Lazio is a central Italian region. Its principal city is Rome. Many people are visiting Rome each year, so did I in 2010, actually in October that year to celebrate my 60s birthday. It was a gift of my son Samuel and his wife, but at that time they were not married.
It was the first and only time in my life, that I was on a group tour for more than one day, even it was a special one. It was announced as a tour for singles. even three couples attended. It was a cultural tour and it was one to see the hidden splendors and fascinating beauties of Rome. I chose that, because the usual tourist attractions I can visit by myself.
Part of the time, we also visited Vatican State, of course, but that state is so tiny and the borders not easy to see, though I include it here. Furthermore we have been to Tivoli, another town and commune in Lazio, about 30 kilometres east-north-east of Rome. I created an extra site for it.
Rome (and surroundings):
Between 9th and 16th of October 2010 I was in Rome. It was to celebrate my 60th birthday and a birthday present of my son Samuel and his wife. My son and his former girlfriend, now his wife, had been in Rome earlier and just for a weekend without a guide. My wish to see Rome had started to grow years ago, when I translated a short text of the famous writer Johan Wolfgang von Goethe for my Swedish teacher. Goethe described Rome a way, which made me longing to see that city. Finally I was travelling to Rome – with a company called SKR (a german company, but it was the best option I could find at that time, because of the small groups they offer). Please find below the diary and pictures from that trip.
Saturday, 9th Oct
I arrived in the afternoon at the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Fuimicino. I remember, that the Meeting point was not easy to find, but still in time I found the tour guide Edith Schaffer. She was waiting for all of us and signing, whom arrived. The trip was booked without the flight. Each attendend had to book their own flights, though the guide had to wait a while for the arrival of all of us.
The guide took us to the hotel – it was in a former monastery, but still run by nuns. We have got first impressions of Rome during this trip. By the way the guiding was in German and I was happy I have more than one language I understand. Otherwise I would not have booked this trip.
After the arrival in the hotel, we have got a brief introduction of the area and also a briefing of the group. We were 16 persons without the guide, 10 of us were singles and the rest were couples. The median age of us were between 40 and 50. We were asked to talk about the reason for this trip and if we had been in Rome before. One of the group had been eight times before in Rome, the most of us had never been here. I told them, that the travel was a gift of my son, but not that it was a birthday present. I thought, nobody need to know that. The rest of the day was free time. Some of us were looking for the closest supermarket, me and a few other people did take our first steps in Rome. We visited the close by gardens (in Italian: Villas).
Sunday, 10th Oct.
We were ask to go by local bus to the city centre. Our guide met up there. Together with her we walked the city. You have to know, that we had quite a lot of free time, because the guide had a four-year old daughter to care about and did not work eight hours/day.
The theme for this day was the monumental splendor and everyday life of the antiquity. We started with the Marc-Aurel Column, visited the Trevi Fountain and the Piazza del Campidoglio as well as the Trajan Column and continued to the National Monument of Rom at the Piazza Venezia. From the terrace of the National Monument we had a good view of all of Rome.
Afterwards we had a look at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli och were back at the Piazza del Campidoglio, were we viewed the Forum Romanum with the Imperial Forum and the Capitoline Hills. We have got the corresponding declarations, of course.
Finally we had a short walk to the famous / infamous quarter of the capital of the ancient world, which today is a picturesque city and scene district of Monti. We had a lunch break and continued then to the Palazzo Massimo alla Terme, where we could see masterpieces of Roman antique painting from the Villa of Livia as well as mosaic art and bronze decoration of Roman luxury ships and world-famous antique sculptures.
Monday, 11th Oct
Also this Monday we had to make our own way to the city, again by public transport. Our tour guide walked the city with us again, but this time another path throughout the city’s interior passing the parliament.
The theme for the day was: Renaissance treasures and sensual frescoes. Vi started with the Pantheon, the best preserved Roman temple building and continued with the Renaissance tour. Though we have seen the church San Luigi die Francesi with paintings of Caravaggio, the Basilica of San Agostino with paintings by Raffael and Caravaggio (dirty feet and from light to dark) as well, the church Santa Maria dell `Anima (which is a hall church), the church Santa Maria della Pace with the famous Chigi chapel. The church itself is situated in an area of very narrow alleys. After these overwhelming art spectacle we went to the Piazza Navona with the three fountains, which is the Renaissance square.
Afterwards we used the via Giulia and crossed the Campo de Fiori, a well-known marked place (where we had some time to spend and had to find something to eat for lunch and I have seen those oil pots for the first time – unfortunately I could not afford one), passed the birth house of our monastery hotel (I went back later for a photography) – the House of Santa Brigitta of Sweden, followed the Tiber and crossed the river by a bridge for entering the old historic part of the town, called Trastevere, where we visited the Renaissance building Villa Farnesina with their delicate frescos. The painter Raffael tells us the myth of Cupid and Psyche with his work.
We had an early dinner in a typical, local restaurant in Trastevere – the Rivadestra. When we all were served and had eaten – it took a long time to get our dishes and they were not really, what we had expected, but genuine for this area – we continued to the Vatican State, where we toured the St. Peter’s Basilica, which is a formative building for the period of the Renaissance.
The evening, like the evenings before, we had free time, though I had taken the opportunity to look at the surroundings of St. Peter’s and think I was walking most of the time in Vatican City.
