Discover Rome: Exciting Tours of the Eternal City

Join the Mixa’s on their Journey of Rome

St. Peter's Basilica -

St. Peter’s Basilica -

By Charlene & Richard Mixa Rome, the cradle of one of the greatest civilizations ever, has influenced the world for 3,000 years. A rich heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere, makes Rome one of the world’s most visited, famous, and influential capitals. A sightseeing mecca of palaces, century old churches, romantic ruins, elegant fountains, elaborate statues, and magnificent monuments. Rome is overwhelming! Research and pre-scheduling tours assures an exciting visit to the Eternal City.

The Fountain of the Four Rivers

The Fountain of the Four Rivers

Rome Shines at Night! Our private Night Tour of Rome begins at Piazza Novona with Vincenzo, from Rome Guides. At 8:30 PM our walking tour of this famous city avoids the daytime crowds. It’s a fascinating history lesson from the Roman Empire to the Barbarians to the Renaissance to the Baroque Period as Vincenzo enchants us with the uniqueness of each sight, the artist, architect or emperor. Two legendary architects of Rome, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, contributed more to the city’s Baroque heritage than any other artists in Rome. In the Piazza Novona is Bernini’s gracious marble sculptures The Fountain of the Four Rivers. It depicts the four great rivers in the four continents of the Nile (Africa), the Ganges (Asia), the Danube (Europe) and the Rio De la Plata (America) each with a dramatic allegorical figures. Across from the fountain is the Church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone designed and constructed by the pragmatic Borromini. Bernini’s and Borromini’s different personalities cause numerous conflicts that impact the creations of these artists and their work throughout the city.

Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy

Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy

Down alleys we learn the history of a small church, see the strange designs of a statue and hear the anecdotes of the artists. Winding the narrow streets we arrive at the 2,000 year old Pantheon, the best-preserved of all Ancient Rome buildings. Its dome is still the world’s largest reinforced concrete dome in the world. At the columns from the Temple of Hadrian, we hear tales of Hadrian’s impact on the Roman Empire.  Lights shine at the Piazza Venezia and the imposing Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, first king of Italy. Here also is Capitoline Hill and Trajan’s Forum, all illuminated creating a magical scene. Looking at the Trajan Column, Vincenzo explains the carvings in the column commemorate the Roman Emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars. Colosseum at NightPassing the Roman Forum we are awed by the soft glow of the Colosseum. Using some pocket technology, Vincenzo shows how the colosseum originally looked. Beautiful! Terrific to see this city in its “lights of the night.” Our three hour tour provides an enchanting history of the Eternal City as we visit numerous sites and ruins. The night tour is a phenomenal base for our daytime self-guided tours and walks through Rome. Ugh, touring in the day the traffic, tourist, and crowds, has us appreciating the Eternal City’s beauty and serenity at night.

The Vatican Museum - in the early morning

The Vatican Museum – in the early morning

Avoid Crowds at the Vatican A “must see” are the magnificent Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. No pushy crowds on our Early Morning Vatican Experience with Carlo, of Rome Guide Services. For this private tour we enter before the general public. Carlo begins with an insightful introduction to the Vatican Museums that displays works from the immense collection of the Popes throughout the centuries. Some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world are housed here. Astonishing, there are 54 galleries including the Sistine Chapel. Glad to have Carlo assist us in selecting what to see.

Carriage of a Pope in the Carriage Pavilion

Carriage of a Pope in the Carriage Pavilion

Strolling the Gallery of Tapestries, we learn the tapestries belong to two different periods and manufacturers. Flemish tapestries woven in the 16th century by the workshop of Pieter van Aelst is the best in Europe during the renaissance period. Tapestries woven in Rome by Barberini workshop commemorate important moments in the life of Pope Urban VIII. The ceiling is also an amazing masterpiece. Outside we walk through the Vatican Garden seeing a serene fountain setting then the intriguing modern day statue, “Sphere within a Sphere.” A huge fractured orb, depicts a cracked orb inside, showing yet another cracked sphere symbolizing the fragility and complexity of the world. In the Carriage Pavilion are the highly polished carriages, automobiles and sedan chairs of the popes. Admiring the variety of methods of transportation for popes, we spot the popemobile and a magnificent horse drawn carriage. We are the only ones here.

The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is more than Michelangelo’s ceiling. Prior to going to the Chapel, Carlo shows the works of art in the Chapel on his iPad, the layout, and special features of Michelangelo’s ceiling. Entering this small chapel, it is serene yet elegant with its glorious artwork. Slowly we sit or stand at the front, then the middle, then back, carefully viewing the masterpieces in each section. We admire the artwork from the detailed tapestries of Raphael of scenes of the gospel to the frescoes with scenes from lives of Moses and Jesus visualizing the continuity between the old and new covenant to the highly praised Michelangelo’s ceiling and his Last Judgement on the wall behind the altar. Contrary to popular belief he painted from a standing position. Using bright colors, ceiling frescoes are visible from the floor. On the lowest part of the ceiling are the ancestors of Christ. Above this Michelangelo alternated male and female prophets. Then on the highest section are the nine stories from the Book of Genesis. On our visit, a priest welcomes all giving a blessing and together we recite the “Our Father” in Italian. Carlo gives excellent insight the extraordinary collection of art. Magnificent!

