Hidden Rome: Private Spaces of the Eternal City

11 Sep – 26 Sep 2017

  • Region:
    • Europe
    • Italy
  • Status: open
  • Code: 21729

Tour Highlights

This tour is limited to 20 participants
  • This tour is led by David Marshall Associate Professor in Renaissance and Baroque Art History, University of Melbourne.
  • A rich and diverse program, carefully designed to reflect the many different layers of Rome’s history and identity through a myriad visits to locations omitted from most tour itineraries. From the glories of Ancient Rome to the decadence of the Baroque, Rome provides a treasure trove of archaeology, sacred and secular art and architecture, fascinating streetscapes whose fabric reflects the city’s dynamic past.
  • Visit private palaces by special arrangement to enjoy exclusive access to the magnificent interiors behind their secretive façades.
  • Enjoy an evening at the Palazzo Patrizi with a tour by the owners, dinner in the grand dining room, and a private concert of Baroque music with a repertoire especially compiled for ASA’s group members.
  • Feast on the delights of some of Rome’s most renowned cafes and restaurants, from the delicious coffee and pastries at ‘Pasticceria Dagnino’, to the traditional  ‘Fiammetta’ Restaurant at Piazza Navona and ‘Nino’ Restaurant with its association with the Italian film industry.
  • Visit Lazio’s finest historic gardens, the Villa Lante, Castello Ruspoli, Villa Farnese and the Villa d’Este – country retreats for Rome’s mightiest families of the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
  • Enjoy the tranquil Giardini di Ninfa, a 20th century garden that incorporates the ruins of a long-abandoned medieval village, and La Landriana, a sumptuous garden designed by Russell Page and the Marchesa Taverna.
  • Encounter masterpieces by Caravaggio, Bernini, Raphael, Michelangelo and others whilst visiting the intimate Galleria Borghese, the Capitoline Museum and a selection of the city’s finest Renaissance and Baroque churches where great masterpieces are proudly displayed in the space for which they were created.
  • Relax on a 3-night sojourn outside Rome, staying in the hills outside Tivoli, and at the country villa retreat Casale di Tormaggiore. Enjoy scenic drives through Lazio’s beautiful countryside, admiring the panoramas that have inspired generations of artists.

16-day Cultural tour of Rome

Overnight Rome (8 nights) • Pomezia (2 nights) • Castel Madama (1 night) • Rome (4 nights)


Together with David Marshall, Associate Professor in Renaissance and Baroque Art History, we will explore some of the finest art, architecture and gardens Rome and her glorious hinterlands can offer. Of course we’ll see the greatest masterpieces of Renaissance and Baroque art, including the Galleria Borghese, but a highlight of this tour is David taking us ‘behind the scenes’ to some of the great private palaces of the Eternal City and private gardens of the campagna, made possible through his personal contacts and relationships, built up over thirty years. The Palazzo Colonna, Palazzo Barberini and Palazzo Patrizi open their doors to us, and we’ll be treated to musical concerts and receptions, and visit private apartments not open to the general public. We’ll explore the Roman countryside and enjoy the Castello Ruspoli at Vignanello, the Villa Lante at Bagnaia and the Villa Farnese at Caprarola. Rome’s glorious history is examined through monuments including the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the beautiful Early Christian church of S. Sabina and the extraordinary San Clemente, which reveals its many layers of history from the medieval church back to the use of the site as a pagan temple. The Renaissance and the Baroque were periods of great church building and decoration, and in Rome we will view breathtaking masterpieces by Bernini and other artists in situ at S. Maria della Vittoria, Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza and S. Luigi dei Francesi. During our 3-night sojourn beyond Rome, we’ll visit gorgeous private gardens at Tor Maggiore, La Landriana and Ninfa and revel in some of the most evocative sites in the Roman countryside: Hadrian’s villa and the Villa d’Este at Tivoli, medieval monasteries of Subiaco, and the rugged mountainous landscapes that inspired painters including Claude Lorrain and the German Nazarenes. We focus too on great cuisine in Rome, for which the city is rightly famous, exploring and enjoying the regional culinary traditions of Rome and the campagna, as well as dining in some of the city’s finest restaurants.