Tuesday, 12th Oct
It was my 60th birthday and I was happy nobody realised that. I followed the other tour members throughout the close garden to the tram.
The theme for the day was: Places of the early Christians and hidden oases of the Middle Ages. We started with the martyr’s basilica San Lorenzo fuori le Mura on the edge of the grave town of Verano. The basilica is a mighty construction over the tomb of the martyr with precious mosaics. We continued to the imposing Lateran complex, where we first visited the sacred staircase and climbed up to the church San Qualtro Coronati, followed of a tour of the Santo Satorum (the first Sistine Chapel).
It was amazing to be in the Santo Satorum, where only a few people are allowed to come in. We were lucky, that our guide both had studied art history and archeology. She also was married with a Roman citizen and sometimes worked for the government. All together had given her good contacts, though she was able to bring us here.
After a lunch rest, where I unexpectedly met a couple of our tour, which paid my lunch – without knowing about my birthday, we viewed the baptistery and the Cosmatesque cloister of the Basilica Lateran. We finished this day with the church San Stefano Rotondo, where we looked at the very brutal wall paintings of the Middle Ages.
It was still daylight when we got time off for the evening and too early for the evening meal. I was looking for the Colosseum, but the admission fee was to high for me, though I tried to see as much as possible from the outside and I can tell you “it is very lite you can see”. In front of the Colosseum were some guys making money by allowing to photograph them or themselves and the tourists together. A shot was for 10 EUR. I haggled and tried to get a photograph for free, but they were only accepting 5 EUR – not less. Though I went on. It was anyway not the photograph I was interested in, but the haggling.
This evening we had dinner at the monastery hotel. The nuns had put flowers at my place on the table and I also had got a bottle of win. The tour guide, who was with us just for this evening, was wondering why and a nun told her, that it was my 60th birthday this day. The nuns meant really well, unfortunately I did not enjoy it, that means, that I had prefered that none had known about my birthday on this trip, but on the other hand side I relished the reaction of the nuns. They had read it in my passport. – I actually was very low on money for this trip, because I did not have a very good income, but had to pay for a car and an overdraft as well. I was afraid, that the others expected, that I should spend something. If I remember right, I shared the wine with the others.
Wednesday 13th Oct.
This morning we were free for our personal interests and also had the opportunity to attend the Pope’s general audience. Some catholic girls did. Meanwhile I was walking the city.
In the afternoon we did walk the “queen of the long roads”, the Via Appia Antica (Appian Way). That was also the theme for the day. Together with the guide we were going by underground and bus to this street. This old road has still its basalt stones and is the most famous and the oldest antique street of consulates. Monumental grave sites, e.g. the tomb of Caecilia Metella, the Circus of Maxentius and imperial mansions. Nowadays the region is a beloved area of prominent figures like Liz Taylor. Even the church San Sebastiano fuori le mura with its catacombs is placed here.
When we were on the Via Appia, our tour guide showed us even the villa of Gina Lolobrigida. Actually we only could see a green fence. We did not only walk this road in the direction back to the city of Rome, but also tried to drink out of one of the fountains, beside of the road. We had picnic in the afternoon on a place beside the road with a good view onto the Alban Hills with the town of Tivoli as well as a rest.
Thursday 14th Oct.
Thursday it was time for a trip into the Alban Hills, around 40 km away from Rome and in the area of Castell Gandolfo.
We took the train to Tivoli, which since antique ages is known as a power, cult and health resort for romans and travellers. We visited the spectacular mansions of this city. We have seen Villa Gregoriana, which is reopened, with its natural powerful Aniene waterfalls and the impressive gardens as well as the remains of the mansions and temples of the Acropolis. We also had time to visit the Hadrian mansion – a giant area, which showed the wealth of the emperor respectively the late renaissance mansion “Villa d’Este with a beautiful garden including illustrious waterfalls and water plays.
For the evening meal we were at an ethnic trattoria. We have been told, that it has been a very little restaurant before, but one day the owner experienced, that behind the first wall were more to go. He started to excavate the historical vaults. We were offered a plate with lots of different dishes, a kind of pizza slices included. The pizza was so different to the ones you can buy in the rest of Europe and other continents as well. Anyway they told us, that it was original pizza.
Friday, 15th Oct.
The meeting point for this day is in the city centre again. The theme is: The Cardinal Villa of the Medici, but it is not the only place we are visiting.
One more time we are walking the city. This time we will experience the competition between the artists Bernini and Borromini. Even I already had seen the Spanish Steps before, it was interesting to hear about the controversy in this name. Not only, that these staircase is situated below the Palazzo di Medici, but it is also completely French owned!
We spend time in the extensive gardens of the Villa of Medici and had from there a magnificent view over the city with all its Baroque creations and all what there is, to enjoy life. In addition to that we visited the churches of San Andrea al Quirinale, San Carlino all Quattrofontane and the ecstasy of Santa Theresa, a theatrical baroque production in Santa Maria della Vittoria.
We also had some time for ourselves to take a last walk throughout the city, exploring new places or shopping or whatever we would like to do.
Saturday, 16th Oct
It is the day to say good-bye. I have a long chat with some of the tour members and take some last photographs, especially of the hotel. There is also time enough for shopping, but I do not have money for shopping, neither have the others, who are with me.
Finally we get the transfer to the airport. Like we were coming we leave with different planes at different times. It has been a very interesting week and I am sure I will never forget my time in Rome and the circumstances, which had brought me here.