It’s impossible to describe a Rome tour without a sense of amazement and pleasure. First of all it comes from the immense historical significance of the place. Here, consuls, emperors and popes decided a continent’s destiny. Here you stand where every street has meaning, where something pivotal happened in every square. Walking for just moments will take you from the scant archaeological traces of the first settlement and places linked to the legendary founders, to sweeping views crammed with the mighty remains of the greatest power of antiquity. At the height of its empire Rome was a super-city controlling the lands from Scotland in the north to the Sahara in the south, and from Portugal in the west to Armenia in the east, the only time this vast territory was ever ruled by a single power. Everywhere you look bears that imprint and leaves you stunned.
Our tour puts you where names seared into our collective memories literally stood and made history: the Scipios, Pompey and Cicero, Caesar and Antony. We walk through the works of Augustus, Claudius, Trajan and Hadrian, of Constantine and Nero, places bound up with the lives of St Paul, Livia, the Borgias, Colonna and Medici, Raphael, Michelangelo … the sheer range of makers of history, art and culture whose traces we follow is staggering. Is there any place with a more breath-taking roll call of associations?
Amazement also comes from the surpassing beauty everywhere one turns, and from buildings that impress by sheer scale and engineering brilliance or from their almost unfathomable artistry. Each corner turned, every new view brings a colossal wealth of outstanding sights, from the familiar to hidden surprises. They make for a city of amazingly rich complexity; one that’s very easy to see and be awed by, but one where it’s easy to miss so much that is fulfilling. Our tour helps you untangle the densely woven layers of the city’s remains – you won’t just see Rome with us, you’ll come away knowing it. It’s the most profound and worthwhile way to see the city.
We take you to the greatest and most famous sites and tease out their full story and meaning, but go beyond the basic script of other tours to tell you the full, rich history of every location. To bring out hidden details in the life of the place, and hidden nooks and objects in even the most famous spots and museums to make for a far more satisfying encounter than you might otherwise settle for. And we take you to places that, while less well-known and free of crowds are every bit as impressive and memorable as what’s to be found on itineraries less passionate about this city’s wonders.
(And we go beyond, too: one of the highlights for many people is our journey down to the unbelievable expanse of Rome’s great port, Ostia, where whole ancient streetscapes are preserved, filled with ancient eateries still with traces of their wall-paint, and of houseblocks where you can follow the traces of Roman families up flights of stairs as far as second floors and gaze out over whole ancient neighbourhoods in stupendous states of preservation.)
One of the great pleasures of leading this tour is hearing the gasp as people arrive at our hotel and get their first glimpse of its spectacular seventeenth century façade. Even our residence is the work of a master – the distinctive genius of Borromini, baroque in style but singular and wonderful in appearance and an absolute pleasure to call home during our stay. We’re in Rome’s most atmospheric district, Trastevere, wrapped in high-walled seclusion if we wish, but with a vivid and rejuvenating culture of restaurants and bars in easily and companionable reach. One of the city’s most famous churches, the city walls and a lovely view from the banks of the Tiber lie at the end of the shortest of walks. There’s no better home-base from which to build memories, there’s no way to do it more rewardingly and comprehensively than by Exploring Rome with us.
Our tours receive an average rating of 5 out of 5 from 730 reviews, according to AITO reviews.
We pass on to the newly-accessible imperial forums, vast works from the peak of the empire’s power where some of the most lavish buildings and artworks of the emperors displayed their might, culture, and their care for the populace. It all makes for an absolutely extraordinary and unforgettable morning.
After lunch, we continue with the marvels by visiting the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum so intertwined with the fate and image of Rome. We trace the well-worn footsteps of the Romans and rise out as they did to see the lofty tiers soaring over the central ellipse, where gladiators – and emperors – sought the crowd’s roaring approval. And with this, the day is still not done. We finish with one of Rome’s finest imperial monuments, which fittingly seals the day by marking a turning point in its history. The Arch of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, covered with reliefs representing his victory, and others taken from earlier monuments of past glories.
A day where you’ve seen more than you might in a week. And yet this is just the beginning of your tour.
