Rome is a city of unique character and charm, and well worth an extended visit. Historic sites, stretching from Etruscan pre-history to the 21st century, are set among the ageless laneways and piazze of the old city. Our two-week tour begins with ancient Rome, source of the city’s pride and traditions. We then explore the pivotal medieval, Renaissance and baroque periods, brimming with fine art and architecture by masters such as Raphael, Michelangelo and Caravaggio, before turning our attention to impressive 20th and 21st-century sites. Accommodation is in the perfectly located four-star Hotel Ponte Sisto.
2,500 years of Western civilisation, a ‘living museum’ on display in the streets, piazze and palazzi of Rome
The complex legacy of ancient Rome in history and culture, especially from the Renaissance to the 20th century
Little-visited but wonderful sites tucked away in the heart of the city
La dolce vita: fine dining, excellent local trattorie, a symphony concert or opera
The masters of the Eternal City, from emperors and popes to Caravaggio and Bernini
Private evening visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
Walking tours and gallery visits, exploring Rome from its earliest days to the 21st century
A full day surveying the remarkable art of Caravaggio
Visits to difficult to access sites, such as the home and studio of 20th-century artist Giorgio de Chirico and the Domus Aurea
Discovering Rome’s distinctive neighbourhoods, including Trastevere, the Spanish steps and the Ghetto
A day trip to Tivoli, visiting the splendid gardens of the Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa
Days 1–3: Explore ancient Rome, from the Etruscans to the age of Constantine with walking tours and visits to museums.
Days 4–5: Discover the gems of the Renaissance and baroque city, from Bramante’s Tempietto and Raphael’s frescoes in the Villa Farnesina, to the playful architecture of Bernini and Borromini.
Days 6–8: Enjoy a day trip to Tivoli, visits to special exhibitions, and a full day examining the works of Caravaggio in the city and at the Galleria Borghese.
Days 9–11: Get to know modern Rome. Visit the Forum and experience a private visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.
A limited number of places remain on this tour and as such, internet bookings are not taken. Please contact our travel consultant listed above if you wish to make a booking.
Emirates has daily flights from most cities in Australia to Rome. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Tuesday 16 April: Arrive
The tour begins this afternoon when we meet in the Hotel Ponte Sisto. Please consult your individual travel documents for arrival at the hotel. After meeting Robert Veel, we undertake a walking tour of the neighbourhood surrounding the hotel. Tonight there is dinner in a friendly local restaurant near our hotel. (D)
Wednesday 17 April: From Etruscans to Metropolis
Rome’s early history is a fascinating combination of myth, legend and history. This morning, after a talk in the hotel, we visit the National Etruscan Museum. The collection is housed in a Renaissance villa built by Pope Julius III and contains some of the most significant discoveries of Etruscan art, including the life size Apollo of Veii, the Sarcophagus of the Spouses and one of the earliest inscriptions in Latin. After a break for lunch in Monti – a thriving neighbourhood of boutiques and small restaurants in the historic Suburra district – we continue exploring Rome’s deep past at Palazzo Valentini. Beneath this baroque palace are the well-preserved remains of a Roman house, dating from the 1st century, which were discovered when the area was being rejuvenated in the early 20th century. After our visit, we continue our exploration of the layers of the ancient city with a walking tour of the Ghetto and Capitoline, which takes us from the legendary location where Romulus and Remus met the she-wolf to the great building projects of the Republic and early Empire. (B)
Thursday 18 April: The Arrival of Christianity
The transformation of Rome in the Middle Ages is most clearly felt in the changes to its art and architecture. While the spread of Christianity did bring new ideas to art and architecture it was, however, also a source for preservation and continuity. Today, after a talk in the hotel, we visit Sant’ Agnese fuori le mura, a complex comprising the ruins of a gigantic basilica from the period of Constantine, Christian catacombs from the 2nd-5th centuries, a 9th-century church with beautiful Byzantine-inspired mosaics, and Santa Costanza, a fourth-century mausoleum-church for one of Constantine’s daughters, with fine 4th-century mosaics. Returning to the city centre, we break for lunch, and then visit San Clemente, an 11th-century church, beneath which is a 5th-century church, a Roman house and a mithraeum, a place of worship for the arcane eastern cult of Mithras in Roman times. We conclude our exploration of medieval Rome at Santi Quattro Coronati. This little-visited church was originally a fortified abbey on the edge of the Caelian hill, and contains Carolingian-inspired architecture, 12th-century frescoes, and Rome’s oldest cloister. In the evening, we enjoy an Easter musical performance at the church of St Paul within the Walls. (B)
Friday 19 April: Renaissance Walking tour