The following itinerary describes a range of museums, villas and gardens which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals, indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal.

Rome - 8 nights

Day 1: Monday 11 September, Arrive Rome
  • Short introductory meeting
  • Pantheon
  • Welcome Drinks

Participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to our hotel in Rome’s city centre. After a short introductory meeting we commence our tour at one of Rome’s most significant monuments, the Pantheon. The building’s cavernous interior exemplifies ancient Roman architecture’s modelling of vast areas of space, with an enormous hemispherical dome springing from its circular walls. The ancient fabric of the building has been beautifully preserved and it has been in continuous use throughout its history, first as a temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome, and since the 7th century as a church dedicated to St Mary and the Martyrs. Our evening ends with a convivial Welcome Drink at one of the many traditional bars in the area. (Overnight Rome)

Day 2: Tuesday 12 September, Rome
  • Palazzo Colonna
  • Walking tour of the Piazza di Pietra, Piazza Sant’Ignazio and the Piazza Colonna
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Trinita ai Monte
  • Welcome Evening Meal at Nino

We start our day with a very special visit to the Palazzo Colonna, one of the oldest and grandest palaces in the heart of Rome and still lived in by the Colonna family after 800 years. Our exclusive visit will include the Galleria Colonna with its impressive art collection, and the richly decorated and luxuriously furnished Princess Isabella Apartment.

We will then explore three of the nearby piazzas and their monuments that tell the rich urban history of the area. The Piazza Colonna is named for the Column of Marcus Aurelius, the immense 2nd century column that narrates the tale of the Emperor’s victory over the tribes of the Danube. Often overlooked by visitors to the piazza is the little Baroque church of Santi Bartolomeo ed Alessandro dei Bergamaschi. The church is looked after by a confraternity and is currently closed to the public, but we will stop to admire its charming façade before continuing to the Piazza di Pietra where we see how the remains of the Temple of Hadrian have been incorporated into a later palazzo, now the Borsa Bank. In addition to one wall of the sanctuary, 11 of the 15 Corinthian columns of the side colonnade have survived. Dominating the Piazza Sant’Ignazio is the grand Baroque church of Sant’Ignazio, sumptuously decorated with marble, gilt, stucco and paintings. The church is renowned for its illusionistic Trompe l’oeil frescoed ceiling, particularly the ‘dome’. The most interesting aspect of the piazza is the fascinating interplay between the buildings erected in the early 18th century which create an intriguing stage-set design.

After time at leisure we meet again and transfer to the Trinita ai Monte where we shall enjoy special access to areas of the convent complex usually closed to visitors. We then walk down the Spanish Steps to Nino’s, one of Rome’s legendary restaurants associated with the film industry, for a ‘welcome’ evening meal. (Overnight Rome) BD

Day 3: Wednesday 13 September, Rome
  • S Luigi dei Francesi
  • Sant’ Agostino
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Palazzo Farnese (subject to confirmation in 2017)

The focus of our morning is the life and work of Caravaggio. We walk the short distance to Piazza di San Luigi dei’ Francesi; this piazza is ‘Caravaggio country’. On one corner is the Palazzo Madama, formerly Palazzo del Monte, the palace of Cardinal del Monte who ‘discovered’ Caravaggio and commissioned his Concert, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller, and where Caravaggio resided from 1597 to 1600. Word of the artist’s talents spread and Vincenzo Giustiniani, in the palazzo across the street, commissioned versions of the same pictures. Both these palaces are now occupied by the Italian Senate and are not accessible. Next to Palazzo Giustiniani is the palazzo of the Patrizi family, for whom a few years later Caravaggio painted his Supper at Emmaus now in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.

Facing Palazzo Patrizi, and beside Palazzo Madama, is the French church of S. Luigi dei Francesi. Here the influence of Cardinal del Monte resulted in Caravaggio’s first great religious commission, the Story of St Matthew. We will look closely at this cycle, and attempt to resolve some still controversial questions about what is actually going on in the pictures. On the other side of the church is another magnificent chapel frescoed 15 years later by an artist of the opposing classical school, Domenichino, which focuses on the life of St Cecilia. In the nearby church of Sant’Agostino we encounter another Caravaggio – Madonna of Loreto. The unveiling of the painting to the public caused a sensation. Instead of a traditional representation of the modest Virgin in a beautiful setting, Caravaggio represented her barefoot like the pilgrims to whom she is appearing, leaning again an old crumbling wall.

