Rome is much more than you see on the surface. Behind the grand Renaissance architecture and medieval churches, the city is laid out on ancient Roman lines. Elegant facades hide crumbling ancient masonry and to truly appreciate this legacy, you have to delve beyond the usual marble monuments and beneath the modern streets. During our tour, we explore a hidden world of buried houses, underground temples, and secret catacombs usually only accessible to specialists.
A truly exclusive break, Hidden Rome takes care of all your needs; enjoy a 5* hotel in the heart of the ancient city, and a spectacular Michelin starred meal with a view over Rome and the dome of St Peter’s Basilica.
- Special access to the Secret Archives of the Vatican, usually only permitted to officials and scholars
- An insiders guide to ancient Rome - with access to working excavations, hidden Roman sites and museums
- Out of hours access to the world-famous Capitoline Museum, home to many of the treasures of ancient Rome
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- Small Group
- Just One Hotel
- All Inclusive
We touch down in Rome, Italy’s classical cosmopolis, and proceed to our hotel. This evening we relax over dinner and drinks, and enjoy some free time to stroll the surrounding streets.
Ancient Rome awaits, and we are eager to dive in! We begin our discoveries with a trip up the Aventine Hill, where we visit the elegant Basilica of Santa Sabina, overlooking the River Tiber. This sacred building is the oldest Roman basilica in the city, and dates from 422 AD.
Our next stop is the Forum Boarium, situated beside the original docks of Rome, where boats unloaded cargo for the city, and an ancient food market once stood, heaving with customers. Legend has it that Hercules defeated the fire-breathing monster Cacus here. A temple erected for Hercules in the 2nd century BC still stands, as does the Temple of Portunus.
After lunch, we visit the immense Baths of Caracalla, the design of which has inspired notable buildings across the world, from St George’s Hall in Liverpool to Chicago Union Station. Its ruins stand at 30 metres high, and allow us to picture the scale of the complex as it would have been – spacious enough to hold up to 1,600 bathers.
We end our day at the beautifully decorated Tomb of Pomponius Hylas, and the Tomb of Scipios with its military paintings and atmospheric archways.
This morning we venture out of the city to the Via Nomentana, one of the great consular roads leading away from Rome, and visit Santa Constanza, a circular mausoleum thought to have been built by Constantine the Great for his daughter Constantia. Here we find a dazzling display of original mosaics, important examples of early Christian art. Outside, the romantic ruins of a basilica cast shadows across the grass.
After a tour of the catacombs at the Church of Sant’Agnese, we travel to the Appian Way, the ‘queen of the long roads’, and stop at an abode of the super-rich, the Villa of the Quintilli. This massive residence belonged to the two brothers of the senatorial Quintilli family, and is the largest of its type in Rome. In fact, when excavations of the site first took place, archaeologists believed they could be unearthing nothing smaller than a town!
Our fourth day of Roman roamings begins at the exquisite 12th century church of San Clemente, with its wonderful apse mosaic. The main sections of this Catholic church are decorated with gold frescoes and elaborate carvings, while, in the basement, a Roman temple and altar still survive.
We then walk up the Caelian Hill to view the Basilica of San Giovanni and Paolo. Built over the home of two martyred Roman soldiers in 398 AD, beneath the church lie ancient Roman rooms, thought to have contained wild animals used for public entertainment. A direct passageway connects them to the Colosseum.
We finish our afternoon with a visit to Palazzo Valentini, an excavated Roman residential complex beneath a Renaissance palace. Here an innovative method of display leads us over glass floors for a bird’s eye view of the excavated house.
Following breakfast we begin our morning at the Pantheon, a marvellous feat of Roman engineering and artistry dedicated to the Pagan gods of Rome. Its unique 2,000-year-old cupola remains the largest unreinforced dome ever built. An awesome sight.
Proceeding onto the Crypta Balbi we explore some of the most extraordinary excavations undertaken in the city. A theatre, block of four apartments and a courtyard were built here between 19 and 13 BC, and painstakingly unearthed over twenty years from 1981. We then drop in to the Palazzo Spada to view Borromini’s intriguing corridor: an optical illusion of forced perspective, which makes 8 metres look like 37.
Following lunch we visit the hidden necropolis beneath the Basilica of Saint Peter, a famous street of papal and noble tombs near the site of the saint’s alleged grave. More light is shone on the mysterious world of papacy this evening when we visit the Secret Archives of the Vatican.
Our last day in Rome is upon us. We waste no time in heading for the remains of the ancient world’s largest sundial, the Meridian of Augustus, which was lost in the 8th century AD, recovered in the 16th century, and re-erected in 1789.
Finally, we travel to Portus, once the port of Rome but now a vast and enigmatic ruin partly concealed by forest and ivy. Following a final Italian lunch we say ’Ciao’ to Rome and return home in the afternoon.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
We stay in a fantastic 5* hotel in the very heart of the city - the ideal location from which to explore the delights of Rome - only a few steps away from St Peter’s Church and the Pantheon. There is a roof terrace bar with excellent panoramic views across the city.
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