Roma: The City of Cities
Rome - Provinces of Viterbo, Rieti, Frosinone and Latina - Ostia - Tivoli
We could write volumes on the history, art, atmosphere, cultural life, exhibitions and festivals, and irresistible fascination of Rome, with its grandiose and solemn architectural wonders. The cradle and epitome of our civilization. You need at least, a week to become acquainted with the city. We would like to propose a tour for each day of the week, on foot, by taxi or public transport. We will leave the car behind, because of the problem of parking and driving in the Rome traffic.

Rome - Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio

First Day
We begin in Piazza Venezia, in the centre of Rome, with the 15th c. Palazzo Venezia (museum) and the monument to Victor Emanuel. After visiting the Basilica of S. Marco, we walk up the long flight of steps to the Church of S. Maria d'Aracoeli. Inside are works by Donatello, Gozzoli and Pinturicchio. Adjacent to it is Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio with Palazzo Senatorio, the Museo Capitolino (classical sculptures) and Palazzo dei Conservatori (sculptures, Pinacoteca Capitolina gallery with paintings by Titian, Rubens, Velasquez, Caravaggio, etc.). The majestic Via dei Fori Imperiali links Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, built between 72 and 80 AD for animal and gladiatorial contests, and public entertainments. We will see the Basilica of Masentius, the Arch of Constantine, and Trajan's Column to celeb­rate Trajan's victory over the Dacians. Our archaeological tour will end with a visit to the Roman Forum which for centuries was the centre of Rome's public life (the Curia, Basilica Emilia, Arch of Septimus Severus and the Arch of Titus, the temples of Saturno, the Dioscuri, Antonino and Faustina, the House of the Vestal Virgins, the palaeo-Christian basilica of S. Maria Antiqua) and the Palatine Hill (Orti Farnesiani gardens, the House of Livia, Palazzo dei Flavi, Domus Agustana, Domitian's Stadium, and Severus' baths). From the top of the Palatine, amid the ruins of the Imperial palaces, we have a magnificent view of the Circus Maximus Roman race-track, the Baths of Caracalla, and the Aurelian city walls.

Rome - Piazza del Popolo

Rome - Bernini's Triton Fountain

Second Day            
Once again we start from Piazza Venezia, and walk along Via del Corso, lined with 16th to 18th c. palaces and churches. The “Corso” was used as a race course (hence its name) between the 5th to the 19th centuries. Visit Galleria Doria Pamphili in the Renaissance Palazzo Pamphili (Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Raphael, Titian, Velazquez, Bernini, Carracci, etc.), the Church of S. Ignazio (1626-50) in its pretty 18th c. square and Piazza Colonna, with the column of Mark Aurelius. Here are some of Rome's most famous boutiques (in Via dei Condotti, Via Frattina, Via Borgognona, etc.) which take us to the foot o the Baroque Spanish
. In Via Condotti, we can have a drink at the old Caffè Greco, the haunt of artists and writers since the 18th century. In Piazza di Spagna are two of Borromini's masterpieces: the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide (on which Bernini also worked) and the Church of S. Andrea delle Fratte, with its strange bell-tower. At the bottom of the Spanish steps is the Shelley and Keats Memorial house. We can either goalong Via del Babuino, with its antique shops, or the picturesque artists' street of Via Margutta to reach Piazza del Popolo, with the Egyptian obelisk dating from the 13th century BC, and the “twin” Baroque Churches of S. Maria dei Miracoli and S. Maria in Montesanto. S. Maria del Popolo has works by Bernini, Pinturicchio, Bramante, Caravaggio and Raphael. Walking up Viale G. D'Annunzio and Viale Trinità dei Monti, we pass the gates of Villa Medici, the French Academy, and the Baroque Church of Trinità dei Monti from where we can survey the city from above. The aristocratic 16th c. Via Sistina takes us to Piazza Barberini, adorned by Bernini's Triton Fountain (1637), the huge Palazzo Barberini with the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica (Fra Angelico, Lotto, Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, Holbein, Caravaggio).