After time at leisure, we meet again in the afternoon and walk to Palazzo Farnese, one of the most important High Renaissance palaces in the city. It was first built in 1517, but was greatly expanded when Alessandro Farnese became Pope Paul III in 1543. The ceiling of the Farnese Gallery was painted by Annibale Carracci at the end of the 16th century with the important fresco cycle The Loves of the Gods. The Palazzo is now the French Embassy and they greatly restrict access to the public. The visit can only be arranged through a complex application process two months prior to the travel date. (Overnight Rome) B

Day 4: Thursday 14 September, Rome
  • S Sabina all’Avetino
  • Grand Priory of the Rome of the Order of the Knights of Malta & S Maria del Priorato (subject to confirmation in 2017)
  • S. Maria in Domnica & S. Stefano Rotondo
  • Palazzo Patrizi – tour, musical concert and dinner

This morning we explore the area of the Avetine Hill and its surrounds. We first make a visit to the church of Santa Sabina. This is one of the oldest extant churches in the city and it has preserved much of its 5th century appearance, including the use of selenite rather than glass in the windows, giving the interior a warm soft light. Reused Roman columns divide the nave and the side aisles and although the original mosaic was replaced in the 16th century, the subject matter and composition probably remained the same. Perhaps most remarkable is the church’s original wooden door which retails 18 of its carved panels depicted biblical scenes.

With a prime position on the Avetine Hill is the Grand Priory in Rome of the Order of the Knights of Malta. The property includes a beautiful garden with a view directly across the city to the Vatican. Although closed to the public, a famous tradition is for visitors to the city to peek through the gate’s large keyhole to see a perfectly framed vista of the dome of St Peters. The church of the order is S Maria del Priorato. This church is currently undergoing restoration. However, if the works are complete at the time of our visit, one of the Knights of Malta will give us a special tour of this remarkable church.

We then transfer to the Caelian Hill where we shall visit two churches. S. Stefano Rotondo, a well-preserved 5th century church with a circular plan, the first to have been built in Rome in this style and inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The church fell into disrepair during the middle ages and underwent extensive restoration work in the 15th century, to which time most of the interior belongs.

The afternoon will then be at leisure before we re-meet at the hotel and walk the short distance to the Palazzo Patrizi. The palazzo is still owned by the Patrizi family, who will host us for a special evening at their home. We will be guided through the second piano nobile by Marchese Corso Patrizi, with input from David, who is an expert on the palace and the now lost villa of the Patrizi family. (We may also be able to visit the piano nobile, which is normally let to embassies or foundations, depending on circumstances.) Here we will learn about one of the older Roman noble families, whose members include Giovanni Patrizi, who, like Count of Monte Cristo, was imprisoned in the Chateau d’If during the French occupation and escaped, to be made Senator of Rome; Cardinal Patrizi, who built a great villa but who died without ever living in it; Virginia Patrizi, one of the liveliest socialites of 18th century Rome and her more tragic stepmother Ottavia; the donna di ferro (iron lady), Porzia; Mariano and Franceco Patrizi, amateur artists and astronomers; and Francesco Patrizi, the leading light in the mid-nineteenth century art world.

We will visit rooms with their original 18th century furnishing, including one decorated with astronomical and astrological scenes, and also rooms embellished with paintings from the family of the Marchese Patrizi’s mother who was from the Florentine Frescobaldi family. These include works by Pontormo and Lavinia Fontana, as well as family portraits, views of the villa, and paintings and sculpture of all kinds, and murals by Francesco Vanni. We will seat ourselves on original sofas in the main corner room, the Sala Rossa, for a concert. Then we will adjourn to the grand dining room next door for a full three course dinner with wine (Frescobaldi, of course) cooked by the Patrizi family’s personal chef, beneath a display of one of the finest and only complete early 19th century Meissen service. Then, after dessert, we will go to the last room, redecorated in the 19th century by the art-patron Francesco, for one of the great hidden surprise rooms of Rome, the details of which cannot be revealed here! (Overnight Rome) BD

