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Timeless City of Everlasting History
Rome is more than a city; it is a fulcrum. As an ancient Empire, wherever its legions tread they left the footprints for change that forever altered the trajectory of an entire hemisphere. When the Romans advanced, they brought with them knowledge, resources and the ability to transform sheer survival into a more progressive lifestyle with a structured society. Though not the largest nor even the longest lasting,Rome’s effects on urban planning, architecture, art, language, political power structures and economics can be seen across the Mediterranean Basin. Its soldiers conquered, plundered, then unearthed, adapted and incorporated the new models they discovered in the lands they traversed. They carried this information with them back to Rome, along with trophies from their battles. The modern-day metropolitan area still has more obelisks than any other city in the world. The dense city is overwhelmingly rich in history, idiosyncratic in its organization and continues to be enormously powerful as the core of the Christian world. For 3,000 years it has inspired the world. It is ancient, eternal and awe-inspiring.
The noble Borghese family built a residence just outside of Rome in the 1600s. Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Camillio Borghese (who became Pope V), assembled an enviable private collection of masterpieces as he decorated the villa with works by Botticelli, Raphael, Canova, Caravaggio and Bernini, which he either purchased or “confiscated.” In 1807 Prince Borghese was forced to give 500 pieces to Napolean, many of which are now on display at the Louvre. Even with many of its sculptures and paintings in France, the galleria and its gardens are still marvelous to visit, as visitors can enjoy art in the spaces for which it was intended.
With a circumference of 545 m and a height of 57 m, the Colosseum is the world’s largest amphitheatre. It was built between 72-80 AD and is recognized as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. As it held up to 50,000 people, 80 gates were needed to facilitate access for the flock of citizens who came for the shows. The “games” were part of a political campaign known as “Panem et Circenses” (“Bread and Circuses”) that were meant to serve as a palliative for the Roman people. The rulers organized exhibitions and fights of exotic animals, gladiator battles, executions of prisoners and the recreations of marine battles, even flooding the arena for the show. The gladiator battles ended under Emperor Constantine in 324 AD, but the system of cages, galleries, storage and changing rooms under the arena, can still be seen. No trip to Rome is complete without a stop at this important symbol of antiquity.
This excursion can easily be combined with: Villa d’Este and/or the Park of the Villa Gregoriana
Hadrian built the largest residence ever constructed for an emperor. Its grounds were located on 120 hectares, an area big enough to fit the city of Pompeii inside. It is believed that the emperor did not like the palace usually reserved for Roman rulers on Palatine Hill, choosing instead to build his official home 30 kilometers east in Tibur (now called Tivoli) in 118 A.D.. The emperor himself was its architect. The villa complex includes innovative elements and styles borrowed from Hadrian’s travels. It has an amazing series of baths, pools, saunas, rooms with heated flooring, canals, theaters, libraries, gardens, farmlands and underground tunnels. Unfortunately, centuries of erosion and looting has damaged the UNESCO world heritage site, though visitors can still see the ruins.
Ostia Antica is located 25 km southwest of Rome. This city at the mouth of the Tiber was founded in the fourth century B.C. as a military colony. By the 2nd century A.D. it had become one of the most important harbour cities in the Mediterranean. Visitors can visit the archaeological site to see the ruins of private houses, thermal baths and remarkable floor mosaics.
The adamantine relationship between religion and war is manifested in the hill fortress, Castel Sant’Angelo, that served as refuge for numerous Roman popes over the past centuries. The grandiose building was originally built as a tomb in 130 AD until the expanding city necessitated a new outer wall to be constructed and the building needed to be enveloped into the defence system and added to the structure. Visitors can now see its 60 rooms and trace its development from mausoleum to prison to safe house for clergy. The weapons collection, located near stunning frescoes underline the historic tie between Christianity and combat.
This excursion can easily be combined with: Hadrian’s Villa and/or the Park of the Villa Gregoriana
Son of the Duke of Ferrara and grandson of Pope Alexander VI, Ippolito II d’Este became archbishop of Milan when he was 10 years old. He went on to serve as an advisor for King Francis I of France before being made cardinal. D’Este was extremely well-connected and well-paid, a potential candidate for pope in the mid 1500s. As he waited (in vain) to become the Holy See, he led an extravagant lifestyle as governor of Tivoli, building a residence near Hadrian’s villa and with contributions from some of the best Renaissance artists to work on the project. As the cardinal aged and he lost hope of being elected pope, he spent his time at the villa and invited poets and philosophers there. He received his final guest, Pope Gregory XIII, in 1572; at that point he had spent all of his money and needed to pawn some valuables for the reception. The villa fell into disrepair over the years due to the lack of necessary funds for its upkeep, war and unfavourable climatic conditions. It is now owned by the state, which has been restoring it to its former glory. Visitors can tour the main house and gardens, a UNESCO world heritage site. The gardens are thought to be amongst the most beautiful in Italy, exemplary of European landscape architecture from the 1900s. They include 100 fountains, statues, water “games”, grottos and terraces. (They are considered a separate site from the villa itself, a second admission ticket is required for entrance.)
