1) The Vatican City - the smallest country in the world and the richest in beauty and history Skip the line and discover with us the highlights of the ancient sculptures’collection (started with the pope Julius II in 1505) and the great artcrafts of the Vatican Museums. Among these are the Gallery of Tapestries, Gallery of Maps, and the most famous chapel in the world, the Sistine Chapel. The tour covers also St. Peter’s Basilica, which is known to be the longest in the world and houses the religious art of Michelangelo’s Pieta, tombs of Popes including the Blessed John Paul II, the huge Bernini’s Canopy, the holy bronze statue of Peter, and many more treasures.

Half day tour

 

2) Ancient Rome - a city that thrived from its foundation to the glory of the emperors- (skipping the line)

The tour covers the Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.

Many have wondered why Rome was founded here, or why the small village of huts by Romulus became the Caput Mundi (Head of the World) While on the walking tour, the truth will be uncovered through archaeological data, legends, historical factors, and events that made Rome the Eternal City.

Palatine Hill was the main residential area in Rome, which included Romulus’ hut and the palaces of the emperors. Walking down the Roman Forum Valley, the real city of Rome, one can't help but be awestruck by the main square of the ancient world with its basilicas, Senate House, Temple of Divus Iulius (dedicated to Julius Caesar,) Temple of Saturne, and the Temple of Vesta, where the Eternal Flame burned. On the Triumphal Road of the Ancient Emperors are the huge Roman arches and then the entrance to the Colosseum, the major propaganda instrument of the ancient rulers of the world.

Half day tour.

3) The squares and fountains of Renaissance and Baroque Rome

In Rome, the “Squares” are not square. They are the Piazze. In the Mediterranean and European context, the Piazza was a gathering place for commercial activities, political speeches, self-celebration of aristocratic patrons of art in Rome. They have been enriched over centuries with beautiful palaces and fountains. They were once headquarters of noble people competing for the papacy or markets for merchants and newcomers. Walking from the Piazza Farnese (the Embassy of France is housed inside Michelangelo’s Palace) to Campo de’ Fiori, one can't help but be enthralled by the most famous market of Rome since the Middle Ages. This is where Caravaggio spent his Roman years and Giordano Bruno is still watching passers-by with his severe expression. The next stop is Piazza Navona, the ancient Stadium of Domitian, which is famous for Bernini’s fountains and the Borromini’s architecture. Then comes the best preserved ancient Roman building in the world--the Pantheon. Its extraordinary cement dome dates back to 128 A.D. A tour is never complete without going to the Trevi fountain to toss a coin---just to guarantee a return trip to Rome! The tour ends at the most famous staircase in the world, the Spanish Steps.

Half day tour.

4) Jewish ghetto and Trastevere - the medieval neighbours of Rome

Largo Argentina (our starting point) is where Caesar was murdered, and Piazza Mattei, in the Jewish quarter, is famous for the turtles’ fountain.

In 1555, the Pope Sixtus V caused 4000 Jewish people to live in this area of the city. It was a tiny, crowded and unhealthy scrap of land between the Tiber River and the fish market. There are still narrow lanes with evidence of past and contemporary Jewish culture, even though the ghetto was almost demolished at the end of the 1800's. The Jewish culture still has its heart in this part of Rome. Crossing the Tiber Island to Trastevere, (an ancient Latin word meaning across the Tiber,) it is so fascinating to see the churches. The little S.Benedetto has the shortest bell tower in Rome. The Basilicas of S.Cecilia and S.Maria in Trastevere have wonderful mosaics.

Half day tour.

5) Christian Rome

To understand the first steps of Christianization of Rome, one must visualize the change of the city during the passage from Roman time to Medieval.

St. John in Lateran is the oldest church ever built in the world! It represents life as it was for the early Christians all the way to the beautiful decorations of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque. The walking tour covers the area of the first residence of the Popes, the oldest baptistery of Rome and the “Scala Santa”. According to tradition, Jesus climbed this staircase to meet Pontius Pilatus. On top is the most holy chapel of relics, the “Sancta Sanctorum." Thousands of Catholics make their pilgrimage each year to visit this holy chapel.

The Basilica of S.Clemente, a beautiful medieval church in Rome, is especially noted for its gold mosaics and cosmatesque floor. This is an ideal place to understand why ancient Rome is now at least twenty feet below modern Rome. To visit the past, it requires a walk underground so that the Roman levels excavated below the medieval church can be explored. Especially interesting is the Domus of Mithraeum, the Mint of Rome, and the first early Christian Church.

The Church of the SS.Quattro Coronati is just beside S.Clemente. It is one of the smallest less-known treasures and the only “church-fortress” of Rome. Also, S.Silvester Chapel with Costantine’s stories in the Medieval frescoes is very unique.

Half day tour

 

6) Daily Life in Ancient Ostia--the harbour city of ancient Rome

If "All roads lead to Rome," then it could be said that "All boats lead to Ostia." This was the major harbour of the Roman Empire and the crossing point for merchants from the four corners of the Mediterranean Sea. Ancient Ostia is still a perfectly preserved ancient town. In Rome, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the emperors' glory. The real life of the middle classes and a typical Roman colony can be experienced by walking along the Decumanus Maximus. After the tombs, outside the city walls, are the thermal baths, shops, fire station, and theatre. Next is the Piazzale delle Corporazioni with its import-export offices. Also displayed in Ostia are shrines for the Roman and foreign gods, as well as mills, bakeries, and houses for the common people, known as the Insulae. Thermopolium is the famous coffee place by the Forum of the City, and nearby is the imposing Capitolium. A walk in Ostia ia a must-see in order to view first hand the organization of a Roman city from water supply to safety equipment.