Day 5: Friday 15 September, Rome
  • Galleria Borghese
  • Galleria d’Arte Moderna
  • Group Lunch at Caffè delle Arti
  • Villa Medici
  • Spanish Steps
  • S Maria del Popolo

This morning we visit the Galleria Borghese and its extraordinary art collection that was started by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, an early patron of Bernini and an avid collector of Caravaggio. Here we can trace the evolution of Bernini’s fascinating sculptural illusionism in his early monumental sculptures such as the Pluto and Proserpine (Hades and Persephone) and his extraordinary Apollo and Daphne. We will see Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of FruitSt. Jerome and Sick Bacchus, as well as Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, Raphael’s Entombment of Christ and works by Peter Paul Rubens and Federico Barocci.

We then walk through the Villa Borghese Gardens to the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, housed in a vast Belle Époque palace. The art collections here range from Neoclassical Sculpture through to 20th century art and highlights include works by Modigliani, Degas, Cezanne, Kandinsky, Klimt, Jackson Pollock and Henry Moore.

After lunch at the museum we walk to the Villa Medici that currently houses the French Academy in Rome. During the construction of the villa numerous ancient Roman sculptures were unearthed and these were incorporated into the external fabric of the new building. Nearby are the Spanish Steps and here we break for afternoon coffee. You may choose to visit the extraordinary Ristorante Museo Canova Tadolini, the former studio of the sculptor Canova and his successor Tadolini. It is filled with the original plaster models of major monumental sculptures around Rome. Alternatively, you might like to take coffee at the Caffé Greco in Via Condotti. This is one of the oldest cafés in Rome and the haunt of artists in the 19th century, whose paintings and portraits line the walls of its intimate salons.

We end our day with a visit to S. Maria del Popolo. This church, dating from the 15th century, has three of the most important chapels in Rome. The first is the Chigi chapel, designed by Raphael for Agostino Chigi, with sculptures added by Bernini in the 17th century. Second is the Cerasi chapel, where Annibale Carracci (who painted the altarpiece of the Assumption of the Virgin) was in competition with Caravaggio (who painted the lateral picture of the Crucifixion of St Peter and the Conversion of Saul). The third is the Cybo chapel designed by Bernini’s pupil Carlo Fontana with a major altarpiece by Carlo Maratta. The nave of the church was remodelled by Bernini in the 17th century, and there are other treasures by Pinturicchio. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 6: Saturday 16 September, Rome – Caprarola – Vignanello – Bagnaia – Rome
  • Villa Farnese, Caprarola
  • Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello
  • Villa Lante, Bagnaia

Today we make a day excursion out of Rome. Our first visit is the Villa Farnese at Caprarola – a vast pentagonal palazzo dominating the attached town, with spectacular views towards Mount Soratte and Rome. It was designed by Vignola, and was frescoed by Taddeo and Federico Zuccari and others with some of the most arcane frescoes of the Renaissance. We tour the villa with its rooms divided into Summer and Winter apartments, including the room telling the history of the Farnese family, the bedroom (Sala dell’Aurora) and back to the main loggia with the view. We then enter the two formal gardens behind the villa, and visit the Upper Garden. This has a large pavilion (not open for visits) at the top of a spectacular water staircase designed by Rainaldi.

We next travel to Vignanello where we take a guided tour of Palazzo Ruspoli. This is one of the few surviving gardens associated with a feudal castle, and one of the oldest. It takes the form of a complex green box parterre, best seen from the palace windows, with a secret garden beside it. The castle (modelled on the Villa Farnese) has a wonderful sense of antiquity. We will hear about the exploits of the Martescotti-Ruspoli family, who still owns the palazzo, including one female ancestor who killed her husband and erased his coat of arms from the fire-place, in contrast to another who was made a saint. One of the many famous people who stayed at the Castello was the English composer Handel.