Rome - Palazzo della Cancelleria courtyard

Rome - Piazza Navona

Rome - Pantheon

Third Day
Again we start in Piazza Venezia, to discover the heart of Renaissance and Baroque Rome. We shall visit the Jesuit Church of the 'Gesù, begun in 1568 by Vignola and completed in 1575 by Giacomo della Porta. A few minutes away, along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, is Largo di Torre Argentina, with die excavations of 4 temples from the Republican Age. A little further on is the magnificent Church of S. Andrea della Valle (1591-1665), whose dome is second in size only to S. Peter's. Then comes Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, Peruzzi's masterpiece (1532-36, with its strange curved facade, and Palazzo della Piccola Farnesina (1523) in which there is the Museo Barracco; opposite is the 18th c. Palazzo Braschi (Museo di Roma), and Palazzo della Cancelleria, a masterpiece of early Roman Renaissance architecture, with its superb courtyard by Bramante. Which brings us to the picturesque animated marketplace of Campo de' Fiori. Behind it is the harmonious Piazza Farnese and arguably the most beautiful Renaissance palace in Italy, Palazzo Farnese, on which Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta and the Carracci brothers worked. Nearby is Palazzo Spada (1540) where we can visit Galleria Spada and Borromini's architectural illusion, “the Gallery”, which is only a few meters in length, but appears to be a long grandiose gallery. Now we come to Via Giulia, named after Pope Julius II who had it built in the early 16th c., lined with noble places, churches (visit the tiny S. Eligio degli Orefici, designed by Raphael, and the Renaissance Church of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini) and some fine antique shops. We are now back on Corso Vittorio Emanuele standing before Borromini's Oratory of S. Filippo Neri (1637-50) and the adjacent “Chiesa Nuova” (1575-1605). Behind the Church we stroll along the narrow streets, including the beautiful Via dei Coronari, to the Church of S. Maria della Pace (cloister by Bramante, frescoes by Raphael and Peruzzi) and finally the most theatrical square of Baroque Rome, Piazza Navona, where the aristocracy rubbed shoulders with the populace at the games and celebrations that used to be held here, on the site of the Roman Domitian's Stadium. In the centre is Bernini's huge Fountain of the Rivers and on the west side, Borromini's masterpiece, the Church of S. Agnese in Agone. Near Piazza Navona are several other interesting churches: S. Maria dell'Anima (16th c.) which belongs to the German Catholics; S. Agostino (15th c.) with Raphael's “Prophet Isaiah” and Caravaggio's wonderful “Madonna dei Pellegrini”; the French national Church of S. Luigi dei Francesi (16th c.) with three more superb works by Caravaggio (the stories of S. Matthew). Crossing Piazza S. Eustachio, past fine Renaissance and Baroque buildings overshadowed by Borromini's highly original dome on the ancient “Sapienza” University building, we come face to face with the world's most perfectly preserved Roman monument - the Pantheon - built by Agrippa in 27 BC, rebuilt under Hadrian, and finally consecrated for Christian worship in the year 609. Nearby is the only Gothic church in Rome, S. Maria sopra Minerva; in front of the church is the Egyptian obelisk on the back of a marble elephant designed by Bernini (1667).


Rome - Castel S. Angelo

Rome - S. Peter's Square
Fourth Day
We begin our tour at Castel S. Angelo, originally built by the Emperor Hadrian (135-139) as his mausoleum. Across the centuries, it has been transformed into a mediaeval fortress, a papal residence and a prison. Today, it is a National Museum. From the top, under the bronze statue of S. Michael the Archangel, we can enjoy a superb view of the city. S. Peter's Square, girt by the arms of Bernini's colonnade, with its 25 meters high Egyptian obelisk, and two fine 17th c. fountains now awaits us. What can words express when talking about S. Peter's! Let us just say that it is the largest and the most important Basilica in Christendom, the heart of Catholicism, standing on the site of S. Peter's tomb and first built by Constantine shortly after the year 320. Rossellino, G. de Sangallo, Raphael, Peruzzi, A. de Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo, Vignola, della Porta, Domenico Fontana, Maderno, Bernini, Filarete all worked on the building. Inside are some of the world's greatest masterpieces, of which the best known is probably Michelangelo's early Pietà; then there is S. Peter Enthroned, attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, a wooden Crucifix by Cavallini, monuments to the Popes by Canova, Pollaiolo and Bernini, who also built the superb baldacchino in 1633. The “Tesoro” is a collection of priceless objects, while the Vatican Museums and Art Galleries cover practically the whole history of art throughout the ages. The Sistine Chapel (access through the Vatican Museums) is frescoed by Pinturicchio, Perugino, Botticelli, Signorelli, Ghirlandaio and Michelangelo (who painted the ceiling from 1508 to 1512, and the Last Judgement from 1535 to 1541). The Raphael Rooms are unparalleled in beauty; the Chapel of Nicholas V was frescoed by Fra Angelico, and the Borgia apartments were decorated by Pinturicchio. The “Pinacoteca” contains one major masterpiece after another.

