Thinking about an unconventional visit? Explore San Clemente with me! This underground site touches on all sorts of themes, from ancient religions, to Medieval art, and the history of excavations.
You’ve figured it out reading my webpage: I’d love to take you anywhere in or near Rome! Although I’ve tried to create a complete list of my visits, the list is actually endless… Especially because I’m happy to customize and tailor tours to meet your needs.
The Medieval City: “All That Glitters,” Christian Mosaics in Rome from the Late Empire to the XIII century
What can mosaics tell us about early Christian communities, the concerns of the faithful in the Middle Ages, 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 mosaics), will answer those questions (and more).
If the Tiber River possesses very little charm today, thank poorly thought-out, modern urban planning! When the embankments were built beside the River as flood control in the late 1800s / early 1900s, they segregated it from the town it had always nurtured (and occasionally flooded). We'll discover how the Tiber was once the city's economic backbone, an easy means of transportation, a source of rest and relaxation, and employment for the ferrymen who transported people from one bank to the the other.
In Imperial Rome, you could do a lot with an amphora, like using it repeatedly to store and transport dry goods. If it broke, you could use it as lightweight filler in concrete. You could grind it down and reform it -- tedious, but true! And if it were slathered with olive oil that would slowly deteriorate and stink? Well, you could turn it into a mountain by breaking it into pieces and gluing them together with lime!
A half-dozen sleepy historic centers hide 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.
You are planning a trip to Rome in June and dread the heat... You are staying for a week or two and want to scratch more than the surface... 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!
Ancient aristocrats bought property in the countryside around Rome where they built luxury residences and opulent summer homes. They often had vast grounds terraced and manicured, while water features, fountains, and birdbaths turned their homes into 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.
Although the Emperor Hadrian’s extensive countryside estate was referred to as a “Villa,” it is better defined as 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, reception areas, offices, terraced gardens, baths for note-worthies and staff, and miles of underground corridors where servants scuttled, unseen by Hadrian and his court.
The art-collector Cardinal Scipio Borghese considered himself the luckiest man alive: 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"), not always ethically... Meanwhile, on what was once the property of the neighboring Barberini family, a nondescript Capuchin church boasts a Baroque crypt with an unusual memento mori...
This Baroque romp takes us from Piazza Quirinale to Santa Maria della Vittoria and back again. The visit starts with two sculptures that were used to decorate an ancient Roman public bath and it ends with the boldest architectural and artistic statements of the Roman Baroque: Bernini's Santa Teresa in Ecstasy, Borromini's spartan San Carlo whose curved lines seem to breath, and Bernini's Sant'Andrea, abounding in sunlight and marble.
Over the high altars in the semi-darkness of three churches are six oil paintings by the delinquent genius, Caravaggio. Stunningly avant-garde, his paintings are a springboard for all sorts of discussion: Roman society in the 1600s, religious upheavals, Caravaggio's sexual persuasion, and his use of new technology in art...
The Tombs of Via Latina Coming Soon!
Our visit takes us to the Aurelian Walls, where a small park nestles between the Via Appia and the Via Latina. In the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C., this was the boondocks of Rome. And the two roads bristled with tombs that, respecting ancient burial laws, were outside city limits.
On the Via Latina, near the Sepulcher of the Scipios, is the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas. Columbarium comes from the Latin columba, which means “dove.” A columbarium was literally a dovecot, where birds were raised for their eggs and as food. When cremation burials became common, ash-urns were deposited in small niches that were carved into tombs walls. The niches produced a dovecot effect, which gave this type of tomb its name.
Ready to explore a more unusual corner of Rome? Then let's head to Trastevere! We'll focus on the works of two late Medieval artists, the revolutionary 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 will also concentrate on general trends in Medieval architecture, mosaics, and frescoes.
First, meet Agostino Chigi, the Renaissance tycoon, and then revel in his unique summer home in Trastevere. He had it built in the early 1500s by Baldassare Peruzzi, an architect who loved ancient Rome's glorious architecture and applied its grandeur to his own works. Chigi's Villa was then frescoed by some of the most talented artists that money could buy (namely Raphael, his students, Peruzzi, and Sodoma). It's a gorgeous glimpse into the rip-roaring early Renaissance!
Ostia is "Rome's Pompeii" and it reveals a lot about daily life in the classical world: 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 sea, you'll understand why patricians were enchanted by Ostia and why ancient sailors called it home.
Rivalry fueled Bernini and Borromini's genius. Nearly the same age, they had wildly different temperaments: Borromini dressed in an ostentatious (and out-of-fashion) "Spanish style," cultivated his studies ptivately, and unintentionally alienated his patrons. He put an end to his tormented career by committing suicide. Bernini, who lived to a venerable old age, surrounded by family and friends, was a personable mad-hatter with public relations skills in overdrive!
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 Community has left signs of its continuing existence in the ancient, medieval, renaissance, and modern city!
During the Middle Ages did artists truly lack inspiration and did the Arts stagnate? What messages did patrons want to express in the churches and chapels they commissioned? What did the gestures in medieval frescoes mean to contemporaries? How did they continue to manifest themselves in Renaissance art (and even in modern culture!)? We will answer these questions as we concentrate on the upper and lower levels of the church San Clemente and the frescoes in the chapel of San Silvestro at the church of Santi Quattro Coronati.
Around the corner from the Trevi Fountain, is the Cinema Trevi. Faced with excessive humidity, the movie theater's owners probed deeper and deeper to discover the root of the problem. Their explorations led to the birth of an archeological area approximately 27 feet under the modern street level. Referred to as Vicus Caprarius or “Goat Alley” in Latin, the site contains two Imperial Roman apartment buildings and lots. I mean lots, of natural running water!
"How can a city be built in layers?" you ask. It is common in Rome! Imagine hundreds, if not thousands, of ancient Roman buildings in brick and concrete collapsing... then add the filth and mud of floods... and voila', ground level rises! Incredible examples of this phenomenon can be seen at San Clemente, the Vicus Caprarius, and here at the Nymphaeum (or water feature) under Via Annibaldi...
The Celian Hill is not on most tourists' itinerary... Spangled with churches and a large park, the Hill still retains some of its sleepy, Medieval flavor. During ancient Roman days, however, this was a bustling neighborhood, full of middle-class and proletariat housing together with stores so full of merchandise that their owners piled goods for sale on the sidewalk...
As the Roman Forum grew from a market place to the central nervous system of an Empire, the Palatine Hill first housed the humble huts of shepherds and then, after centuries of development, the mansions of different Imperial families.
Imperial Rome was a bustling metropolis, by far the largest in Europe in antiquity. It was served by dozens of Forum, or market areas. 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.
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...
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.
To relieve overcrowding in ancient Rome's downtown, several Roman emperors built new and larger fora (the plural of "forum") to create government offices, magnificent public spaces, and stores. On this visit, you'll explore the remains of the five fora that came after the original Roman Forum, each one more monumental than the last!
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.
Rome's historic center is an outdoor layer-cake, offering surprises at every turn. And they are from wildly different centuries... So while we meander through Rome's downtown, we'll discover ancient temples, Renaissance squares, Baroque fountains, and Enlightenment masterpieces like the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.
The Vatican can be overwhelming: Papal Palaces turned Museums, art overload at the Sistine, and Saint Peter's (which was the largest Catholic Church in the world until two decades ago)... For an institution that insisted on vows of poverty, it certainly sponsored orgies of glitter and color!
Feel like exploring a magnificent arena where ancient Romans vented their dark side? Let's go to the Colosseum! An architectural marvel and the epicenter of ancient Roman entertainment, this is where winning was glorious and the consequences of losing were... permanent!