The rest of the day is given over to the first Emperor, Augustus. We stand in the presence of perhaps the most delicately beautiful and famous decoration the city offers, the altar known as the Ara Pacis. Sculpted on every surface with reliefs by the finest craftsmen of the Augustan age, it’s set in a fantastic modern museum which sets it off perfectly. We complete the Augustan story by viewing his huge, newly-restored mausoleum. Our intent is to go inside, but if the current temporary closure is still in place, we’ll complete our day with a visit to the magnificent Piazza Navona, with its stupendous fountains with intertwining statuary, masterpieces of the baroque, and something of an ancient secret in its story. Fortunately, in Rome, even the back-ups would be first tier draws elsewhere!
But ascending to what, and on what? Our target is among the world’s greatest and oldest collections, the Capitoline Museums. Here since the fifteenth century, it stands on the potent history of the Capitoline Hill, where some of the city’s finest monuments, some incorporated into the structure, stood, and where some of Rome’s earliest foundational stories took place. And we get there via stairs that are themselves the work of Michelangelo, like much of the museum complex. Once again, Rome impresses with how ever-present the marvellous is. Inside, we have a cornucopia of famed works to see. It’s hard to pick out even a few, but shall we just mention the Dying Gaul, the equestrian Marcus Aurelius, the colossal head of Constantine and Commodus’ bust, wreathed in Hercules’ lionskin? And then there’s perhaps the finest view of the Forum….
After a lunch no doubt filled with talk about what we’ve seen, we turn to an equally splendid afternoon. A short walk takes us to the Sacred Area of the Largo Argentina – another of Rome’s newly-opened archaeological spots. We see some of the city’s most venerable temples and hear some of the site’s secrets before moving on.
And we move on to, there’s no other way to put it, the most wonderful building in existence: Hadrian’s Pantheon. Words are almost pointless here: you’ll know what we mean when you’re standing there on its glossy marble floor, unable to prevent yourself looking up to the height of its extraordinary dome and the oculus open to the sky, mouth open and your entire body about to rotate in obedience with the building’s unspoken command, as you think: “I’m never going to forget this.”
Since we have to leave the Pantheon at some point, the rest of our day takes us through the city’s famed and elegant Campus Martius district, centrepiece for imperial monuments and refined Renaissance palaces. Our short walking tour takes in the colossal Hadrianeum and brings us to the Column of Marcus, a companion and contrast to that of Trajan, marking harder times for Rome, and concealing from all but the most-aware visitor, one of Rome’s nicest depictions of divine intervention. We’ll help you find it.
On our return to the city, there are some wonderfully pretty monuments of the Roman republic to view near the Forum Boarium, a connection to a famous movie, and then it’s back to our nearby hotel.
We journey a little further away from the centre, through the mighty walls of Aurelian to just outside the ancient city. Here, we head underground to the oldest and most famous of the city’s catacombs, with endless galleries bearing the small recesses of early Christian graves before we end with superb built and painted ‘pagan’ tombs, and a place of surpassing importance to early Christians.
On our return within the walls, we finish the day with a lesser-known gem of Roman museums, the Centrale Montemartini. This is a wonderful collection of some absolutely outstanding pieces, some connected to places we’ve already visited, some magnificently new to us- in an outlandish context that should not work, but triumphantly succeeds. A perfect end to a great day.
Once more, the day is far from over. We depart the museums via St Peter’s itself and marvel at Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s sumptuous baldacchino, not to mention the perfection of the façade and square outside before heading for our final lunch together.
In the afternoon, we bid the city farewell in a perfect spot, the Castel Sant’Angelo. Originally the tomb of Hadrian, later a Papal fortress, prison and residence, it perfectly summarises our visit and provides the most atmospheric envoi imaginable.
I would like to book, what else do I need to know?
Arrival and Departure Information
Arrival Airport – Rome (Leonardo da Vinci – Fiumicino Airport)
Departure Airport – Rome (Leonardo da Vinci – Fiumicino Airport)
Check in time at your hotel in Rome is after 14:00 so we recommend choosing a flight that arrives mid to late afternoon. Check out time from your hotel in Rome is 12:00. We will arrange local transfers from Rome Airport and to Rome Airport on the first and last day of the tour.
The cheapest way to book flights to join this tour in Italy is directly with the airline online.
If you prefer to book with a travel agent, we are happy to recommend specialists in a number of countries around the world, please contact our office for more details.
We consider adequate travel insurance to be essential. You should ensure that you take out a suitable policy, to make sure that your trip is properly covered. Please be advised some insurers may require you to take out a policy within 15-20 days of booking your holiday to receive all of their insurance benefits.
For UK Nationals, please check the current situation regarding visa requirements before you travel. You can find more information online here.