Rome’s Historic Center: Campus Martius

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.

Fora Imperatorum: Imperial Urban Sprawl

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!

Dynasty: the Ara Pacis and Two Imperial Mausoleums

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.

Forum Boarium: Ancient Roman Town Planning

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.

The Nymphaeum Under Via Annibaldi: 2000-Year-Old Garden Art

"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...

Vicus Caprarius: Imperial Roman Town Planning at its Best

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!

Medieval Frescoes and Marble Intarsia: San Clemente and Santi Quattro Coronati

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.

Dueling Geniuses: Bernini and Borromini in Rome’s Downtown

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!

Ostia Antica: Another Urbs Mirabilis

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.

La Villa Farnesina: A Millionaire’s Mini-Mansion

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!

Trastevere in the Middle Ages

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.

The Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas

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.

Caravaggio’s Rome: Six Oil Paintings in Situ

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 Quirinal Hill: from Imperial Rome to Saint Theresa in Ecstasy

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.

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

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...

Hadrian’s Villa

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.