Mirabilia Urbis: Rome Walking Tours

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The Colosseum: Ludi et Mors
Feel like exploring Roman culture's dark side? Let's go to the Colosseum! Not only is this arena an architectural marvel, it was the seat of ancient Roman entertainment, where winning was glorious and the consequences of losing were... permanent.


The Roman Forum: Forum Romanum
While time traveling through two thousand years of cultural, political, economic, and architectural evolution in ancient Rome's city center, you'll meet Romulus and Remus, triumph with Ceasar, worship with the Vestal Virgins and see politicians and bureaucrats at work.


The Imperial Forum: Fora Imperatorum
To relieve overcrowding in ancient Rome's downtown, several Roman emperors built new and larger fora (the plural of "forum") to house government offices. 

On this tour, you'll explore the remains of the five fora that came after the original Roman Forum, each one more monumental than the last!


Dynasty: the Ara Pacis and Two Imperial Mausoleum

Everyone knows that Augustus was the first Emperor of Rome.  Very few people consider how he was thrust into Rome’s political arena in his late teens and how he struggled to survive a series of civil wars.  In his struggles, he would revolutionize Rome’s government.  This visit looks at two monuments which Augustus built to introduce Romans to the idea of Imperial succession (the Altar of Peace and his Mausoleum).  After which, we focus on the Emperor Hadrian, who built his Mausoleum to continue the idea of political stability, Imperial dynasty and magnificence. 


Ancient Roman Cuisine: Culina Romana
Tired of walking? Ready to eat? After exploring the famous market in Campo de' Fiori, we sit down to an authentic ancient Roman lunch. You'll be surprised, and pleased, with what's on the menu...


Forum Boarium: Ancient Roman Town Planning
The ancient metropolis of Rome, which was the largest city in Europe in antiquity, was served by dozens of Forum, or market places.  The Forum Boarium, which humorously translates as “the Meat Market,” functioned, according to some historians, even earlier than the Roman Forum and its monuments are, in many cases, far older than those in the Roman Forum.


Palatine Hill: Collis Palatinus
Before Rome was a bustling Imperial city, the Palatine Hill was home to semi-nomadic shepherds.  Only hundreds of years later did it become chic real estate. At that point, wealthy Romans competed to live there. Later, the Roman Emperors decided to keep it all for themselves and built sumptuous abodes there. Visiting them today gives you an intimate peek into the urban development of this important hill, and into the lifestyle of Rome's crème de la crème.


Underground Rome: the Domus Aurea, San Clemente, The Roman Homes on the Celian Hill, The Nymphaeum under Via Annibaldi, and Vicus Caprarius

"How can a city be built in layers?" you ask. It is really quite a common phenomenon! As buildings collapse, dirt collects, and floods bring in filth and mud, ground level slowly grows. Incredible examples of this tendency can be seen in two archeological sites which are right next to each other: the Emperor Nero's Domus Aurea, the church San Clemente, the Nymphaeum (or water feature) under Via Annibaldi, and Vicus Caprarius under the Cinema Trevi near the Trevi Fountain.


Underground Rome 2: Columbarium, Sepulcher, and Tombs.  Death and Burial Ancient Roman Style!

The oldest ancient Romans laws date to circa 500 B.C.  One of them regarded burials: thanks to a rudimentary understanding of hygiene, the fire hazards that  cremation posed, and perhaps a touch of superstition, funerary rites had to take place outside city limits. Therefore, we will leave the city center behind to explore three attractions (the Comlumbarium of Pomponius Hylas, the Sepulcher of the Scipios, and the Tombs on the Via Latina) that are relatively near one another. 


Underground Rome 3: The Saga Continues!

With a special permission, a Mithreaum (not far from the Circus Maximus) and the excavations under the church San Paolo in Regola (in the historic center) can be visited...



