Rome’s contribution to Western culture is difficult to overestimate, but most visitors do not penetrate the city’s complex, interwoven layers. This 12-day study tour provides you with a detailed examination of Rome’s history, art and culture, from antiquity to the present, through daily background lectures, guided site visits and extended walking tours. The tour includes many sites that visitors overlook, such as Ostia Antica, Palazzo Massimo and Rome’s spectacular mosaics from late antiquity. This tour is ideal for the independent traveller: group visits are carefully balanced with time for independent exploration.
Study tours are more physically demanding than other residential tours offered by Academy Travel. Throughout the tour we undertake extended walking tours, often along Rome’s cobbled streets, visit historic buildings which may not have elevators, and utilise the extensive local public transport network for journeys in the city. Also, while study tours are full of group activities, a reasonable degree of independence is required.
Superb collections of antiquities, including the Vatican Museums, the Capitoline Museums and Palazzo Massimo
The spectacular works of Caravaggio and Bernini throughout the city and in the Galleria Borghese
Excursions to Ostia Antica, Hadrian’s Villa, and the masterful baroque Villa d’Este
Rome in Late Antiquity, from Santa Costanza to the mosaics of Santa Prassede
Walking tours visiting Rome’s hidden gems and masterpieces by Raphael, Bramante and Borromini
Modern Rome, including a visit to the house and studio of Giorgio de Chirico
Days 1–3: Explore Rome’s origins and its extraordinary rise to greatness, through visits to archaeological sites, including Ostia Antica, and world-class museums, including Palazzo Massimo and the Capitoline collections.
Days 4–6: From imperial splendour to the coming of Christianity: Late Roman art to the birth of the ‘new’ medieval style. Explore underground Rome and witness how the city and its culture transformed from the 4th to 12th centuries.
Days 7–12: Rome’s Renaissance revival and baroque glory: walking Caravaggio’s Rome, visiting the Galleria Borghese and the Vatican Museums, home to the Sistine Chapel. Excursion to Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este.
The tour begins and ends at our hotel in Rome. Emirates, Etihad Airways, 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 shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Friday 3 January: Arrive
The tour begins in the lobby of the hotel this afternoon, 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)
Saturday 4 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. Adding to the complexity is the way the city and its monuments have been used to serve different agendas over the centuries. This morning, after a lecture, we have a guided tour of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine – made partly from new work and partly from old works pressed into service of the new emperor – and the Roman Forum. Centuries of building have accumulated here – from Republican buildings such as the Senate and House of the Vestal Virgins, to gigantic imperial monuments, such as 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 of continuing the tour to San Pietro in Vincoli, to see Michelangelo’s Moses, and to 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)
Sunday 5 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. Roman art was also heavily influenced by Etruscan culture and, as the empire expanded, new styles were imported and appropriated. This morning, after a lecture, we visit the Capitoline Museums, one of the world’s finest collections of classical sculpture. The collection, which was established in the 15th century, includes some of the best finds from Rome and its surrounds, from the realism of the Etruscan- influenced statue of Brutus, to the imperial monuments of Marcus Aurelius and Constantine. In the afternoon, 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)
Monday 6 January: The Coming of Christianity
Christianity had been practised in Rome since the 1st century CE, but it was not until the 4th century that it left great monuments. Most of the churches of Late Antiquity were replaced in the grand rebuilding projects of the 1100s and 1500s, but the ones 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 to replace the monumental church built by Constantine, the ruins of which are testament to the scale of Constantine’s ambitions. After visiting the complex, we continue to Santa Pudenziana, one of the oldest surviving churches in Rome. This church, from the 400s, is built into a 1st-century bath and 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. The afternoon is free. (B)
Tuesday 7 January: Medieval Rome
The decline of the Empire and the resulting wars in Italy 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. The city remained significant, however, because of the presence of the papacy, over which Roman aristocratic families fought for control. 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)
Wednesday 8 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, to cataloguing newly discovered antiquities and creating new masterpieces to adorn the city, its churches and palaces. The wealth that cardinals and bankers brought to the city was phenomenal and, to get ahead, one needed to spend it tastefully. 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 or visit some of the Renaissance churches with your tour leader. (B)
Thursday 9 January: Ostia Antica
Rome today gives very little sense of life in the ancient city. 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)
