Paris Through the Eyes of a Roman [Video]

I love Paris. But, Rome will forever be the Caput Mundi. La Città Eterna. La Città Più Bella del Mondo.

This video, from the guys from the Ritals web series, does a humorous job of breaking down what makes Rome great even in the face of Paris’s beauty and comparative orderliness. Continue reading Paris Through the Eyes of a Roman [Video]

Ancient Ruins, Virtual Reality: Archaeological Sites Embrace VR For Enhanced Experiences

Last weekend the Domus Aurea, also known as Nero’s Golden Palace, became the latest attraction to offer visitors the chance to wear virtual reality headsets while touring the site. Continue reading Ancient Ruins, Virtual Reality: Archaeological Sites Embrace VR For Enhanced Experiences

Best Places to Kiss in Rome

Before I tell you about the best places to kiss in Rome, you’ve got to really want to kiss and be kissed. Continue reading Best Places to Kiss in Rome

Rome’s Museums On A Metro Map

Rome is often called an outdoor museum. But the capital also has dozens of museums to explore, not only in the Centro Storico but beyond the walls.

Helping us locate all of these museums and galleries is a new map showing Rome’s museums as they relate to metro stops. Continue reading Rome’s Museums On A Metro Map

Rome’s Ancient Pantheon to Begin Charging Admission

The Pantheon, one of the last major landmarks in Rome with free entry, will soon begin to charge admission.

Continue reading Rome’s Ancient Pantheon to Begin Charging Admission

Palazzo Colonna: A Hidden Palace in the Heart of Rome

Context Travel invited me as a guest on their exclusive tour of Palazzo Colonna.

Although I have spent years exploring Rome, I am often surprised by little things I have never noticed. A spider decoration above a door or a hidden flood marker on the side of a building can fill me with glee. “Ahhhh, how many others have noticed that?” I muse.

But on a recent tour with Context Travel I found that there are still several very big things in this city that I have overlooked, places that have been hiding in plain sight that I just hadn’t bothered to check out. Continue reading Palazzo Colonna: A Hidden Palace in the Heart of Rome

You Now Have to Pay to See Rome’s “Mouth of Truth”

Truth is, it was bound to happen.

Church officials at Santa Maria in Cosmedin, site of Rome’s “Mouth of Truth” (Bocca della Verita), have decided to charge visitors €2 for the pleasure of taking one (just one!) photo with the ancient sewer cover. Continue reading You Now Have to Pay to See Rome’s “Mouth of Truth”

Things I Love (and Hate) About Rome in August

The calendar shows that Ferragosto takes place on August 15. The mid-August break coincides with the Assumption of Mary, in the way that Christmas conveniently takes place around the Winter Solstice.

The further south from Rome that you go, the more you’ll find towns that celebrate the Assumption. Romans typically use the old pagan name as well as adopt a libertine attitude towards the holiday, taking long breaks on either side of the fifteenth or even taking the whole month of August off.

I’ve talked before about what a traveler needs to have when visiting Italy in August. But now that I’ve spent two long, hot summers here in Rome, I feel compelled to share the reasons why I love and hate Rome in August.

Continue reading Things I Love (and Hate) About Rome in August

Cool Italian Street Art from The Drawing Bike

Rachele del Nevo parks her bike every day on the corner of Piazza Della Rotonda within view of the Pantheon. It is here, right outside of Tazza D’Oro (one of the city’s best known coffee shops) that she sells her one-of-a-kind souvenir drawings of some of the city’s gorgeous landmarks. Continue reading Cool Italian Street Art from The Drawing Bike

Photo of the Day: A Ray of Light in San Giovanni in Laterano

While hundreds wait in lines in the harsh sun to get into Saint Peter’s, the Archbasilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, also known as the Cathedral of Rome, is practically empty. San Giovanni is the oldest and largest papal basilica in Rome, although it has gone through many reconstructions over the years due to earthquakes, fires, and vandalism (by the actual Vandals, in the 5th century).

Admission to San Giovanni in Laterano is free. But you can purchase a ticket to visit the 13th century cloister, located through a door to the left of the altar, and the Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctorum (the Holy Stairs and Holy Sanctum, located across the street), one of the most important sites of pilgrimage outside of Vatican City.

In Rome, Communing Over Coffee

Cappuccino

In the mornings after I’ve sent the kids off to school and tidied up the house I go down and have my morning cappuccino.

Continue reading In Rome, Communing Over Coffee

The Pantheon On Pentecost Sunday

Pantheon at Pentecost: Rose Petals

Easter may have come and gone but the ceremonies and spectacles surrounding this holy time continue long after Easter Sunday mass at Saint Peter’s.

Fifty days after Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate Pentecost Sunday, a day when the Holy Spirit is said to come down to earth. Rome celebrates this day by raining rose petals down into the Pantheon through its oculus.

The ancient Pantheon, known since the 7th century as St. Mary and the Martyrs or Santa Maria Rotonda, hosts the event called Pioggia dele Rose (The Rain of Roses) or Pioggia di Petali (The Rain of Petals)  in the afternoon following Pentecost mass. The event is free.

On This Day: ‘La Dolce Vita’ Wins the Cannes Film Festival

Fifty-five years ago today—May 20, 1960—Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Watch “Three Reasons” why this film remains a classic.

For more details on where “La Dolce Vita” was filmed, explore this list of Fellini’s film locations from Rome and Rimini.

