In February of 2017, I was asked to attend a training tour as an experienced group leader with Education First (EF) Tours to the historic city of Rome. Although I have had the privilege of taking a couple of student tours to Rome, I find something different every time. This makes the city of Rome so special!
Since the training staff arrived the day before the teachers, I decided to head to the Borghese Gallery with fellow experienced group leader Christopher Black. The Borghese Gallery is located in the Villa Borghese Gardens, which is one of the largest public parks in Rome. At just under 200 acres, it is great to walk around and enjoy a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Borghese Gallery is one of the best art museums in Rome, and that is really saying something! It has one of the largest collections by art bad-boy Caravaggio, including: "The Boy with the Basket of Fruit," "Sick Bacchus," and "David with the Head of Goliath" (where he painted his self-portrait in the head of Goliath). It also has some magnificent still-life paintings, as well as a great collection of Italian Baroque statues by Bernini. You do have to book in advance (before you arrive in Rome) and are only allowed to book for just a two-hour time slot. They do this because they want to help you enjoy the art without massive groups. This is a welcomed change from the Vatican. Also, you are not allowed to take photographs inside. Even with some of the hoops you have to jump through at just 20 Euro, it is a great option for free time (if you do a stay behind).
Rome is just so full of history, from religious to pagan, I am continually amazed at what the city has to offer. On my 2015 trip page, I highlighted in more detail the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and the Colosseum. These are all must sees in this great city that offers so much.
The Colosseum is such an homage to the ancient Romans. The fact that they built a monumental building that has withstood the test of time is truly a sight to see. This tour will combine this tour with the Roman Forum, so just be ready for a lot of walking, and if you go in July, be ready for the heat.
The Vatican is an art lover's dream. From Michelangelo's "Sistine Chapel" to Raphael's "School of Athens," it is easy to understand why the Vatican brings in 6 million visitors each year. Regardless of your religious background, this place is inspiring. It has so many important pieces it is easy to get overwhelmed, so do a little research before you go. The crowds are big anytime of the year, especially heading into the Sistine Chapel. The Chapel does have a dress code, so make sure you follow it, and there are no photographs allowed in the Chapel. After you go to the Vatican you will take the back route to St Peter's Basilica.
In St. Peter's Basilica, you will see the breathtaking Pieta by Michelangelo. If you stand statue of Mary straight up, she is 7 feet tall. Michelangelo did this to create the illusion of Jesus as a baby. The details are exquisite, from the flowing clothes and drapery to the emotion he captures in Mary's face, and it makes you rethink what is humanly possible. The sculpture is unfortunately behind a huge glass after an incident that saw the statue struck 12 times with a hammer in 1972. I like the quote by art historian Giorgio Vasari, who saw the statue in 1550 and said, "It is a miracle that a rock, which before was without form, can take on such perfection that even nature sometimes struggles to create in the flesh."
The sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini can be seen throughout the city, but two of my favorites are the Four Rivers on the left and the Trevi Fountain on the right. The Four Rivers is a really interesting sculpture that highlights the Catholic Church presence around the world. The four figures represent four major rivers of the four continents through which papal authority had spread: the Nile representing Africa, the Danube representing Europe, the Ganges representing Asia, and the Río de la Plata representing the Americas. On the right, the magnificent Trevi Fountain, which has been under restoration for a long time, is more beautiful than ever. Although never sculpted by Bernini, it was his sketches that were passed along to Nicolas Salvi that led to this leviathan of a project. You can see the grand size of the fountain if take another look at the picture at the beginning of the article. Absolutely stunning! Don't forget to throw a coin in the fountain backwards so your wish of coming back to Rome comes true.