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Ahh, Rome. The Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, ancient Roman ruins. The Eternal City pulses with history and culture. You may be able to see Rome in a day, but to really experience it, you’ll want to spend a few days taking Rome day tours.
Dark Rome offers a unique insight into the mysteries and legends behind the landmarks. With their Rome Colosseum Tours, Vatican Tours, and Rome Catacombs Tours an expert guide takes you on a journey not only to an amazing destination, but to another time.
A little about Dark Rome
Dark Rome started as a way to reveal the lesser-known stories to light through amazing and unique city tours in Rome. They do this through utilizing guides with the best English (although they do offer other languages as well), small group sizes, and skip-the-line partnerships. They also offer tours specifically for families traveling with kids, night tours, and day trips to places like the Ruins of Pompeii.
Best Rome Day Tours with Dark Rome
Rome Day Tours: Colosseum Tours
Before the Tour
The Colosseum is one of the most known landmarks in the world, and a very popular tourist destination. To avoid waiting in line for hours I suggest pre-booking with a skip-the-line Colosseum tour company, such as Dark Rome.
Trekaroo Tip: The meeting place for the Dark Rome Colosseum/Roman Forum Tour provides a great backdrop for pictures. Arrive early for the first guided tour of the day for amazing, crowd-free photo opportunities.
Upon meeting your Dark Rome guide, you receive headsets so that even if it is loud around you, or you wander to get a great photo, you can still hear what your guide is saying.
After taking the fast track through skip-the-line access to enter the Colosseum and clearing a security check, our expert guide took us on a journey to the past through vivid storytelling.
During the Tour
When you visit the Colosseum with a Dark Rome guide, it is easy to imagine what it looked like in its heyday. You could practically hear the roars of the wild animals and the clang of Gladiator swords. And yet, being in an arena that has stood for 2,000 years invokes a feeling of indescribable awe at what has come before.
After the tour of the Colosseum, Dark Rome group tours head across the square to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Your skip-the-line ticket to the Colosseum gets you quick entrance to this landmark as well. After a short hike to the top of Palatine Hill, visitors on the Rome day tours are rewarded with the best view in all of Rome.
It’s hard to tear yourself away from the view. Don’t be afraid to take lots of pictures (guides are happy to take some for you too). But once you are done, you are again whisked away to the past. Wander through the ancient streets, past temples and arches; all rich with stories and legends.
The Roman Forum was the historic center of Rome politically, socially, and spiritually. The Vestal Virgins, charged with protecting the city’s sacred flame, lived just behind the Vestal temple. Triumphal processions, public speeches, and criminal trials took place right here. Even just writing this gives me chills.
Don’t be afraid to ask your guide questions. These guys seriously know everything. After your time with the Rome day tours end, take a moment to explore the Forum on your own and bask in the wonder of the past.
Tips for Kids
Dark Rome offers a Best Colosseum Family Tour designed by a childhood education specialist. This two-hour small group tour utilizes visual aids and re-enactments on the arena floor to bring the Colosseum to life for children.
Rome Day Tours: Vatican Tours
There is no limit to the number of people who can enter the Vatican every day. Because of this, the crowds are immense and horrifying. We were told of a traveler who waited in line outside the Vatican City walls for three hours before giving up.
For that reason, it is so important to know when and how to avoid long lines, or getting lost in the crowd, especially with children.
Dark Rome has an exclusive partnership with the Vatican allowing no wait access. Even the skip-the-line Vatican groups have to wait up to 30 minutes to get in sometimes. But there is actually NO WAIT with Dark Rome.
We walked right inside getting quick access to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Using Dark Rome for this no-wait access is highly recommended.
Inside the Vatican Museums
Once inside there is no avoiding the crowds, but our Vatican guide expertly led our small group to the areas where we could be out of the main throng. Since Dark Rome utilizes headsets, we were able to wander and admire without having to huddle close to our guide to hear what she was telling us.
The amount of art in the Vatican Museums is overwhelming. There are no informative signs to tell you what you are seeing. Having a guide to explain the symbolism and significance was very helpful.
The magnificent tapestries, detailed maps, and life-like sculptures testify of the skilled artisans of the world. From the brilliance of the murals in the Raphael Rooms, to the grandeur of the maps surrounding the walls of the map rooms-there is almost too much beauty to absorb.
Inside the Sistine Chapel talking and picture taking are forbidden, so our guide took time in the Vatican Garden to explain in detail everything we would see before hand. Dark Rome even had pamphlets we were able to take inside with us to help break down Michelangelo’s great work. Once at the chapel we were free to experience the masterpiece at our own pace before meeting with our guide at a designated time.
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica
From the chapel we proceeded directly to St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world. This church houses famed works such as Michalengelo’s, the Pietá and the baldachin designed by Bernini. After hearing about the art and architecture inside (from an expert guide who is no doubt an art historian), you are again give time to ask questions and explore on your own.
Tips with Kids
Did I mention there are a lot of people here, even with skip-the-line tickets? One way to avoid that and make your trip with kids more enjoyable is to join one of the Dark Rome Express Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica & Vatican Museums Tours. The tours grant early morning access which gets you into the chapel 30 minutes before any other tour group and over an hour before the general public visits the Vatican.
Dark Rome also offers a Vatican Family Tour with activities specifically designed to keep kids engaged and happy. You can also schedule semi-private or private tours.
Explore more of Rome! Here are 50 Magical Things to do in Rome from our friends at Go Travel Gal.
Rome Day Tours: Rome Catacombs Tour
The wonders of Rome continue underground. Beneath the surface lie ancient tombs, hidden temples, and buried works of art. Go beyond the superficial sites of Rome with a peek underground in one of the Rome day tour of the catacombs.
The Crypts and Catacombs Tour of Rome was one of the original tours offered by Dark Rome. The tour of the catacombs begins at Piazza Barberini where you meet your guide before boarding an air-conditioned coach. The bus travels along Appia Antica and stops at the Catacombs of St. Domitilla, San Callisto, or Santa Priscilla.
Roman law prevented burial inside the city proper. Therefore, Christian catacombs are located away from the city. They served as both burial sites and a place of worship at a time when Christianity was illegal.
Catacomb tours start with an explanation of symbols and burial practices before descending underground. Once in the depths a guide points out details of ancient roman life…and death. No bones lie in these tombs. When Christianity became the state religion in the 4th-century, holy relics were moved to basilicas inside of Rome.
After the catacomb tours, the coach then brings you to the unassuming facade of the Basilica of San Clemente. Don’t be fooled, though. Inside the 14th-century church breathtaking frescoes and mosaics adorn the walls. But then prepare to be amazed as you descend through time to a 4th-century basilica, and again to a street of ancient Rome.
The Capuchin Crypts
The crown-jewel of the tour is the last stop: The Capuchin Crypts. In the 17th-century, the relocated remains of 4000 friars arrived at the Church of Santa Maria della Concezioni dei Cappuccini. Capuchin monks then arranged the bones in an artful way to remind viewers that death cannot be escaped. The guided tour points out details and symbolism in the bone chapel that would be missed without an expert.
Tip with Kids
Makes sure your kids can handle creepy. The bones will either delight or terrify them. Also, the Catacombs of Pricilla are wider and more open than the others, which may help for kids who are wary of tight spaces. This kind of forethought will help the entire family enjoy their Rome day tours equally.
Go beyond the tours for great recommendation on food and fun with our article Top 10 Things to do in Rome with Kids.
Disclosure: Dark Rome tours were experienced as part of a press trip to promote the brand, but opinions stated are always my own.