Discover the hidden treasures of Rome on this VIP insider's access tour of the Eternal City
- Insights from the West of Ireland
- Fabulous shots from Smithsonian Journeys Expert Kirt Kempter
- Visiting Mount Fuji, by way of rural Japan
- Saturday in Pamplona
Delve deep into the history and mystery of Rome with an insider’s look at the Eternal City’s vibrant culture and astonishing abundance of artistic treasures. On this eight-day insider's tour, you'll have special access to Rome’s finest art collections, ancient archaeological sites, and lesser-known gems.
Travel back in time to the early days of Christianity with a tour of the newly restored Catacombs of Priscilla, including special access to areas normally off-limits to visitors. Explore the famous Colosseum on a private tour that features the third tier and underground area. Enjoy private tours of architectural masterpieces and world-class Renaissance art collections, such as the Villa Farnesina, the Villa Doria Pamphili, and the Borghese Gallery. Continue your behind-the-scenes access with an exclusive visit to the Villa Madama, a Renaissance jewel owned by the Italian government and open only by special permission. And at the Vatican, you'll have a guided visit to the expansive St. Peter's Basilica (including the tomb of St. Peter) and the Vatican Museums, culminating in the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo's breathtaking ceiling frescoes. You'll also enjoy free time to explore more of what Rome has to offer—dozens of art museums, amazing churches, and cafés in picturesque piazzas. This tour of la bella Roma allows for an in-depth and culturally rich look at one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world.
Day 1 — Depart the U.S for Rome.
Day 2 — Rome
Arrive in Rome and transfer from the airport to your hotel, enjoying a panoramic guided sightseeing tour of the city en route. This evening, get to know your fellow tour participants at a festive welcome reception and dinner. (R,D)
Day 3 — Italian Villas, Colosseum
Begin the day with a private guided tour of the Villa Madama, a Renaissance gem begun by Raphael in 1518 and completed by his disciples after his early death. Commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, later Pope Clement VII, the villa is now owned by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and open to the public by special permit only. Travel even further back in Roman history with a visit to the iconic Colosseum, begun by the emperor Vespasian in 70 A.D. and completed 10 years later during the reign of his son Titus as a venue for gladiatorial games and other events. Enjoy a private guided tour of the underground areas – the “backstage” of the Colosseum – and the third tier, which offers spectacular views of the arena and beyond. Conclude the day’s guided sightseeing with a visit to the 17th-century Villa Doria Pamphili, featuring the largest landscaped public park in Rome and a fine collection of antiquities and sculpture. (B)
Day 4 — Villa Farnesina, Catacombe di Priscilla
Begin the day with a guided visit to the Villa Farnesina, built in the early 16th century for the wealthy Sienese banker Agostino Chigi. This suburban Renaissance palace features frescos by a variety of artists, including well-known works by Raphael. Next, take a private tour of the Catacombe di Priscilla, including exclusive access to rooms normally closed to the public. The burial place of early Christian martyrs, the catacombs recently underwent an extensive restoration project to preserve their stunning ancient wall paintings, which include the oldest known image of the Madonna and Child, dating from approximately 230 A.D. (B)
Day 5 — Vatican City
Today, visit the world’s smallest country, Vatican City. Begin with a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, descending to the necropolis below for a visit to the tomb of the apostle, recognized by the Vatican as the first pope. Next, explore the mind-boggling Vatican Museums with your guide, including a visit to the Sistine Chapel with its world-famous works by Michelangelo. The remainder of the day is free to explore Rome on your own. (B)
Day 6 — Rome
Visit the beautiful Borghese Gallery this morning for a guided tour of its impressive collection of paintings, sculpture, and antiquities, including numerous pieces by Bernini and Caravaggio, as well as works by Titian, Raphael, Rubens, and many others. (B,R)
Day 7 — Rome
Begin the day with a guided visit to Palazzo del Quirinale, the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic. Located on the highest of Rome’s seven hills, it was begun in 1583 as a summer residence for Pope Gregory XIII and is one of the largest palaces in the world. In the late 19th century, it became the official residence of the new Kings of Italy. In the afternoon, you may choose to explore the city further on your own or join an optional guided tour of the Forum, the center of ancient Roman civic life, with a local archaeologist. This evening, celebrate your Roman holiday with a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B,D)
Day 8 — Return to U.S.
Transfer from the hotel to the airport for homebound flights. (B)