Photo of the Day: Mithras in the Vatican

Before Christianity became the dominant religion of Rome, many people worshipped Mithras, the pagan God depicted here. Continue reading Photo of the Day: Mithras in the Vatican

Artist Residency in Italy, Fall 2015

If you’re an artist (writer, photographer, etc.), you may be able to get into a residency program in Italy this fall. The nonprofit 33oc.org will host its residency program in Toffia, a small village north of Rome. Cost per artist per month is 250 euros. Follow the link below for more info on the application process and eligibility. Deadline to apply is June 14, 2015.

AUTUMN 2015 RESIDENCY IN ITALY

Source: RU Opportunities | AUTUMN 2015 RESIDENCY IN ITALY

In Rome, Hoteliers In Revolt Over State of the City

On Tuesday, coincidentally Rome’s 2,768th birthday, more than 200 city hoteliers wrote an open letter to Mayor Ignazio Marino about the “embarrassing situation” that the capital is facing.

As reported in La Repubblica, the members of ADA Lazio, headed by Roberto Necci, said that the city is in a state of “filth and degradation” and is not ready for the Holy Jubilee of Mercy, which Pope Francis announced would begin on December 8, 2015. There should also be an influx of tourists traveling south after visiting the Milan Expo, which begins on May 1.

A rough translation from La Repubblica:

“Italians and foreigners who come to town hoping to experience a stay in the style of La Dolce Vita do not find Rome of Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty,” but a capital invaded by illegal stalls of street vendors, mountains of waste in front of the bins and touts offering scams of all kinds. ‘We are very concerned,’ explains Roberto Necci, president and director Ada Lazio Savoy hotel (4 stars), just a few steps from Via Veneto. ‘The image of Rome in international newspapers and websites continues to be associated with degradation and facts such as the chaos of the transport strike in recent days.'”

Continue reading In Rome, Hoteliers In Revolt Over State of the City

Natale di Roma: Rome Celebrates Its Birthday

This post is about the birth of Rome, not about the birth of Christ. Both occasions use the word “Natale” in Italian. For posts about Christmas in Rome and Italy, click here.

Most city foundation stories are pretty straightforward. But the origin story of the city of Rome is more akin to something you would read in a comic book about superheroes.

According to city legend, Rome was founded on April 21, 753 B.C. by Romulus and named after him. The Natale di Roma, the birthday of Rome, is quite a complicated story.

Continue reading Natale di Roma: Rome Celebrates Its Birthday

A Show of Hands

The hand of Michelangelo's David, © Accademia

It all started with David.

Michelangelo’s statue of David was one of the first pieces of sculpture that I knew I had to see in person. Recognized worldwide as a symbol of Florence, David is marble come to life especially when you look at his hands. My European Art History professor many years ago urged us to study David’s hands — tense, veiny, and with visible knuckles and creases.

Ever since falling in love with David, I have developed a mini-obsession with men’s hands (of the marble and human variety). Are you a male sitting across from me on the tram idly glancing at your phone or reading a book? I’ve probably admired your hands (or found fault with them — sorry, but your cuticles are a wreck!).

Luckily, Rome has given me other opportunities to observe men’s hands without feeling like a creep. The Vatican Museums and the Capitoline Museums both house countless classical statues from Ancient Rome and Greece. It’s in fact likely that the artists who taught Michelangelo how to sculpt were familiar with and inspired by some of the ancient statuary now housed in these museums. Continue reading A Show of Hands

The Colosseum, On High and Down Low

"Are you not entertained?" - I couldn't help but ham it up for this once-in-a-lifetime shot! (Note to self: get your roots done!)

One of the things you need to know about touring Rome (and many other places in Italy) is that if you want to see something really special, then you’ll have to pay extra for it by going on a guided tour. While tours can certainly eat into your travel budget, they can also transform a trip into something extraordinary.

I had always wanted to see the dungeons of the Colosseum, those underground niches where once were housed thousands of roaring, barking, gnashing, lumbering wild animals primed for gladiatorial showcases and death matches. The Colosseum dungeons are a gruesome, if not key, part of the Flavian Amphitheater’s history. And the only way anyone can see them today — meaning, walk down into and around them — is by booking a tour with a private guide. This limits the number of visitors into the bowels of stadium, thereby keeping wear and tear on the nearly 2,000-year-old monument to a minimum.

There are a number of reputable tour companies that can take you down into the dungeons (in groups of 12 or fewer). Last month, I was lucky enough to join The Roman Guy, a small but growing tour guide company, as a guest on its Colosseum-Dungeon tour.

Continue reading The Colosseum, On High and Down Low

Will the Vatican Museums finally limit the number of visitors?

Last week, I finally had a chance to revisit the Vatican Museums. It had been more than a decade since I had gone. And I had been reluctant to visit because of the crowds, which wrapped around the block. But my mother was in town, so I had a good excuse to go.

Getting in was easy enough, as we had reserved tickets through the Vatican Museums online ticketing system. Rain poured down on us as we got off the tram and walked uphill to the entrance. Most everyone there at 9:30 a.m. were part of a group or had reserved online so we were all kind of in the same line (scrum) to get in. Getting through the main doors, queueing up at the ticket window to get our “real” tickets (our printed reservations were just that), and walking through security took about 10-15 minutes.  No big deal.

But honestly, the Vatican Museums left me wanting this time. Or rather they left me with the feeling that I never want to visit again. Continue reading Will the Vatican Museums finally limit the number of visitors?