The Renaissance came to Rome on the back of artists and architects from around Italy seeking glory through the restoration of Europe’s most famous city. We begin our day on the Janiculum Hill, visiting Bramante’s delightful ‘Tempietto’ of 1502, which marks the place where, according to legend, St Peter was martyred. The tempietto was sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Nearby is the vast ‘fontanone’ of Paul V, flowing with water from a restored Roman aqueduct. We visit the Villa Farnesina, the magnificent riverside villa of Renaissance banker Agostino Chigi, where Raphael, Pope Leo X and other notables enjoyed life out of public view. Crossing the Tiber we visit Campo dei Fiori and view the fine Renaissance edifices of the Palazzo Spada, the Palazzo Farnese and the Cancelleria. The afternoon is at leisure, and you may wish to take in one of the excellent temporary exhibitions on display in the city. (B)
Saturday 20 April: Baroque Masterpieces & the Domus Aurea
More than any other period, the baroque architecture of the 17th century left its mark on the city of Rome. After a talk in the hotel, we explore a range of sites this morning, from Bernini’s St Terese of Avila, to the highly innovative churches on the Quirinal Hill built by Bernini and his rival Borromini, and the Trevi Fountain. After a break for lunch, we visit the Galleria Doria-Pamphilj, where one of Italy’s great families display their art collection ― with works by Titian, Caravaggio, Bernini, Velazquez and Raphael ― as it would have been seen in the 17th century. In the later afternoon, we turn to one of the great sources of inspiration for High Renaissance and Baroque artists: the Domus Aurea. Since its discovery in the late 15th century, the underground remains of Nero’s palace have been a pilgrimage for artists, looking to understand the style of the Roman emperors for their own works on the walls of the nobility. Return to the hotel; evening at leisure. (B)
Sunday 21 April: The Capitoline Museums
This morning we walk to the Capitoline Museums, located on the hill of the same name. This was the world’s first public museum, designed to show off the Pope’s celebrated collection of ancient Roman art and history. Housed in fine renaissance buildings, these museums contain some of the most famous pieces of Roman sculpture, such as the Capitoline Wolf, the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius and the Capitoline Venus. The museum is located above the site of the ancient temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus which sat above the forum, and recent renovations have made the foundations of the temple visible. This afternoon has been set aside to visit an exhibition at one of Rome’s leading galleries, such as the Quirinale Stables, the Victor Emmanuel Monument or Bramante’s Cloister. If you would prefer to attend an Easter mass today or tomorrow, your tour leader will be happy to help with your arrangements.
Monday 22 April: Pasquetta at Tivoli
Easter Monday ― Pasquetta in Italian – is one of the country’s most important public holidays and is usually celebrated by feasting, strolling and enjoying the country life. Today we make our way to Tivoli to visit the 16th-century gardens of the Villa D’Este. Thwarted papal candidate Ippolito D’Este retired in style, commissioning Rome’s greatest antiquarian to create a pagan fantasy world of grottoes, fountains and gardens. For centuries these were the most famous gardens in Europe and they influenced rulers from Paris to St Petersburg. We then stop for lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, overlooking a famous ancient sanctuary and temple of the Tibertine Sybil. After lunch, we visit Hadrian’s Villa, created in the 2nd century CE. The villa reflects the emperor’s love of luxury, his extensive travel and his refined taste, and today its ruins are among the most romantic, set among olive groves with views across the valley. Return to Rome in the late afternoon; evening at leisure (B, L)
Tuesday 23 April: Caravaggio & Villa Borghese
Caravaggio is perhaps the best loved of Roman painters, combining Renaissance ideals with a closely observed humanity, realised with a superb technique and a radical, theatrical style. This morning we first visit key Caravaggio paintings in the churches of San Luigi Dei Francesi and Santa Maria del Popolo. We then head to the Galleria Borghese, containing another five works by the master. The Galleria Borghese is set in the Villa Borghese Gardens, today Rome’s principal public park. Here Cardinal Scipione Borghese and later generations of his family amassed a fine collection of ancient sculpture, which sits side by side with some of Bernini’s earliest sculptural masterpieces, such as his Apollo and Daphne. Return to the hotel, evening at leisure. (B)
Wednesday 24 April: Romantic to Modern
By the 18th century, Rome had become a major destination for the artists and writers of northern Europe, who sought firsthand knowledge of the ancient world and the relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle that came with it. Today we explore the centre of Rome’s literary and artistic culture at the Spanish Steps. Our tour includes visits to the house museums of Goethe, Keats and Shelley, and Giorgio de Chirico, each of whose works helped shape how we understand the city today. In the afternoon, we visit the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna. Little visited by tourists, this excellent museum contains masterpieces of 19th and 20th-century Italian and European art. Return to the hotel; evening at leisure. (B)
Thursday 25 April: From the Palatine to the Papal Apartments
“Go thou to Rome, — at once the Paradise The grave, the city, and the wilderness”. ― Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais, 49.
