons) or private tours
- flexibility of schedule, sights, and more
- passionate, knowledgeable (culture and history), English speaking guides
- “skip the line” admissions to attractions included in your tour
Other highlights of our tour included viewing Bernini angel sculptures in his home church, seeing the only visible portion of the ancient Roman aqueduct in the city center, visiting the recently cleaned and reopened Trevi fountain, walking along many ancient cobblestone streets, and spending time at the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, all while learning fascinating insider information and historical details not found in guidebooks or online.
Included in the price of our Heart of Rome tour, and many LivItaly tours, is a cup of coffee or scoop of gelato from a favorite shop of the guide. I selected hot chocolate, as it was a bit chilly. That refreshing stop came after a lunch break (at our cost) at what Rachel said was the best pizza shop in Rome. Who am I to argue?
THE Highlight of Our LivItaly Tour
We walked to the Colosseum for the main event. Rachel provided us with special access tickets, which included seeing the underground/floor and third levels of the Colosseum. Both levels are open only to special tour ticket holders. Big tour groups typically snap up these premium tickets and it was a special treat for LivItaly to provide our small group this underground tour.
Groups of 25 at a time are accompanied by an official Colosseum tour guide who described each stop. Rachel knows the process and ins/outs. She would hold us back away from the group and provide custom commentary or lead us through ahead of the group while the Colosseum tour guide was describing something to the other group members.
We always seemed to have ideal photo opportunities while the other group members had to queue up. The LivItaly advantage!
You can also do our Colosseum tour experience with one of LivItaly’s most popular tours, Colosseum Underground and Ancient Rome Tour. The tour also covers other popular attractions, like Palatine Hill and the Forum, which we opted to skip.
After the Colosseum tour was complete our LivItaly tour was essentially over but Rachel walked us through the Monti neighborhood. She said it is the current cool spot of Rome, sort of Brooklynish.
Howard went to the train station, to visit Vatican City before heading back to the Viking Star. Rachel took Julie and I to what she said is the best gelato shop in Rome: Gelateria Fatamorgana. That is a topic I would like to fully research but, yes, the gelato was AMAZING.
Overall, our day with Rachel of LivItaly was one of the highlights of our 10 days in Europe. Rachel was very passionate and knowledgeable about the major sights of Rome and she also provided interesting trivia and insider information.
Thank you to LivItaly and Rachel for providing me this complimentary tour in December 2015.