It’s just after nine in the morning and already the heat has
claimed the heart of Rome. By now lines will be over a mile long at
the Vatican as clusters of camera-clad tourists stretch their necks
to see the latest stop on a walking tour.
These same paths are traveled each season throughout Italy, and
although they offer clients ample information, group tours aren’t
always convenient or easy to hear even with earpieces and
microphones. Tours also require scheduling, and if travelers are
hungry or tired, they must soldier on.
If your clients prefer a private tour that gives more of an
insider’s look at Rome or Venice, Florence or Pompeii without the
high price tag, you might want to book them an iJourneys
self-guided walking tour. The audio tours can be purchased and
downloaded from the company’s Web site and used on an iPod or mp3
player. Less tech-savvy clients can opt to order a CD instead.
iJourneys is the brainchild of Elyse Weiner, a longtime news
producer and foreign correspondent. Weiner brings incredible
background to the 60- to 75-minute tours, literally, as hers is the
voice clients will hear in their headphones.
Hailing from New York, Weiner’s resume is stacked with
impressive names and hard-to-pronounce corners of the world. During
her 20 years in the news business, Weiner produced for the likes of
Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, covered news for ABC radio and, of
course, she traveled. About two years ago, Weiner watched a tour
group trudge through a Miami shopping mall and iJourneys was
Written for an American sensibility and recorded on location,
the tours are perfect for business travelers with a few hours to
sightsee, budget travelers or clients who would like more than the
I got to test drive Weiner’s tours during a recent trip to
Italy. Having lived in the country for almost a year, I thought I
already had the “insider’s view,” but these tours showed me
The first tour took me through the heart of Ancient Rome from
Capitoline Hill to the Coliseum the opposite way of many other
The views of the ancient housing, lore about the virgin palace
and facts about the Roman water system were all part of the tour.
But the highlight had to be Weiner’s directions to the little-known
kiosk where tickets to the Coliseum are sold. I barely waited for
my ticket, when at the Coliseum the wait for the same ticket was
over an hour.
iJourneys’ Old Rome walk included the top tourist spots the
Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, several monuments and churches
as well as information on the best cappuccino spot in town. The
tour also included stories about the Roman baths, tips on driving
etiquette and where the Pope buys his robes.
The Florence walk took me from the famous doors at the
Baptistery by the Duomo to the artists lining the streets near the
Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. I got the sense that I was walking
through history and learning what it was like to be a
My final tour took me to Venice, where Weiner spoke of seemingly
everything from the birth control-laced pigeon food sold to
tourists to stop bird over-population to the Bridge of Sighs where
prisoners walked to their deaths.
Again, Weiner made sure I hit the highlights Doge’s Palace,
Piazza San Marco and the Rialto but she also tucks in things like
the out-of-the-way Scala Di Bovolo and charming shops. Add to that
the convenience of my pause button, and Italy was mine to
Currently, iJourneys offers a Paris tour and five tours in Italy:
Ancient Rome, Old Rome, Florence and Pompeii. Upcoming cities
include Barcelona, Prague, Hong Kong and Amsterdam.
Each tour is 60-75 minutes and comes with a downloadable and
printable map. For tourists worried they will get lost, Weiner
gives detailed instructions and plenty of markers to ensure clients
will stay on the right path.
Cost: $14.95 per tour (travel agents receive a 10 percent
Commission: Check with company for details