Medieval Frescoes and Marble Intarsia: San Clemente and the San Silvestro Chapel at Santi Quattro Coronati.
During the Middle Ages, did artists truly lack inspiration and did the Arts stagnate?  What issues concerned both artists and patrons?  What did the cartoonish gestures in medieval frescoes really mean to onlookers?  How did these gestures continue to manifest themselves in Renaissance art?  We will answer these questions as we concentrate on two neighboring churches.


Trastevere and Environs
Ready to explore a more unusual corner of Rome?  Then let's head to Trastevere to explore the works of two late Medieval artists, Pietro Cavallini and Arnolfo di Cambio, in the churches of San Giorgio, Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Santa Cecilia, and Santa Maria in Trastevere.  As we admire their masterpieces, we also concentrate on general concerns and trends in Medieval architecture, mosaics, and frescoes.


"All That Glitters:"  Christian Mosaics from the IV to the XIII century.
What can mosaics tell us about early Christian communities, the concerns of Medieval believers, and the politics of the Church of Rome?  Santa Pudentiana (whose mosaics date to the end of the fourth century or the very beginning of the fifth), the imposing Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (with mosaics from the fifth and thirteenth centuries), and the nearby church of Santa Prassede (which sports ninth-century mosaic work), will eloquently answer those questions.



Rome's Jewish Comunity: il Ghetto

Jews settled in Rome almost two millenia before Pope Paul IV instated a Ghetto in 1555.  Today very little of Paul IV's Ghetto is left. What a delight to discover,however, that Rome's Jewish Comunity has left signs of its continuing existence in the ancient, medieval, renaissance, and modern city!


Rome's Historic Center: Campus Martius

This tour of Rome's historical center offers some marvelous surprises, especially for first-time visitors.  While meandering through Rome's modern downtown, we'll discover ancient temples, Renaissance squares, Baroque  fountains, and Enlightment masterpieces like the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. 


 The Tiber River: Flumen Tiberis

While visitors today wonder if the sleepy Tiber River ever possessed any charm, it led quite a busy existence before a pair of steep white walls were built beside it for flood control in the late 1800s/early 1900s. For centuries, it was the city's economic backbone, an easy means of transportation, and a source of income for the ferrymen whose skiffs transported people back and forth from one bank to the the other.  On our scenic stroll along the Tiber River from Tiber Island to Castel St. Angelo, we'll learn how to build ancient Roman bridges, we'll peek into the old dock-workers neighborhood called Trastevere, and stroll down the aristocratic Via Giulia.




The Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica
The Vatican Museums were once Papal Palaces, which were built a little at time over the course of centuries. The Palaces are now used as museum space: breathtaking ancient sculptures are on display side by side with stunning paintings and frescoes.  Saint Peter's Basilica, which is right next to the Museums, is another historic and artistic treasure -- from Michelangelo's Pietà to Bernini's baldachino over the high altar.


The Villa Farnesina: Chigi's "Villa Suburbana"

First, meet Agostino Chigi, the Renaissance banking tycoon, and then revel in his unique summer home in Trastevere.  His pleasure villa was built in the early 1500s by Baldassare Peruzzi, an architect who loved ancient Rome's glorious past and copied its designs in his buildings.  Chigi's Villa was then decorated by some of the most talented artists that money could buy (namely Raphael, his students, Peruzzi, and Sodoma).



Bernini and Borromini: Dueling Geniuses   
Artistic rivalry may have fueled Bernini and Borromini's genius.  Nearly the same age, they had wildly different temperaments: Borromini dressed in the ostentatious (and out-of-fashion) "Spanish style," cultivated his studies in secret, and unintentionally aliened his patrons and clients.   He put an end to his tormented career by committing suicide.  Bernini, who lived to a venerable old age, was a personable mad-hatter who knew how to curry to his benefactors' demands... 


"The Jesuit style:" a local movement with world-wide consequences

When Inigo Lopez de Loyola--later known as Ignatius--was born, Columbus had recently widened Europeans' horizons.  Soon after, in a world marked by rapid transitions, the Protestant reform was underway.  These two events pushed the Church of Rome towards militant reforms within its ranks and missionary movements abroad.  Ignatius and his Compagnia di Gesu' (later known as the Jesuit order) were at the front-line in both cases. 