Few places live up to the writings of romantic poets as Rome does, with the beauty of its ruined past and the greatness of its seemingly never-ending reinventions. This morning we visit the Palatine Hill to wander among the ruins of the imperial palace, and the history of settlement that extends back to the legendary foundations of the Eternal City, and for a guided stroll through the Roman Forum. The afternoon is free to relax, shop or individual sightseeing. In the early evening we have a private visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, so that we can fully appreciate the glory of Renaissance Rome in the masterpieces of Raphael and Michelangelo without the perennial crowds. After our visit, we enjoy a farewell dinner at Antica Pesa, a fine historic restaurant in Trastevere. (B, D)
Friday 26 April: Departure
The tour ends this morning after breakfast in the hotel. Transfers to Rome’s airports and railway stations are available for those who have booked their international flights with Academy Travel. Please consult your individual travel documents for details of your continued journey. (B)
Holds a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Education. He is a director of Academy Travel and leads tours to Europe, Scandinavia, the US & Australia.
Robert Veel is a cultural historian with over 20 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, the USA, Scandinavia and Turkey. He has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, architecture and music, and is a founding director of Academy Travel.
Robert holds a BA, Dip. Ed and M.Ed, all from the University of Sydney. He worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney before a long stint at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education, lecturing in Italian history and culture and working as Assistant Director. Robert continues to teach occasionally in Continuing Education courses.
Robert’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through the early 20th century. In Italy he has led many tours focusing on the Medieval and Renaissance periods. In the United States he likes to focus on the founding of the Republic and the Gilded Age of the early 20th century. In Scandinavia he is particularly interested in national identity and its role in Scandinavian literature, design and architecture. Robert speaks fluent Italian.
Robert led his first tour to Italy in 1990 and has not looked back! He has led more than 50 tours and designed many of Academy Travel’s most popular tours, including Sicily, New York, Rome and Venice residential tours, and our Scandinavia tours. More recently Robert led the first offering of Academy Travel’s tours to Tasmania and New Zealand.
We asked Robert, what do you enjoy most about leading tours?
“I really enjoy travelling with like-minded, interested travellers who are up for a bit of an intellectual adventure. It’s often the unexpected things that create the ‘shared joy’ of group travel”, says Robert “a wonderful, but little-known painting, a great performance or a fabulous meal. These are the things we travel for.”
“Over the years travellers have commented on my seemingly boundless enthusiasm. It’s true that I am curious about most things – people, places, history and artistic expression. There’s a kind of alchemy when this enthusiasm rubs off on others – hopefully with a bit of useful information as well!”
The Hotel Ponte Sisto is located in a renovated historical palazzo in a quiet part of central Rome. Within a few hundred metres are a range of attractions, and Campo dei Fiori, around which many boutiques and fine restaurants can be found. It is in easy, gentle walking distance to the Trastevere district, with its many restaurants and shops, and the Ghetto, a quiet inner city neighbourhood with a relaxed feel and good local restaurants. The recently refurbished rooms of the Hotel Ponte Sisto are well-equipped and relatively spacious. The hotel has an internal courtyard garden, a rooftop terrace and good public areas.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.