Our last visit before returning to Rome is the Villa Lante at Bagnaia. Of Renaissance gardens in Italy, this is the ‘flower of them all’. It was the country retreat of the Bishop of Viterbo and was designed by Vignola. There is an extensive park, with a fountain as you enter, but the main sight is a rectangular garden stepping down the hill and overlooking the town. At the bottom is a box parterre, with two casini at either side. Ramps lead up to the Fountain of the Lights, above which is a long stone table with water running down a channel through its length. Above are further fountain systems, with grottoes, sculptures and casini(Overnight Rome) BL

Day 7: Sunday 17 September, Rome
  • Churches of S. Maria in Vallicella, Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, S. Andrea delle Valle, S Carlo ai Catinari & S Maria in Portico in Campitelli
  • Capitoline Museum
  • Roman Forum
  • Group Evening Meal at Fiammetta

This morning we take a picturesque walk in order to understand the underlying urban structure of one of the most interesting areas of Rome that is often by-passed by visitors to the city. We visit the church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza. Hidden in the porticoed courtyard of Palazzo della Sapienza , this tiny church is a masterpiece of baroque architecture. Built by Francesco Borromini between 1642 and 1660, and based on a complex geometric plan, it combines alternating convex and concave walls with a circular interior topped by a twisted spire.

We pass Sant’Andrea della Valle and the Palazzo Massimo, which were on opposite sides of the Via Papale, one of the two main medieval routes through Rome from the Ponte Sant’Angelo, where it widened into the 19th century Corso Vittorio. Palazzo Massimo has an unusual curved façade and was designed by Baldassare Peruzzi, who also worked on the plans for the new St Peters. Going past Sant’Andrea we enter a curved street that is built upon the foundations of the Theatre of Pompey, the site of the assassination of Julius Caesar. We pay a short visit to the church of S Carlo ai Catinari to admire the Chapel of S. Cecilia by Antonio Gheradi (1695-1700). From the steps we can see the forking medieval road system, overlaid with modern interventions. Following the upper branch, we come to Piazza Mattei which has one of the most picturesque fountains in Rome, the Fountain of the Tortoises (Fontana delle Tartarughe). Nearby is the Palazzo Mattei with a courtyard encrusted with antiquities. We then come to S. Maria in Campitelli. This plague church, by Carlo Rainaldi, has one of the most unusual facades in Rome and a fascinating interior. At the heart of the church is a magnificent gloria in gilt wood, built to contain the icon of the Madonna. We follow the Via Capizucchi to Piazza Margana, an intriguing little backwater, and along the Via di Tor de’ Specchi (tower of mirrors) to the Piazza del Campidoglio, laid out by Michelangelo in the 1560s on the Capitoline Hill of ancient Rome.

With his design for the Campidoglio Michelangelo created one of the world’s first great museum complexes. We go first to the Palazzo Nuovo, completed 1650 and developed as a museum in the 17th and 18th centuries. Here are found some of the most famous antique statues known in the 18th century, including the Dying Gaul, the Marble Faun (written about by Nathianel Hawthorne), the Cupid and Psyche, the Furietti Centaurs, and the Capitoline Venus. From a subterranean passageway beneath the Palazzo Senatorio we enter the Ancient Roman record office, the Tabularium, overlooking the Forum. We cross to the older Palazzo dei Conservatori which celebrates the antiquity of the site with frescoes by Cavaliere d’Arpino and such famous antique statues as the Spinario (Thorn-puller) and the Capitoline Wolf. The Picture Gallery in this Palazzo houses the Sacchetti and Pio di Savola collections, including works by Titian, Caravaggio and Rubens.

After lunch we walk down the hill to the Forum Romanum, the civic, political and religious heart of Ancient Rome. We will see the splendid triumphal arches of Titus and of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal Virgins, the Basilica Julia, Basilica Aemilia and the Curia Julia, and the rostra from which the great figures of the Republic and Empire delivered their speeches.

Tonight we have dinner at Fiammetta, a local restaurant situated in one of the small streets leading to Piazza Navona. (Overnight Rome) BD

Day 8: Monday 18 September, Rome
  • Church of San Clemente
  • Church & Convent SS Quartro Coronati
  • Non-Catholic Cemetery & Pyramid of Cestius
  • Church of S Prassede
  • Basilica of S Maria Maggiore

We start our day with a visit to one of the city’s most beautiful and fascinating sites – San Clemente. This medieval church has exquisite apse mosaics with a representation of Christ on the Cross, surrounded by a great Vine of Life, all hanging in a scintillating gold background. We will also see the remains of its ambo, the traditional chancel furniture of a medieval basilica, and paintings by Masaccio’s associate, Masolino (1383-1447). The medieval church was carefully and sensitively restored in the 18th century.