Access to the greatest forms of Italian art is free, though the queues to St. Peter’s Basilica can be daunting. For those who desire not only to step inside the world’s largest church, but to reach its dome, will be required to climb up 551 steps. A lift can get you half way there, but to make your way to the top for the marvelous views over Rome, you still have to walk.
Saint Benedict established the Abbey of Montecassino in 529 as the first monastery of the Benedectine Order. The Patron Saint of Europe founded monasticism in the West. The abbey was destroyed and then rebuilt multiple times during its 1,500 year history, including during the particularly brutal World War II battle that left thousands of civilians (who were seeking shelter at the abbey) dead. During the Middle Ages it contained one of the greatest libraries of that time; some of the oldest examples of the Italian language were written there. Visitors are welcome to the still active monastery and museum just 140 kilometers southeast of Rome.
The country within a country was built to enclose a single complex: the Vatican. The areas open to the public include the Museums, which houses over 300 galleries with a wealth of art that represents all of the greatest expressions of genius from the Etruscan, Egyptian, Greek and Roman to Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces. The contents of the collection are unparalleled, but the real draw are the rooms themselves. With interiors by greats like Raphael and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, no better examples of Italian art exist elsewhere in the world.
Sample some of the great street foods the charming neighborhood of Trastevere warmly welcomes you to share. In under 3 hours you will have the opportunity to try some of the great Roman staples, such as: Roman pizza (usually sold by the weight of each slice, which varies based on the toppings chosen), supplì (the Roman version of the arancini rice balls) and cold cuts and cheeses. The walking tour will conclude with gelato, of course!
When in Rome….cook as the Romans cook! With epic dishes to really dig into, you can try your hand at making some of the delicious cuisine that defines the area. The stories that accompany each meal are just as great as the foods themselves. Fettucine alfredo, for example, was crafted in Rome for love. A young husband feared losing his wife so he concocted a scheme to keep her. He whipped up a plate of pasta with copious amounts of the one luxury item he had: butter. The trick worked, the woman stayed and the couple survived to literally chew the fat together. Another iconic Roman dish is pasta alla carbonara, which was invented to please American soldiers after they liberated Italy. Local cooks, knowing that bacon and eggs were a staple in the States, modeled a pasta sauce after the favorite breakfast foods. With food offerings this enticing, it’s no wonder why all roads lead to Rome!
Charming Trastevere hosts the famous weekly market at its Porta Portese (the area around the city gate there). Locals and tourists come together to haggle for the housewares, antiques and accessories. Then they can snack on some of the local specialities served up as they stroll along the cobblestone streets of Rome’s favorite neighborhood.
Rome inspires art. This unique class uses an ancient approach to
expressing forms and ideas. The
everlasting beauty of mosaics is seen throughout Italy, especially in Roman
villas and bath houses. Explore what it is like to assemble
art, just as some of the greats once did, and bring home a super souvenir! It’s fun for people of all ages!
A dinner cruise on the Tiber River is a dream come true. The two hour ride starts and ends at the bridge, Ponte Sant’Angelo, in front of the glorious Castel Sant’Angelo, which will be warmly lit up in the evening sky. As you dine, listen to live music and enjoy the inspiring views of Rome.
In the Castelli Romani area south of Rome the small town of Nemi hosts the “Sagra delle Fragole” festival.With live music, flower exhibitions, events for children, a fireworks show and the doling out of free strawberries, the day is full and fun for all. For those looking to take home a souvenir, the local shops and cafés feature strawberry specialities like cake, marmalade, ice cream and liqueur.
On this special day of celebration residents of Genzano create incredible tapestries of flowers that extend nearly 200 meters through the center of their town just north of Rome. For two centuries artists have laid out their masterpieces in petals.
The medieval town of Marino, located on the slopes of the Alban Hills southeast of Rome, has hosted a lively wine festival every October since 1925. The streets are festooned with arches of grape clusters, live music fills the air, there is a religious procession and historical re-enactments and food stands serve local favorites to celebrants. The traditional ciambella al mosto sweet bread (made with young, unfermented wine) is sold to help tipplers better absorb their drinks… which they may need when the highlight of the event occurs: the Fountain of the Four Moors miraculously transforms its waters into 5,000 liters of white wine! Everyone is invited to grab a glass and enjoy the best miracle since Jesus did something similar in the Gospel of John.
Simple ingredients come together to create a delicious, iconic dish: gli spaghetti all’amatriciana. The way the long threads of pasta wind through a lavish tomato-based sauce interlaced with bits of bacon and sprinkled with Pecorino cheese…certainly gives reason to celebrate. The citizens of Amatrice do just that, once a year towards the end of August.
A visit to the ruined city of Ostia Antica is particularly recommendable. It was the original harbour city of ancient Rome and had its heyday in the 2nd century. As the city of Rome began to shrink in the 5th century and Ostia, due to the silting up of the Tiber, no longer was located on the sea, but in the middle of swamps, the harbour city lost its significance and was abandoned by its last inhabitants in the 9th century. On the grounds, one can picture perfectly how life in ancient Ostia must have looked. There are beautiful, marvellously well-preserved floor mosaics, statues and sections of buildings, one wanders through a complete city.