Half day tour

7) Daily Life in Ancient Rome

Two buildings are dedicated to the daily life of the Romans---The National Archaeological Museum of Palazzo Massimo and Thermal Baths of Diocletian. Displayed in these museums are incredible collections of ancient sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, inscriptions, objects, coins, etc.

Half day tour.

8) Tivoli and its villas--the Beverly Hills of Rome in Ancient and Renaissance times

Just twenty miles from Rome is the little site of Tivoli with its beautiful hills.

The tour covers first the Villa Adriana, the incredible residence of the Emperor Hadrian, a unique mix of nature and architecture.

A walk through the Peristylium and the libraries is necessary in order to admire the Teatro Marittimo. This minuscule palace within a palace is isolated in the middle of an artificial lake. It was the emperor's private relaxing place. The umbrella-shaped domes of the Piazza d'Oro come into view after crossing the ruins of the Central Palace. It is here that emperors held the banquets for the Imperial Court. The next stop is the Grandi Terme, the major spa of Hadrian. Following is the Canopo, a fantastic reconstruction of the Nile River with its varied Egyptian landscapes.

Next is the Villa d'Este in the centre of Tivoli. Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, il "papa mancato", the son of Lucretia Borgia, built the villa in the 1500's, with a unique hydraulic engineered system including metres of pipes, sprays, fountains, and the oldest artificial waterfall (by Bernini)--a lost paradise! Also, this is home to the first hydraulic organ (after the Ancient Greek ones) that still plays its melodious music while refreshing sprays of the Fountain of Neptune and the calm waters of the Peschiere are beautiful as well as refreshing. The cardinal often used this area to raise fish for his luxurious banquets.

This is a full day tour, and it is better to have a rental car to fully enjoy the area.

 

9) Popes and Emperors

The Ara Pacis and S. Angel Castle are places to learn about imperial celebrations in ancient times and the power of the Popes in the 1500--1600's.

The Ara Pacis, the altar of peace, was built by the first Roman emperor, Augustus. The altar of peace was to celebrate the Golden Century founded after seventy years of civil wars. Alongside the altars are the ruins of the Mausoleum of Augustus. These ruins were designed after Alexander the Great's monumental tomb. On the other side of the river is the Mausoleum of Hadrian, now Castle S.Angelo. Originally, it was a large burial place of one of the most powerful emperors. Later it became the fortress where the Popes lived when the Vatican Palace was threatened. It contained archives, treasury, the papal jails and the passetto (the secret passage between the Castle and the Vatican Palaces) . The Ancient structure has been enriched over centuries with the Renaissance Loggia and the apartments with their beautiful grottesche. A climb to the terrace top, well known for the final scene of the opera Tosca, affords a breath-taking view of Rome. After viewing the beauty of this tour, a longer stay in the Eternal City or maybe a return trip just might be a priority!

Half day tour

10) Christian Rome 2

S.Pietro in Vincoli, S.Maria Maggiore, and S.Prassede are three of the most beautiful churches of Rome. There are treasures preserved in each one.

Inside S.Pietro in Vincoli are the chains used when S.Peter was in the Roman prison. Also, it is the home of the famous Statue of Moses by Michelangelo.

S. Maria Maggiore is the first major basilica in Rome ever built in the Western World to the Virgin Mary. The tallest bell tower in Rome is here along with V and IX century mosaics. The first gold coming from America is in the incredible coffered ceiling. Finally, there is the humble tomb of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a major Baroque genius in Rome.

S. Prassede is a little jewel for Medieval art in Rome. The Apocalypse is represented in the incredible complexity of the IX century mosaics. The Byzantine decorations of S.Zenon Chapel is a must-see, along with the burial place of Pope Pascal I's mother. Also, located here is the preserved relic of the column of the martyrdom of Jesus.

Half day tour

11) Etruscans: Tarquinia and Cerveteri

This tour explains the main features of the secret and rich Etruscan civilization. The two most powerful cities were Kaisra and Tarkna.

Etruscans were the most important pre-Roman population of central Italy. The elevated economic and social status of the aristocratic society can be appreciated by visiting the perfectly preserved necropolis (cemeteries). They have been declared UNESCO, World Heritage. The house-shaped mounds of Cerveteri are excavated in rock. The painted tombs of Tarquinia illustrate the funeral rituals and games. The tour ends in the National Etruscan Museum of Tarquinia, where treasured items are displayed along with the unique Etruscan jewels. These artifacts are exemplary of the daily life and habits of this fascinating civilization.

Full day tour

 

12) Ancient Appian Way-- the first road connecting Rome to Naples in 312 B.C.

This tour allows the opportunity to step on the original rocks of the oldest highway in the Western World. The wealthy Romans chose this area as their burial place. During the Imperial Age, luxurious villas were built here as well as the first Christian cemeteries and Catacombs. The S.Callixtus' Catacombs, excavated in rock, is a labyrinth of corridors. The first common papal tomb is the crypta of the Popes.

The Maxentius' complex is the next stop. The final rival of Costantine built his palace, family tomb and circus, a perfectly preserved gathering place between the emperor and the people.

The final stop will be at the monumental tomb of Cecilia Metella. The life of this wealthy Roman girl is celebrated in this tower-shaped mausoleum. Now, it is one of the most evocative images of the ancient Appian way.

On the return trip to Rome, along the urban part of the road, the ancient Roman Baths of Caracalla, the second largest in Rome, can be seen along with the spa of ancient Romans that included a gym, changing rooms, sauna and swimming pool. This fascinating complex inspired modern architecture. The old Pennsylvania Station in New York City was designed as a perfect replica of these baths.

Half day tour