One of the most enduring cities in western civilization, Rome’s vast range of historic sites creates an unrivalled sense of continuity between ancient and modern society. This 12-day study tour provides a unique opportunity to gain detailed knowledge of Rome’s history, art and architecture and to enjoy the city during the quiet months. Our itinerary follows the layers of history: we begin with the ancient Roman city, then follow Rome’s transition into the Middle Ages, which saw the decline of the Empire and the ascendance of the Church, and witness the triumphant expression of Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture.
Academy Travel study tours provide in-depth intellectual stimulation via regular background lectures, morning site visits, and free afternoons for individual exploration. You’ll ‘live like a local’ with accommodations in a historic central neighbourhood.
COVID-19? Book with confidence
If Government imposed COVID-19 restrictions mean that we cannot run a tour, or that you cannot travel to join a tour, then you will be given a 100% refund of all monies paid to Academy Travel for your tour.
Academy Travel requires all participants on its tours to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. We reserve the right to inspect your digital vaccination certificate.
Explore the achievements of the Roman Empire through background lectures, visits to some of the Romans’ most enduring monuments in the city, and excursions to Ostia Antica and Hadrian’s Villa.
Late Antique Rome
Learn about the dramatic changes of the city and its culture in Late Antiquity, and the surprising truth about Romans’ attitude toward Christianity.
Uncover a more complex story about the relation between Rome and the Church, which expressed its newfound power and authority through the great Romanesque churches of the High Middle Ages.
Renaissance and Baroque Rome
Discover how the 15th-17th century papacy set about recapturing Rome’s ancient magnificence, calling in now-famous artists like Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini and Caravaggio.
Rome’s Local Neighbourhoods
Enjoy ‘living like a local’ in this city that combines the grandeur of a European capital with a sense of everyday intimacy.
The tour begins and ends at our hotel in Rome. Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Qatar and Singapore Airlines offer the best connections into and out of Rome from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are indicated with B, L and D.
Sunday 7 January – Arrival
The tour begins this afternoon in the lobby of the hotel, where we meet for an orientation walk of the local neighbourhood. After an introductory talk in the hotel, we have dinner in a local restaurant. (D)
Monday 8 January – The Layers of Rome
Millennia of building, rebuilding, adapting and recycling can make it difficult to see Rome’s history clearly through its monuments. After a lecture, this morning we have a guided tour of the Colosseum, the cobbled-together Arch of Constantine and the Roman Forum. Centuries of building have accumulated here: from Republican buildings like the Senate and House of the Vestal Virgins to gigantic imperial monuments like the Temple of Venus and Rome and the Basilica of Maxentius. Much of the area’s present appearance, however, comes from Mussolini’s decision to dig no further than the forum of Julius Caesar, and to separate the forum complexes with a triumphal road of his very own. In the afternoon, there is the option to visit San Pietro in Vincoli to see Michelangelo’s Moses, and San Clemente – a 12th-century church, beneath which is a 4th-century church and a 1st-century Roman house and a mithraeum. Evening at leisure. (B)
Tuesday 9 January – Roman Art and Design
The Romans’ love of Greek culture is nowhere more evident than in the art of the Hellenic world they brought back home or had copied. The Greek influence on Roman art, however, is only part of the story and Roman art was also heavily influenced by Etruscan culture. This morning, after a lecture, we visit the Capitoline Museums, one of the world’s finest collections of classical sculpture. The afternoon is free, and there is the option of visiting Palazzo Massimo, another of Rome’s great collections of antiquities, which has 1st-century frescoes from Livia’s imperial villa, and excellent collections of mosaics, jewellery and coinage. In the early evening, there is a lecture on Rome in Late Antiquity. (B)
Wednesday 10 January – Ostia Antica
This morning we take the train to Ostia Antica. In its heyday, from the 1st century BCE to the 4th century CE, the population of this town worked the harbour, through which ships from Sicily, north Africa and Egypt supplied Rome with grain. The city was abandoned in the early Middle Ages, partly because of the decline in trade and partly because of the risk posed by Saracen pirates. Its location on the mouth of the Tiber (which is now three kilometres to the west) led to it being covered in silt. Consequently, it is an exceptionally well-preserved site and is free of the crowds that flock to Pompeii. The afternoon is free and there is a lecture in the early evening followed by dinner in a local restaurant. (B, D)