20 kilometers southeast of Rome the gentle Alban hills unfurl as a verdant tapestry, adorned with an array of vineyards. The grapes grow perfectly in the mineral-rich volcanic soil. The exquisite wines have been enjoyed in an area that has been a favored location for aristocracy to build its summer residences since the Renaissance. The resort town of Castel Gandolfo is considered one of the most scenic in Italy. It is located on lovely Lake Albano and is protected as a regional park, il Parco Regionale dei Castelli Romani. Its papal palace has been transformed into a museum, so visitors can enjoy its beauty before doing a wine tasting or going on to see some of the other sites of historic and artistic interest that are interlaced in the area.
When you tread on the modern-day streets of Rome listen closely: each footfall will seem hollow. As contemporary Rome was built over the bygone city, the former street level was much lower than it is today and the sound your steps make echo from the ancient voids below. In certain parts of the city you can access the underground world. Our tour starts with a visit of the three-tiered Basilica of Saint Clement. The church complex includes a spectrum of buildings that were constructed and then repurposed as villas, churches and temples. The tour then continues on to the Church of Saint Peter in Chains, for a tour of its foundation and to see the relic of the chains that were used to imprison the saint while in Jerusalem. The tour concludes with a visit of and the Basilica dei Santi Quattro Coronati (The Four Crowned Martyrs). The church was built in the fourth century to honor four anonymous saints and martyrs.
It is said that a Catholic could attend mass in a different church in Rome each day of the year and never need to return to a single church twice. With an incredible combination of churches, cathedrals, basilicas and other holy sites, the wealth of architecture, history and art they hold are impressive even for the non-religious. The layered history of Rome is perhaps best seen in its underground “cities” of catacombs. As visitors descend into the underground burial chambers they will see the ancient tombs as well as some engaging examples of early Christian art.
Rome is a classic. On this tour visitors can admire the Spanish Steps, the widest stairs in Europe. English Romantic poet John Keats lived and died in one of the villas along the steps. The house is now a museum. They then walk to the Trevi Fountain, where images of the lovely Anita Eckberg seem to dance in its waters, as she did in the film “La Dolce Vita.” Today swimming there is strictly prohibited, but visitors can still toss coins in, following the lead in another great film, “Three coins in the Fountain”. The film demonstrates that if you throw a coin backwards over your left shoulder into the fountain, you will soon return to Rome. Everyday nearly €2,000.00 is collected (the money goes to a local charity that supports the homeless) and everyday tourists toss their coins with the hope that they can quickly come back to the “Eternal City.” The tour continues to the Pantheon and finishes at beautiful Baroque Piazza Navona. The piazza has it all: three glorious fountains, Bernini sculptures, a lovely outdoor café scene and the magnificent Sant'Agnese in Agone church.
A journey through antiquity understandably tops a lot of bucket lists. A walk through the ruins of one of the greatest empires of all time is a humbling experience. The ancients built wonders and influenced the world at a time when surviving much beyond the age of 25 was a feat. Architects of the past aimed to lay the foundation for the following generations; they accepted that man played a part in the process of establishing a greatness that he would never see. The contributions of lives in Rome created an area that at that time must have been phantasmagorical – as even its mere remnants are grand. A walking tour of ancient Rome takes you to: the Colosseum, the world’s most famous arena of entertainment; the Arch of Constantine, the largest and only still existing triumphal arch in Rome; Palatine Hill, the location of the imperial palace complex; the Imperial Forum, famous as the area Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus had built; and Trajan’s Column, which reads like a scroll descending from the sky and depicting the victories of the emperor who commissioned it. The walking tour shows the facades of each sight. Entrances can be included, upon request.
When the ancient empire fell a new, Christian one took root in its stead. Power was transferred from the Roman command to the religious realm; the emergent Catholic world was ruled from the Vatican. As seat of the Holy See is located in the extraterritorial city state embedded in Rome, visitors can easily enter the bite-sized country with a global grip on ecclesiastical jurisdiction. A visit to “Christian Rome” includes a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica (entrance is free, but the purchase of headphones are required; an ascent to its Dome is optional) and the Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel (entrance extra).
An enchanting evening spent in Rome, with its beauty illuminated, exalted, somehow even more magical in the warm lights against the dark sky, creates an everlasting memory for all those who experience it. The tour includes many of the main “musts”: from the obelisk in Piazza dell’Esquilino; the elegant, historic hotels and cafés frequented by the Cinecittà celebrities in the 1960s as they lived la dolce vita in Via Veneto; Barberini Square with its Bernini fountains; Quirinal Square which affords views of the presidential residence; St. Peter’s Basilica; Castel Sant’Angelo; and Piazza Venezia with its monument to the first king of a united Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. On the tour it is possible to step even further back in time, towards Capitoline Hill, the Forum, the Colosseum, the Triumphal Arch of Emperor Constantine, Circus Maximus and the Aurelian Wall that protected the city from barbarian attacks. The Eternal city is brimming with impressive sites that are jaw-dropping during the day and breath-taking at night.