u

Hoping to give you all the possible information to help you get acquainted with my country, my tours and me, I'm listing here some of the questions I'm frequently asked and the relative answers

   
How do we meet with you?: Airport - Ship - Hotel - Train station  
Are your prices per person? No, they are per vehicle...  
Can we book tickets for the Vatican Museums? And for the Colosseum? No, but...  
What is a Driver/Guide (DG) and an English Speaking Driver (ESD) and a City Guide (Local Guide)? What do they do?  
How do we finalize our booking? All I need to secure your booking...  
Do your prices include taxes? No they don't...  
Did you receive my e-mail? I maybe did, but are you sure your computer is enabled to receive my reply?  
How much should we tip? In Italy tips are not mandatory...  

Since we are using you in several ports, can we get a better deal? Sorry, shore excursions are...

top

How should we dress when we go to the Vatican? Vatican dress code

 

Will you be our guide in Pompeii? Pompeii guides...

 

Will you be guiding us through Rome and the Vatican? Not only that...

 

Can you assist us in other ports besides Civitavecchia? I sure can...

 

What if you're busy? When I'm busy...

 

 

 

 

 

Airport

You'll be met at the airport upon arrival of aircraft as you specified. After collecting your luggage and clearing customs, you'll be routed to the public lounge where throngs of people wait for passengers to come out. Many people will be holding signs and also your driver will be there posting your name. That's how you identify your driver. Make sure to have my cell phone number with you, you never know what can happen in a crowded and chaotic airport! Normally it takes about 40 minutes from the time when the plane lands until you actually get to the public lounge. If you see that it will take longer, for example if your luggage is lost or simply takes it a long time to come out, please call me from on the phone or ask the custom officer to let you come out for a second to tell your driver you'll be late. We normally start getting restless after 45 minutes and we don't wait any longer than one hour from planes landing time. From any Italian public or cell phone you just dial 3356649380, but if you carry a cell phone registered outside of Italy you also need to dial the country code +39 so the whole sequence should be: 00393356649380.

 
  top
Ship

You'll find the car (van) parked right on the pier where your ship docks at the time you set. Your name will be posted on its windshield.

 
  top
Hotel

It surely isn't a problem to meet my clients at their hotel, though it's easier if they're staying in a small hotel rather than a big one. The concierges of the small hotels know each and everyone of their guests so when I go in and ask for my clients they have no problem addressing me to them. That doesn't always work when my clients stay in a big hotel. In this case it's a lot easier for the clients to spot me than it is for me to spot them. The big hotel always have some space outside the door where I can park my car (van) so when I get to the hotel first I go to the concierge and ask for my clients and he calls them in their room to announce me and I tell them that I'll be waiting for them outside near the car, but if their not in their room and the concierge can't find them I just go back outside and wait near the car.

 
  top
Train station

Arriving at the station, just as you come down from the train, you'll see a person with a sign with your name right on the platform where the train pulls in. You should simply come down from your car and walk towards the head of the train until they see this person.

 
  top
Prices are per vehicle. Participants will share the cost between themselves.  
   
You can't buy your tickets to the Vatican Museums (Sistine Chapel) or the Colosseum in advance, but I can still get you into both places quickly without standing in line. See my Vatican page for more information.  
  top
English Speaking Driver (ESD)

English Speaking Drivers (ESD) are all very experienced and used to hosting foreign tourists. They are all extremely familiar with the sights you will undoubtedly want to visit. If you have made a list of "must-sees" for any city you'll want to visit, ESD’s will gladly take you wherever you may want to go. If by chance, however, you did not have the time or inclination to "do your homework" before traveling, the driver will design an itinerary that will include all the highlights. ESD’s will offer only very basic information about the sights you will see. ESD’s speak English, but rarely at the level of a Driver Guide (see next).
 
  top
Driver / Guide (DG)

Driver Guides (DG) are fully qualified tour guides and are licensed to drive limousine service vehicles as well. While ESD's are fairly common in most ports of call, DG's are extremely rare. The difference between an ESD and a DG is the depth of intellect and knowledge. DG’s are professionally trained to ensure that get out of your excursion whatever you are looking for in the way of local color, culture, fun, historical sights and museums, landscapes and views, restaurants, etc. The amount of information provided by a DG will be more thorough and personalized to your particular interests than that offered by an ESD. However, in many European cities, a DG may not be allowed to guide tours through major churches and museum where such explanations are restricted to City Guides (see next).
 
