Back in the 90’s, I was a broke but dreamy architecture student who took a big risk to come study in Rome. It was expensive. It was hard. And yet, I loved it so much. Everything from the smells to the colors to the effervescent Roman culture, lived out in the piazzas. I hated going back and spent years trying to figure out how to return, even for a few hours, to the city that captured my imagination.
It is therefore an enormous privilege and life goal to have my first AWS Rome tour group here with me. I get to show people my favorite things and tell all the stories—and that’s an actual job??? I remember my mother visiting me all those years ago, and as I showed her around the city, she told me I would make a good tour guide. I don’t even know why I remember that.
I often think about how strange the path of life can be. I would never have guessed, even a few years ago, that this is where I’d end up. Back to the beginning, back to the place that calls to my heart like no other. The truth is that my true love is Rome.
As Rome is a place I know well, I’ve always wanted to run a tour that got to know the city in a different, more thoughtful way. Instead of doing the usual things (which attract big crowds) I have opted to take my group to see the wonders that others miss.
We kicked off today with a tour of the Capitoline Hill, with its fabulous museum and stunning view of the Forum. In the evening, we met to visit the Domus Aurea, Nero’s Golden House, which gives a sense of what is buried beneath the city.
After an aperitivo and Roman pizza dinner, we all fell into bed at our lovely, quiet hotel that faces the Palatine ruins. A truly Roman day with nice weather to boot.
Day 3 of my Rome Staycation
We focused on Baroque Rome today, the period of art and architecture in the 17th-18th century that was fueled by the counter reformation. We enjoyed a tour of the Borghese Gallery, then an elegant lunch in a palace, followed by a visit to the same palace.
We then had an aperitivo and watched the sun set on the terrace over piazza Navona. A fabulous day in excellent company.
Today was all about backstreets and lesser known treasures of Rome. We started the day at Santa Maria in Cosmedin, admiring the ancient church and famous “Mouth of Truth”. After, I took the group in a walk through the charming streets of Trastevere, where I once lived.
We stopped for biscotti, and visited my favorite church, Santa Maria in Trastevere, to leave our prayer notes. Our highlight was a visit to Villa Farnesina, which was frescoed by Raphael.
For lunch, we did a cooking class with Rimessa Roscioli and got to try their fabulous and unique wine pairings. Another day of La Dolce Vita in the most beautiful city.
Rome is an excellent city for easy day trips—there are tons of choices. I took my group to the Castelli Romani today, beautiful villages in the hills outside of Rome.
We saw the Pope’s summer home at Castelgandolfo, then ate a porchetta lunch in Ariccia. We finished our day with a tour of the rationalist architecture or EUR.
Maybe you’ve never heard of any of these things, but that’s sort of the point. There are incredible things in and around Rome to visit that are not the Colosseum or Vatican. We tend, as tourists, to do what we think we “should” do rather than choose to do what may give a richer view of a place. This was an offbeat but thoroughly Roman day.
Day 6 of Rome Staycation
Today was our last full day. We spent it investigating the Christian side of Rome. There are hundreds of churches in Rome, how do you make a selection? We started with the baptistery where Constantine was baptized, then San Giovanni which is the cathedral of Rome (not the Vatican as you might have thought)
We scaled the holy stairs to see the Sanctum Sanctorum, then stopped for a coffee, sweetened with egg cream. Santa Prassede was next, which has my favorite Byzantine mosaics in the city, and then we finished with Santa Maria Maggiore, the third most important church in the city. Whew!
We celebrated the end of our tour this evening with a fantastic dinner that included artichokes, and finished with gelato at my favorite gelato shop, Giolitti.
It’s been a fantastic and jam-packed week. I loved every minute and can’t wait to do it again next year!