Thursday 11 January – The Coming of Christianity
Most of Rome’s earliest churches were replaced in the grand rebuilding projects of the 1100s and 1500s, but the few that have survived tell us much about Christian Romans’ attitudes to their heritage. This morning we visit Santa Costanza, a 4th-century mausoleum-church for Constantine’s daughter Helena, whose mosaics incorporate both Christian and pagan motifs, and Sant’Agnese fuori le mura, a 7th-century church commissioned by Pope Honorius I. This church was built above the top of the catacombs of St Agnes. After visiting the complex, we continue to Santa Pudenziana, one of the oldest surviving churches in Rome, which contains excellent 5th-century mosaics. The naturalism in these mosaics shows how early Christians adopted Roman aesthetics. They are a stark contrast to the 8th-century mosaics in nearby Santa Prassede, which reflect the dominance of Byzantium, whose style came to define medieval Italian art. Free afternoon. (B)
Friday 12 January – Medieval Rome
The decline of the Empire reduced Rome’s population to about a hundredth of what it had been. The population retreated to a small pocket on the Tiber, where they fortified themselves among the ruins of a glorious past. When the papacy became more centralised in the High Middle Ages, it set about consolidating itself through rebuilding larger, grander churches throughout the city and decorating them with Cosmatesque floors and golden mosaics. The art and architecture of these new Romanesque churches in many ways defined how ‘medieval’ looks. After a lecture this morning, we explore medieval Rome on foot, beginning at Santa Maria in Cosmedin, an 8th-century church that was significantly remodelled in the 12th century after it was sacked by the Normans, and ending at Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of Rome’s most beautiful churches. The districts in between are an excellent place to examine how the ancient city was transformed in the Middle Ages. The afternoon is free, and you may wish to walk up the Janiculum Hill for its panoramic views over Rome and Bramante’s masterpiece, the Tempietto. (B)
Saturday 13 January – Renaissance Rome
In the 15th century, the Popes began to systematically restore Rome to its magnificence. Artists, architects, engineers and intellectuals were brought in from around Italy to work on this project, which included rebuilding roads and aqueducts, cataloguing newly discovered antiquities and creating new masterpieces to adorn the city, its churches and palaces. After a lecture this morning, we explore the Renaissance city, starting at Villa Farnesina, the fashionable party house of Agostino Chigi, a papal financier, who commissioned Raphael to paint a series of secular frescoes. We continue our walking tour of the heart of the Renaissance city and its palaces, stopping to visit Campo dei Fiori, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The afternoon is free. You may wish to explore some of the many fine smaller galleries and museums in this area with your tour leader. (B)
Sunday 14 January – Galleria Doria Pamphili & the Galleria Borghese
Today we look at two spectacular art collections formed by Rome’s papal families in the 17th century. This morning, after a lecture, we visit the Galleria Doria Pamphili, with its excellent collection of art from Titian to Caravaggio and Velasquez. In the afternoon, we visit the Galleria Borghese, a collection whose core was formed by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V, an avid collector and an adept talent-spotter: he was a major patron of Caravaggio and took a teenage Bernini under his wing. The villa he commissioned on what was then the edge of Rome, surrounded by gardens, was designed to show off his famous collection, which includes Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, the world’s largest collection of Caravaggio, and masterpieces by Titian, Bellini, Raphael and Antonello da Messina. Evening at leisure. (B)
Monday 15 January – St Peters & the Vatican Museums
As the de facto rulers of Rome, Renaissance popes were in an ideal position to amass extraordinary collections of art and antiquities. The collections are extraordinarily vast and include some of the most significant ancient sculptures – the Laocoon and the Belvedere Torso have inspired generations of artists, including Michelangelo and Bernini – and some of the world’s most recognisable paintings, such as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This morning we have a guided visit of the Museums, followed by free time for individual exploration. In the mid-afternoon, we meet again to tour St Peters. In the evening, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