Rome - Michelangelo's statue of Moses
  Fifth Day
We are going to visit Rome's most important churches and basilicas. We will meet at the Colosseum, and then see two magnificent mediaeval churches: the palaeo-Christian S. 4 Coronati, with its splendid 13th c. cloister, and S. Clemente, with its mosaics and frescoes (by Masolino da Panicale), and an interesting crypt. Along Via Labicana we come to S. John Lateran's, Rome's Cathedral, originally built in ancient times, although the present church is Baroque. If we have time we can walk to the nearby basilica of S. Croce in Gerusalemme and San Lorenzo fuori le Mura; if not, we can stroll along Via Merulana to S. Mary Major whose majestic interior has preserved its original palaeo-Christian structure, richly decorated with mosaics, pictures and sculptures, while the 14th c. campanile tower is flanked by a Baroque portico and loggia. We can also visit the Basilica of S. Prassede with the Byzantine Chapel of S. Zenone, decorated with priceless mosaics (11th c), and S. Peter in Chains (S. Pietro in Vincoli) to see Michelangelo's statue of Moses. Otherwise we will head for S. Maria degli Angeli built by Michelangelo in the ancient tepidarium chamber of the Roman baths of Diocletian, and then see the adjacent Roman Museum, with its valuable collection of archaeological finds. We can take a bus or taxi from here to the Via Nomentana to see two other very interesting churches: S. Agnese and S. Costanza (4th century, with magnificent mosaics).

Rome - Bernini's Ecstasy of S. Teresa 
Sixth Day
We will meet on the highest of Rome's Seven Hills - the Quirinal - outside the Quirinal Palace, formerly the Pope's summer residence, then the Royal Palace of the Kings of Italy, (16th c.). It is now the palace of the President of the Republic. Along via XX Settembre we can see the tiny cloister in Borromini's Church of S. Carlino, and Bernini's Ecstasy of S. Teresa in the Church of S. Maria della Vittoria. And so to Via Veneto, the cosmopolitan street of with Rome's elegant coffee houses and restaurants. Through the Aurelian Walls at the Pinciana Gate, we are in the Villa Borghese park, where we will visit the beautiful 17 th c. Galleria Borghese (ancient sculptures, groups of masterpieces by Bernini, Canova's “Paolina Borghese”, paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, Cranach, Rubens, Bassano, Correggio, Titian, Veronese, Bellini, A. da Messina and Carpaccio). At the other side of Villa Borghese park is the National Gallery of Modern Art and the “Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia” in the villa of Pope Julius III, built by Vignola in 1551. The museum has some fine exhibits from southern Etruria and the non-Etruscan Lands in Latium and Umbria.