Raphael and Michelangelo left an indelible mark on Western art history, but their deaths also created a vacuum. In Rome, leading families with an eye on the papal tiara were searching for the next great artists, in the hope that the kudos they would gain from association with genius would add to their social and cultural capital. 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. One needed to get it right – the city was a hotbed of gossip, political intrigue and malcontent, as the life of Caravaggio and the reputation of Pope Urban VIII suggest. This morning, after lectures on Caravaggio, Bernini and Borromini, 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. In the late afternoon, there is the option of continuing the tour to the Galleria Doria-Pamphilj, a fine art collection displayed as it was intended to be seen in the baroque period, with works by Caravaggio, Titian, Jan Breughel and Velasquez’s Portrait of Innocent X. (B)
Saturday 11 January: Galleria Borghese
This morning, there is the option of visiting the house and studio of Giorgio de Chircio, one of Italy’s most influential modern painters. 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. Later afternoon and evening at leisure. (B)
Sunday 12 January: Tivoli
Ancient Rome has provided a constant source of inspiration for artists and architects. The interest in all things Roman in the 15th and 16th centuries exploded, however, fuelled by the number of new discoveries made by people actively recovering buildings, coins and statuary from the ravages of time and soil. 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, whose location had been discovered by the historian Flavio Biondo. The villa – a palatial complex sprawling over 80 hectares from which the empire could be governed – became one of the most famous sites in Europe, inspiring numerous buildings. Ligorio’s patrons – the Este – could, however, go much further. Having paid for the excavations, they had Ligorio install some of the discoveries in their own villa. The Villa d’Este also showcased Ligorio’s skill as a designer and engineer, and its extensive water features 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. We return to Rome in the late afternoon, when we have a lecture. (B, L)
Monday 13 January: The Vatican Museums and St Peters
As the de facto rulers of Rome, Renaissance popes were in an ideal position to amass extraordinary collections of art and antiquities. That the papacy would be heavily invested in the discovery and preservation of non-Christian works is a result of their own humanist educations and the number of leading scholars and classicists who filled the ranks of the papal curia. The collections, which have been growing since their establishment 500 years ago, 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, with its masterpieces by Bernini and Michelangelo. In the evening, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
Tuesday 14 January: Departure
The tour ends this morning. Please check your individual travel plans for information about transfers. (B)
Dr Nick Gordon
A cultural historian with a PhD in History, and practicing painter who brings this passion to the visual arts.
Dr Nick Gordon is a cultural historian and artist, with over 10 years of experience leading tours to Europe. He has strong interests in art, history, philosophy and architecture, from the ancient world to the present.
Nick holds a University Medal and PhD in history from the University of Sydney. He taught medieval and Renaissance history at the University of Sydney, the history of political thought at the University of Western Sydney, and architectural and Australian history elsewhere. He continues to teach at the Centre of Continuing Education, and gives occasional lectures on topics ranging from Classical Rome through to Australian and contemporary art. Nick has lead tours for Academy Travel since 2007, and designs study tours, residential tours and art-focussed tours, such as the Venice Biennale, Art Along the Rhine, Art Basel, and Amsterdam to Paris: Van Eyck to Van Gogh.
Nick is also an artist and his firsthand experience of art complements his academic expertise, through his knowledge of materials and the processes behind how an artwork is made, and his well-practiced eye for reading art.
We asked Nick, what do you enjoy most about tour leading?
“One of the things I enjoy most about touring is helping people understand more about what they’re seeing. This happens through a combination of background lectures exploring different contexts, cultural commentary on the road, and especially by being able to explain what is going on in an artwork with the artwork in front of us.”
“The aim of all of this is to help people see more for themselves, independently, both on tour and beyond. Some of the best moments for me on tour are when this happens, and you get to be part of something bigger as people start adding their own knowledge and experience to what we’re looking at. It makes each experience unique.”
Domus Novo Bethlem is a traditional Roman guest house located in Monti, one of the most charming neighbourhoods of central Rome, with its many small restaurants and boutiques. The hotel has a secular staff and the nuns who own the hotel live in a separate building. www.dnbhotel.com
Monti is one of Rome’s most enjoyable neighbourhood, where the layers of the city’s past intermingle with modern life: excellent local restaurants, cafes, boutique jewellers and artisan shops of all varieties. As a local neighbourhood, it also provides convenience for a long stay, with pharmacies, grocers and supermarkets. Monti is also very central to Rome’s attractions and is well served by the metro and bus routes, making it easy to get around the city on foot and by using the bus and metro network.
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.