Due to the nature of this tour, I’m about to use up the world’s supply of superlatives through to about February, so apologies for any impoverishment of language in your future conversations with people; resources are limited, and rules are rules.
Now the reason for this is something I’m not very excited about at all, oh no. There’s no huge grin plastered across my face, my little feet aren’t tapping the floor, and my manly arms are entirely free of goosebumps. I am a model of composure. It’s a tribute to the philosophical life I lead that this is so, even when, as one might have said in the reign of the emperor Aurelian (AD 270-275, as you know):
OK, at this point you can imagine me cheering and, if your audio budget runs to it, an imperial fanfare in Surround Sound.
Because this tour is amazing.
Part of my work here is done, because you know that already. And obviously you’ll already have video of a selection of the greatest sites running in your head, because how could you not? And, yes, of course we take you to the greatest sites in the greatest city: there will be Colosseum in your future, pictures of St Peter’s on your phone to breathlessly tell people about and an absolutely amazing album of memories in your head ever after. But there’s more to it than that.
Because, providing they can get there, anyone can ‘do’ Rome. It’s a visual feast; there’s amazing, rapturing architecture and remains everywhere. You can go and just absorb the beauty, say you’ve seen the Forum, box ticked, back you go. Which is fine, if that’s all you want. But Rome’s a city with layer upon layer of history; some is magnificently visible but has features hidden from the casual eye and extraordinary stories that aren’t well-known, and there’s even more which is wonderful that’s away from the tourist trails, hidden just out of sight, familiar only to the passionate expert. Which is where going to Rome with us comes in. If ‘doing’ Rome isn’t enough, if you want to experience it and know what you’re looking at, why it matters and how it fits into a broader story, then this is for you. If you want a more rewarding journey that makes the city more than a backdrop, that weaves what you see with why it’s there and whose tales it tells, then there’s a good chance you’ll be coming along.
Consider the Roman Forum, one of the greatest archaeological spaces on earth. It’s magnificent, a super-dense concentration of historical events and the buildings that shaped them. Packed with centuries of monuments, built on, into, out of each other. And there’s the problem: it’s wonderful, but confusing. And as we go around, you’ll see individuals gazing in rapt wonder at the unlabelled but interesting-looking remains, and speeding tour groups following the upraised sticks, haring down the Sacra Via, a few photos and off they go. And at the end of it, you’ll compare it to what we’ve done together and think (if previous voyagers with us here are a guide), “they missed so much.”
You’ll not be hurried along in a huge gaggle, anxiously avoiding losing sight of some upraised script-reading leader’s umbrella, nor will you have alone and unaided by descriptive signs tried to guess what the interesting looking thing is. We’ll have taken it all in, explaining as we go, having conversations (because we know our stuff and aren’t tied to a rote screed): ‘…and Cicero, whose house was likely just about there…’, ‘…you’re exactly right, to ask because this unassuming looking this is actually where Caesar lived when…and his body was burned here…’, ‘the litter spilled to the ground here and the emperor Galba with it. The shocked crowd saw the bloody blade and what the hand carried and scattered…’
The Forum, and the rest of Rome, are filled with magnificent stories, and also the superb work of historians and archaeologists. We bring them together unforgettably because we know both matter, we’re passionate about the research we’ve been doing on them for decades and we love this city. We won’t leave you wondering who Maxentius was at his majestic, soaring basilica, for example, we’ll tell you why he’s a superbly interesting figure who deserves to be better known, we’ll knit his story with other monuments connected to him, and we’ll fill the empty shell of that building with what was once there and paint a picture of how it once looked.
Don’t ‘do’ Rome, ‘get’ Rome.
And, because this is a holiday, don’t forget that superb food and wine that go with it – as usual, carefully picked out by us based on experience, the best places to dine, known and unknown. I’ll end with what will be your first goosebumps: where we stay. Our hotel is one that you’ll definitely be telling people about: a simply gorgeous baroque building by the master Borromini, wonderfully unusual in its red Roman brick front, and worth a visit alone. From there you can wonder through the city’s most atmospheric district, Trastevere, a lovely place to walk in the evening, and in just a few minutes you’ll be at the Tiber itself, looking out in wonder as you pinch yourself that you’re standing here, at the end of another day of marvels… IN ROME.
Join us on our Exploring Rome tour!