Rome - Pyramid of Caius Cestius

Rome - San Pietro in Montorio
Seventh Day
Once again we start in Piazza Venezia, and this time we walk towards the Aventino along the Teatro Marcello, around the picturesque Jewish ghetto with its Portico d'Ottavia. In Piazza Bocca della Verità there are two Roman temples, popularly known as 'Manly Fortune' and “Vesta”, with the 4th c. Arch of Janus, the Church of S. Giorgio in Velabro and the mediaeval Church of S. Maria in Cosmedin where the enormous circular carving of a human face with the “mouth of truth” stands in the front porch: popular belief has it that it bites the hands of liars. Up the Aventino hill is the palaeo-Christian Church of S. Sabina and Piranesi's amazing Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta (18th c); through the keyhole in the gate of the Knights of Malta's property you can get an unusual view of the dome of S. Peter's. Down below we can walk under S. Paolo's Gate to the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, and then go to the Basilica of S. Paul's outside the Walls, first built in the year 314, subsequently completed and decorated with mosaics, burned down in 1823 and immediately rebuilt. The impressive interior has a huge central nave and four aisles; the cloisters are by Vassalletto (1214). We can also walk down the Aventine to the heart of the picturesque district over the Tiber - “Trastevere” -, the most genuinely Roman part of Rome where the “ordinary Romans” have always lived. We can visit the splendid Churches of S. Cecilia and S. Maria in Trastevere, the National Gallery in Palazzo Corsini, and the Renaissance Palazzo della Farnesina with frescoes by Raphael. Then we will go up the Janiculum hill to survey the city below from the tree-covered belvedere, and before leaving see another Renaissance jewel: the Bramante's “tempietto” in the courtyard of the Church of S. Pietro in Montorio (1502). We have only mentioned a tiny fraction of the infinity of sights to be seen in Rome: palaces, fountains, curiosities and museums which deserve at least a passing mention. But before we leave Rome, we must find time for a step back into the past, strolling along the Roman Appian Way, or to the “Pincio” above Piazza del Popolo in the early evening, to see dusk settling on the city below. And of course, we have to make the customary “pilgrimage” to the Fountain of Trevi to toss in a coin, to guarantee that we shall be back one day.
  There is only enough space to make a very brief mention of the many excursions and trips outside Rome and in Latium

Caprarola - Palazzo Farnese

Gaeta - Aragonese Castle
Provinces of Viterbo, Rieti, Frosinone and Latina
In the province of Viterbo, there are the Etruscan necropolises (please see Excursion 10 The Mysterious Etruscans); Caprarola, Bagnaia, Bomarzo, Nepi with their mediaeval fortresses and renaissance villas (especially the 16th c. Palazzo Farnese of Caprarola, attributed to the genius of Vignola), Civita Castellana (12th c. cathedral, renaissance fortress and 2 museums, Roman remains). In the province of Rieti: Fara in Sabina with the nearby Farfa Abbey, one of the leading cultural centers in the Middle Ages, and Mount Terminillo.
In the province of Frosinone: Alatri (acropolis, mediaeval walls, houses and churches including the magnificent S. Maria Maggiore); Anagni (Romanesque-Gothic cathedral with crypt, rich flooring, and Chapel of S. Thomas à Becket, Palace of Boniface VIII, and Palazzo Comunale); Veroli (Cistercian Casamari Abbey); Cassino (Montecassino Abbey, founded in 529 completely destroyed in 1944, and faithfully reconstructed); Ferentino (acropolis, cathedral, walls); Fiuggi (spa resort); Sora (with nearby Arpino and Isola del Liri).
In the province of Latina: Cori (Temple of Hercules, walls); Fondi (castle, Prince's Palace, 14th c. Church of S. Pietro); the seaside resorts of Formia, Gaeta, Minturno (Roman ruins nearby), Sperlonga and Terracina; Sezze (Italy's “Oberammer­gau”, where the Passionis acted out). Norma (with the ruins of Ninfa), Sermoneta (castle, and Valvisciolo Abbey 3 kms further on); Priverno (the Benedictine and Cistercian 11th- 13th c. Fossanova Abbey) and the Circeo National Park. Finally, in the province of Rome, there are Ostia, the ancient Roman port of Rome, where the excavations make up one of the most monumental archaeological zones anywhere in the world: Bracciano on Lake Bracciano (the 15th c. superbly decorated Castle); Palestrina (cathedral, Palazzo Barberini, Museo Archeologico Prenestino).

Tivoli - Hadrian's Villa
(16th c. Villa d'Este, with its fountain-filled gardens; Villa Gregoriana, whose grounds are built around the famous 160m waterfall; a few kilometres further on is the archaeological complex of Hadrian's Villa); Subiaco, famous for its monasteries and finally Velletri, Albano, Nemi, Marino, Genzano, Ariccia, Rocca di Papa. Castelgandolfo, Frascati in the Alban Hills, populated by an incredible number of Renaissance and Baroque villas, churches and abbeys (S. Nilo at Grottaferrata is particularly noteworthy) built over the centuries. And there are even more typical restaurants where the visitor can be assured of fine fare and excellent local wines.
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