Caravaggio's Rome: Six Oil Paintings in Situ

Over the high altars in the semi-darkness of three Roman churches are six oil paintings by the delinquent genius, Caravaggio.  While they testify to his exploits and his artistic development, they also create the perfect background for discussion regarding the composition of Roman society in the 1600s, Caravaggio's sexual persuasion, and his use of new technology in art.


The Quirinal Hill: from ancient Rome to Saint Theresa in Ecstasy

This romp runs from Piazza Quirinale to Santa Maria della Vittoria and back again.  The adventure starts with two sculptures that were used to decorate an ancient Roman public bath and it finishes with some of the most bold architectural and artistic statements that Roman Baroque dared to make: Bernini's Santa Teresa in Ecstasy or Borromini's mind-boggling church nick-named "San Carlino."


The Borghese Gallery and the Capuchin Crypt: the Borghese and Barberini Families

For the art collector Scipio Borghese, it was an dream come true: thanks to his uncle-Pope, he possessed unlimited funds in an era in which talent abounded.  He collected his contemporaries' masterpieces (six Caravaggio paintings and four remarkable Bernini sculptures) as well as stunning works from the past (such as Raphael's "Entombment").  Meanwhile, not far away, on what was once the property of the neighboring Barberini family, the lonely church of the Cappucchin Order hides a noteworthy surprise: a Baroque crypt which boasts an unusual memento mori ...




Ostia Antica: Another Urbs Mirabilis

Ostia is Rome's Pompeii.  The excavations of this vast ancient city reveal the inner workings of ancient daily life: we'll stroll from a hotel, to the town's center, from apartment buildings, to ritzy villas, from taverns and greasy spoons to artisans' workshops and public baths.  When you smell the salt air blowing in from the nearby coast, you'll understand why the wealthy were enchanted by Ostia and why ancient sailors called it home.


Hadrian's Villa

Although referred to as a “villa,” the Emperor Hadrian’s extensive countryside estate was truly an “administrative city.”  Occupying well over a million square meters, the villa was divided into banqueting halls for foreign ambassadors and palace officials, summer and winter residences, bureaucratic centers and offices, terraced gardens, baths for note-worthies and staff, and miles of underground corridors where servants scuttled, unseen by Hadrian and his court. 


Villa d'Este

Ancient aristocrats invested in property in the Roman countryside where they built luxury residences and summer homes. They often had vast grounds terraced and manicured, while water features, fountains, and birdbaths made their homes earthly paradises. The Renaissance revived this practice and Villa d’Este outstrips many of the other great Italian villas of the 1500s for the splash and play of its abundant fountains and the cool green beauty of its gardens.


Viterbo's Renaissance Gardens: Villa Lante at Bagnaia and Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola

You are planning a trip to Rome in June and dread the heat... You are staying for a week or two and want to see it all... Or it is your sixth trip to the Eternal City and you're ready for something different... Treat yourself to the Renaissance gardens near Viterbo: Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola and Villa Lante at Bagnaia!



 The Castelli Romani: Rome's Hill Towns

A half-dozen sleepy historic centers offer myriad treasures. Depending on your tastes and preferences, we can customize a full-day that  concentrates on the Castelli's archeological areas, its wineries (and wine-tasting!), its natural splendors, its early Christian sites, and / or its local cuisine and culinary traditions.




There are also myriad attractions, museums, and churches that are not described here in any detail.  Despite that, we do offer visits to:

the Capitoline Museums,

Massimo alle Terme and Montemartini (a.k.a. the ACEA) – both of which belong to the National Museums of Rome. 

San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter’s in Chains) where Michelangelo’s Moses is located.

Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels), where Michelangelo turned a section of ancient Roman Baths into a church.


If you are interested in these or other attractions, please get in touch!