  top
City Guide (Local Guide)

City Guides are those who are specialized and licensed to guide in one specific city or limited area. Local culture, history and traditions are so different from area to area—even from city to city—that no single guide can possibly become highly knowledgeable about a whole country or region. Therefore many local governments, especially in Europe, have chosen to assure the integrity of the local culture by licensing only those guides who have had a formal education and have proved to be knowledgeable and qualified to represent their area or city. Tours conducted by City Guides are often intense and detailed.

 
  top
All I need to secure your booking, is a Visa, Diners or MC credit Card Number, Exp Date, holder's name (as it appears on the card) and birth date. You can send it via e- mail or fax if you wish, my fax # is +39-06-51956088. The card is only kept as a guarantee and debited in case after the services are completed you prefer not to pay cash or with Traveler Checks. Paying cash or with Traveler Checks will let you keep the prices net as discussed rather than charging them with Visa / MC Commissions. If you need further clarifications on the payment, please give me a call, you are more than welcome to call me on my cell phone which is almost always on from the US please dial 011-39-3356649380. Please see cancellation policy on my website: http://www.customtoursrome.com/terms_and_conditions.htm  
  top
Taxes - In Italy you pay a 10 % VAT tax (Value added Tax) on our services.  
  top
E-mail - Sometimes I keep people waiting a few days for my e-mail. I do the tours and also the correspondence with the clients but unfortunately some days just aren't long enough for both things. If you don't get my reply within 3/4 days please send your e-mail a again and please make sure your anti-spam program does not automatically trash my reply. Thank you!  
  top

Tips in Italy are not mandatory, but it's customary to give them in proportion to the quality of the service received. It's not a fix percentage as it is in the US, I could say it's proportional to how much the service fulfills or exceeds the expectations. Maybe the following anecdote will explain some:

 

The famous canopy that Bernini made for the Papal Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica cost the Pope Urban VII the amount of 200,000 scuta* 34,000 of which where the artist’s pay. He was so pleased with Bernini’s work that wanted to give the artist a gratuity. Not sure of what would have been an appropriate gift, he asked the cardinals’ opinion. One of the cardinals suggested to give Bernini a golden chain. The Pope instead reputed that really meager and decided instead to give him 10,000 golden scuta in addition to what he owed him and to the cardinal he said: “Bernini will get the gold, but you’re going to get the chain!” and he had the cardinal imprisoned. The moral of the story is that you tip as generously as you can afford those who serve you well and punish those who don’t.

*scutum, shield in English, was the currency at the time. scuta is plural for scutum.


So it's not given in case of a mediocre service, it's minimal in case of average and raises from there in a proportion the client decides. It is actually embarrassing to be asked how how much tip is owed. A tip is a gift and we like to leave it to the client's to judge if we deserve it and in what measure. If asked a waiter, porter, chamber maid, hotel concierge, driver guide or anybody else, if polite, will shyly tell  you tip included and you don't owe them anything. Everyone is happy to receive some extra money, but to ask for a tip or saying how much it should be is considered equivalent to begging. In conclusion, everyone expect a tip but no-one will tell you how much it should be. Italians are complicated aren't they? But I'm not going to leave you without an answer, here comes some help:

let's say at the average restaurant they will be happy with 10/15 %. The higher is the bill the smaller the tip. If the bill is 100 Euros 10/15 % 15 Euros are a good tip, but if the bill is 500 Euros would maybe be too much. Maybe 5 Euros a day for the chamber maid at the hotel would be the minimum. No, don't ask what you should tip me, you would just embarrass me!

 
  top

Sorry no discount, Shore excursions are already discounted packages and I cannot give you any further discounts on the prices of shore excursions.
Please consider the single prices for the transfers and the city sightseeing, the cost for the typical full day excursion to Rome from Civitavecchia. i.e. for 4 people in the minivan, would add up to 680 €:


Transfer Civitavecchia/Rome for 4 people in the minivan is 140 €
Transfer Rome/Civitavecchia for 4 people in the minivan is 140 €
Full day of sightseeing for 4 people in the minivan is 400 €
Total 680 €.
 