Tuesday 16 January – Caravaggio, Bernini & Baroque Rome
The leading families of Baroque Rome sought out the most talented artists of their day to decorate their palaces and to create works that would be seen by the public and reflect well on their reputation. Sculpture was especially useful, as monuments and fountains throughout the city were a testament to one’s role as provider to the community and as a man of taste. This morning we explore Baroque Rome on foot, including visits to the Cornaro Chapel to admire Bernini’s extraordinary St Teresa of Avila, Borromini’s early masterpiece, San Carlino, and the Trevi Fountain. After a break for lunch, we focus on the works of Caravaggio in situ, including the Calling of St Matthew, the Conversion of St Paul and the Madonna of Loreto. Evening at leisure. (B)
Wednesday 17 January – Tivoli
Ancient Rome has provided a constant source of inspiration for artists and architects. One of the most influential of these figures was Pirro Ligorio, an accomplished architect and antiquarian. Ligorio undertook extensive excavations of Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli – a palatial complex sprawling over 80 hectares. His patrons, the Este family, had him install some of the discoveries in their own villa, where he also designed the extensive water features in the garden, which continue to delight visitors to this day. Today we travel by coach to Tivoli to visit the Villa d’Este, enjoy lunch in a superior restaurant, and take a guided tour of Hadrian’s Villa. (B, L)
Thursday 18 January – Departure
The tour ends this morning. Please check your individual travel plans for information about transfers. (B)
A qualified Rome guide, with a Master of Arts degree in Architectural History from from Edinburgh University.
Agnes was born in London and educated at Edinburgh University where she studied architectural history, specialising in classical and Renaissance Italian architecture. She graduated with an MA (Hons) in 1999, for her dissertation on Piero della Francesca and architecture.
She has lived in Rome since 2000 where she has worked as a guide since 2001 and has written for multiple guidebooks to the city and its surrounds. Her skill and her deep knowledge of Rome and its history has led to her being recommended by Condé-Nast Traveller, The New York Times, and by the UK’s Daily Telegraph. In addition, she is an experienced lecturer, speaking on topics ranging from Rome in film, to Renaissance art and classical architecture.
Domus Nova Bethlem, Rome (11 nights)
Domus Nova Bethlem is a traditional Roman guest house in Monti, one of Rome’s most enjoyable neighbourhoods. You’ll find excellent local restaurants, cafes, boutique jewellers and artisan shops of all varieties as well as more practical commodities for a long stay.
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
All accommodation at properties mentioned in the itinerary
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Taxis may also be used for short trips on some tours. Some city stay tours may involve local transport
Lunches and dinners indicated with the letters L and D in the itinerary
Beer, wine and soft drinks at sit-down lunches and dinners. Picnic and light lunches may not include alcoholic drinks
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
All tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
On international tours only
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required, and when stated as included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Some trips may be made by public transport such as high-speed train and subway
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Air or land travel from your home city to the tour start/end points
Local taxes and airport levies that we are not able to prepay on your behalf. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Lunches and dinners not specifically indicated with the letters L or D in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as passports, laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
Airport Transfers on international tours
Tours may begin at either the arrival airport or the first hotel. 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
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, 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.
We require all tour participants to have adequate insurance coverage.
For domestic tours, Medicare and your private medical insurance should be used to cover any medical expenses.
Domestic travel insurance is available and strongly recommended to cover non-medical expenses such as cancellation.
For international tours, we require you to have comprehensive travel insurance. Prices vary according to your age, your pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the length of your journey abroad.