St. Peter's Basilica comparing sizes of other major churches

St. Peter’s Basilica comparing sizes of other major churches

Carlo, guides us to the elegant St. Peter’s Basilica and the renowned St. Peter’s Square. It’s surreal to stand at a sight we have seen many times on television. Bernini (remember him from our night tour) designed the majestic colonnade of St Peter’s Square. Now we step into the massive St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest Christian church in the world and an architectural masterpiece of the Renaissance and Baroque. Huge! Impressive! Overwhelming! An elongated nave in the Latin cross form with the central space dominated both externally and internally by one of the largest domes in the world. Luckily, Carlo keeps us focused. At Michelangelo’s Pietà, we sense Mary’s feelings holding Jesus after his death. A mesmerizing masterpiece! Carlo, points out major artwork, domes, statues, altars, chapels, and so much more giving details on each. Specific features are the baldachin, or canopy over the Papal Altar, designed by Bernini. The sanctuary culminates in a sculptural ensemble, also by Bernini, and contains the symbolic Chair of Saint Peter. Huge! Antother area compares St. Peter’s size to other churches around the world. Amazing the massiveness of St. Peter’s. We finish our tour with Carlo and continue to explore on our own the many chapels, artwork, and more at St. Peter’s. Touching the feet of St. Paul for good luck, we exit and end our morning by St. Peter’s Square. A huge line surrounds the square as visitors are lined up waiting over 2 hours to purchase tickets to tour the Vatican Museums and Basilica. Hurrah, for the Early Vatican Tour! Carlo’s guidance provided a magnificent visit to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.

Carlo educates us on wine pairing

Carlo educates us on wine pairing

An Italian Food & Wine Journey Italy brings visions of flavorful wines and tantalizing pasta. Desiring to truly experience Italian wine and food, we sign up for Eating Italy’s  “Italian Food & Wine Journey”. Marco, an Italian Master Sommelier and Executive Wine Master, welcomes us for an evening to experience the best food and wine tasting Rome has to offer. As one of only 50 Executive Wine Masters Sommeliers in all of Italy, his credentials are impressive. Wine pairing isn’t as simple as “white wine with fish, red with meat”. Italy has 7,000 species of vegetables, 1,200 individual grapes and1,029 type of different pastas. Plus there are 600 different chemical components in wine. Where and how to even begin to pair wines with this many types of food.

A toast to the Eating Italy's Italian Food & Wine Journey

A toast to the Eating Italy’s Italian Food & Wine Journey

Starting with a Prosecco, a sparkling wine, we begin an enjoyable and educational wine and food journey. During the evening, Marco guides us through 6 fine Italian wines – from sparkling whites to oaked reds to sweet dessert wine. Along with these wines we sample food from anchovies to Roman pasta dishes to Tuscan meats to real buffalo mozzarella to dessert. Amazing how one wine tastes smooth with a buffalo mozzarella and another gives a bitter taste. Being able to sample different wines with the same foods definitely educates us on how important pairing the right wine with the right food it enhances each. Fun, we are able to sample and experiment with the various wines and food. We better appreciate a Sommelier’s expertise in recommending specific wines with food to create a delicious pairing. Pairing a wine definitely enhances even the simplest of dishes while the wrong wine can have drastic consequences. An evening of excellent food, delicious wines, and new friends. We highly recommend the “Italian Food & Wine Journey” for a delectable and educational journey through Italian food and wine. If you go: Eating Italy, http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com Rome Guides, http://www.romeguides.it/en Rome Guide Services, http://romeguide.net/

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About Charlene Mixa

Seeing new places, learning about cultures and seeing the sights has always been my dream. Growing up I was blessed with parents that enjoyed traveling and thought nothing of taking a family of seven on excursions. My career in Human Resources and later as a consultant for an international Human Resource firm offered some travel, but I knew as my husband and I approached retirement, my goal was to do more traveling and broader trips. The nine years since retirement has been filled with fantastic adventures from short local one day trips to several week excursions. Living in Florida, it is especially enjoyable to be away in the summer to cooler climates. Multi-week driving trips across the good ol' USA, settling in for a month in the mountains to explore the local area, or a combination of both fill much of our summer season. Our travels are predominantly self-orchestrated, bringing the fun and challenge of getting everything to click. It's all about doing and sharing! Experiencing a travel adventure is exciting. Reliving a special travel moment with a friend or family is exhilarating. I feel my heart race and pulse quicken, as I sharing that special moment. Thank you for joining in my travel adventures and allowing me to hear your stories.