I’m proposing instead it for 500 € as a package for cruisers.
In addition, if you book tours in more than one city or more than one car and driver in the same city your aren't giving more business/money to one company, you're always using independent driving guides.

I would also like to inform you that a lot of the money you pay me I have to spend on gas which is sold for more than 1 Euro per liter in Italy (converting liters to gallons and Euros to US Dollars you end up finding out we’re paying more than 6 USD per gallon!).
 

 
  top
Vatican dress code: Please be aware that there are monitors outside St. Peter's, which has a very strict dress code: no skirts above the knee, no shorts, no bare shoulders (i.e., tanktops or sleeveless blouses), and you must wear shoes. You will not be permitted inside the basilica unless you are dressed appropriately. Slacks and jeans, however, are permitted. Appropriate Dress is a MUST! If you are out sightseeing in shorts, miniskirts, tanktops, sleeveless blouses, etc., and wish to enter a church, you must be dressed appropriately. People who monitor visitors in churches have the right to refuse entrance if in their opinion the visitor is dressed inappropriate to enter. One way to get around this is to carry long pants and a shirt/blouse with sleeves in a bag or backpack so that when you wish to enter a church, you can slip these garments on over your inappropriate attire before you enter. Strict dress codes are especially adhered to at St. Peter's, so I wouldn't even try to enter wearing short skirts, shorts, or sleeveless tops. You will be refused entrance. Again, no shorts, or sleeveless tops, but wearing jeans is okay.  
  top
Pompeii guiding - Driving guides are nor permitted to conduct guided tours of Pompeii and I really recommend you hire a local guide. They charge about 100 Euros for the tour, but they are worth it. The alternative is to hire an audio guide, but the person guide is more interesting.  
  top
I drive you around and show you places. I'll be pointing out things While driving and explain what they are, stop at the places that require a visit and help you visit them. Many clients who come to Italy frequently, and have had other experiences with licensed guides and driving guides, told me I was the best guide they ever had. I will not only be pointing things out from inside the car.
I will be walking with you inside churches and museums, around gardens, squares, excavation sites etc., Of course when I work I have to deal with our chaotic traffic and sometimes you'll have to be a little patient while I look for a place for parking the car... At most places it will be alright to leave the car just outside, even if double parked, for a little while. But places that require a little longer time to visit ( i.e. St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums or Tivoli Gardens) we may have to drive around the block once or twice before finding a parking space, and it never takes a really long time to find one anyway. Also I'll be around to help you whenever you'll need me, like if you go to a shop to buy something and the salesgirl there doesn't speak English, or you want to order food at restaurant but the menu is only in Italian etc. etc...
In other words, I can maybe tell you about Rome more than you want to hear about, but not necessarily will! Rome is not my only playground though, I can take you to Florence, Siena, the Tuscan countryside, Naples and its surroundings or anywhere else you'll like to go. Often they hire me to go touring all-over Italy for one or two weeks. What I really enjoy is doing tours off the beaten path. Most people stay for only 2 or 3 days and that's barely long enough to see the most famous places, the ones everybody knows and talks about. Sometimes instead I have customers who stay a little longer or have been in Italy before and do not need to go back to the classical sites. They give me the opportunity to show them places not even locals know about and they have a great time!
 
  top
Other ports -  I'm part of a network of driving guides operating in Rome, Florence, Naples and Sicily. We are trying to extend our network over the whole country of Italy and, in the future, Europe. I can help you booking your shore excursions with qualified driving guides in the most important Italian ports. I'm based in a little town South of Rome, so I mostly do tours of Rome. Because of the location of my home though, I can also serve Naples. It takes me roughly the same time to reach Naples from my home than it takes me to go to Civitavecchia. Livorno is instead way too far for me to go to but my partners there are really good.  
  top
When I'm busy you can still tour with one of my friends. As it would be easy to imagine, even though I try hard, I cannot possibly take care personally of all my clients. It happens that some days I have requests from different people (at the peak of the season even 3 or 4 calls for the same day) and the next day nobody wants me at all. As it happens to me it happens to the other guys in my business as well, so we help each other out. I help filling in their empty days and they do the same with me in return.  
  top