mostly question about time in Rome

We are going on this tour in Oct 2024, our first Tauck vacation. Any tips and thoughts welcome. Specifically, wondering about the time in Rome. General itinerary says "after-hours guided visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel (subject to availability" When will we know if available for after hours tour? I don't want to miss seeing them. Also, do you actually go into the Forum and Circus Maximus? The itinerary is unclear if you are doing a outside walk around or actually going in. Appreciate anyone that experiences this tour earlier this year and can report back! TIA


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    After hours visit to Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel is at whim of Vatican. You may not know if and when (day and time of day- could be before opening!) until you arrive in Rome. We walked through first part of the forum near the Coliseum. There is not much left of the Circus Maximus- a big oval with just a few rows of seats- not worth more than a drive-by, which is what we did.

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    We took a private tour of the colosseum and colosseum underground that included all the levels and the forum and circus Maximus.
    Agree about the circus Maximus. Really not much to see there. There is much more at the forum but we feel a guide helps in picturing and understanding it better.
    Call tauck if you have any specific questions about what you actually go into vs what you just go by.

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    As mentioned, Circus Maximus is just a drive by, and on our 2023 trip, Tauck did not take guests into the Forum/Palatine Hill zones.

    There is so much to see in Rome that the main tip is to be ready to make good use of any free time in the itinerary. For example, after your morning visit at the Vatican, rather than burn time going all the way back to the hotel in the coach, take off on foot from the Vatican and head across the Bridge of Angels to see the Parthenon and Piazza Navona. Then maybe hit Trevi, the Steps, Santa Maria Del Popolo, or whatever sites you hope to see as you wind back to hotel. Similarly, on the next day, the Tauck program may end near the Colosseum. If so, be ready to do things starting from there--such as the Capitoline, the Forum if you have interest in archeology, or even go to the top of il Vittoriano (the "Wedding Cake") for an expansive view of the city. If the Circus Maximus has special interest to you, it is in the vicinity of the Colosseum. If you go that way, quirky things like the Bocca della Verita ("Lion's Mouth") are nearby, and the cafes of Trastevere are just across the Tiber. Finally, depending on your art interests, the Borghese is very walkable from the hotel.

    We've been to Rome multiple times and to us, the hidden gem site is the Capitoline. It is big and content rich, and rarely feels busy. You can also get a superb view of the Forum from high inside the galleries. Also, the size and awe of St. Peters, and watching the emotional people visiting there from all over the world never gets old.

    A final note is that "after-hours" in the Vatican Museum does not mean that you get to wander anywhere you wish seeking particular exhibits at your own pace. You have to stay with the group, and you can only go where the group is allowed. It is great though--and the extended private time in the Sistine with the excellent guide that Tauck hires is unforgettable.

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    If you are near the Coliseum with some free time consider a visit to these two sites: First is St. Peter in Chains. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Pietro_in_Vincoli. It’s a short stroll from the Coliseum but you may need to stop and ask directions on the way. Just have the name. You may run into people who think they are going to St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican). The chains that bound St. Peter are in a display case. The Michelangelo statue of Moses is stunning. Another is the Palazzo Valentini. https://www.marthasitaly.com/articles/73/palazzo-valentini-roman-houses. This is near the “wedding cake” (Victor Emmanuel) and needs to be reserved. It’s a fascinating excavation you see by walking on a plexiglas floor (I had a little vertigo at first). The multimedia presentation is terrific but you need to reserve an English tour if you are not multilingual. This was a highlight of our trip to Rome several years ago, not well known, recommended by a private guide there.

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