In the 1860s, during maintenance work on the medieval church, workmen discovered that the church stood on earlier levels, and that the whole structure is like an architectural palmipsest, reflecting the continuous use of the site over millennia. Beneath the medieval church is an Early Christian church of the 4th-century, constructed when Christianity became dominant in the city, and containing a number of 11th century fresco cycles. This church was filled-in with dirt and rubble when the 12th century church was built.

The rebuilding of one church on top of another is not uncommon, though in most cases the earlier church is kept in use as a crypt. What makes San Clemente so extraordinary is that there is another older layer beneath the Early Christian church. We will descend to the level of ancient Rome and find ourselves in a narrow paved street. Here there are the remains of a private multi-level domus that was used for secretive Christian worship before the Edict of Milan, a mithraeum – a sanctuary for the cult of the pagan Mithras – including the altar, and also a warehouse from the Republican era. Perhaps most fascinating of all is the aqueduct that runs along one end of the excavated area, still carrying water today.

We walk the short distance to visit the Church of SS Quatro Corontati with its beautifully tranquil cloister and painted chapel depicting the life of Constantine.

We stop for lunch at one of the local restaurants in the Testaccio district at the foot of the Avetine Hill. This is located near the western walls of the old city and a short walk will take us to the Porta San Paolo where the extraordinary 1st century BC Pyramid of Cestius is located.

Alongside this beautifully preserved ancient structure is the Protestant Cemetery and we will take a tour through this tranquil pocket which is the final resting place for the non-Catholic residents of Rome in the 18th and 19th centuries. We will pause at the tombstones of Keats who died of tuberculosis in 1821, of Shelley who drowned off the Italian Riviera in 1822 and other notable writers, artists and scholars.

We next visit Santa Prassede, a 9th century basilica. Famous for its glorious Byzantine mosaics, this church is dedicated to St Praxedes, an early Christian heroine who hid Christians fleeing persecution and buried those she couldn’t save in a well. The position of the well is now marked by a marble disc on the floor of the nave.

Our final visit for the day is to the great papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, adorned with mosaics in the apse and nave that date from the 5th century.  (Overnight Rome) BL

Pomezia - 2 nights

 Day 9: Tuesday 19 September, Rome – Castel Gandolfo – Pomezia
  • Barberini Gardens, Castel Gandolfo (subject to confirmation in August 2017)
  • Lunch at Ristorante Pagnenelli

This morning we depart Rome for our short sojourn in the countryside and drive to Castel Gandolfo, a charming town located 15 kilometres away on the shore of Lago Albano. Within the town’s boundaries lies the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo which serves as a summer residence and vacation retreat for the Pope. The complex also includes the Barberini gardens, recently open again to the public, and a splendid example of a formal Art Deco garden. These occupy the site of the ancient palace of Domitian, and ruins of this once great structure can been found throughout.

We enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Ristorante Pagnenelli overlooking Lago Albano, before continuing on to Tormaggiore where we will be welcomed by Marchese Marino Serlupi Crescenzi, whose talk explains the presence of his family in the region for centuries, and his vision for his villa’s garden. The estate was originally a typical fattoria, or farm. The casale, or farmhouse, has been recreated as a villa used by the Serlupi family, and the accommodation is in converted farm buildings. At Tormaggiore we can walk around the extensive gardens, swim in the pool, or relax in the suites and rooms, each with their own garden.

This evening we come together for a pre-dinner aperitif followed by a buffet dinner featuring the local speciality, mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella). (Overnight Casale di Tormaggiore, Pomezia) BLD

Day 10: Wednesday 20 September, Pomezia – Ariccia – Ninfa – Pompezia
  • Santa Maria dell’Assunta, Ariccia
  • Palazzo Chigi – incl. the Apartments of Cardinal Flavio Chigi (subject to confirmation in 2017)
  • Giardini di Ninfa, Cisterna di Latina

This morning we drive to Ariccia, where we first visit the Church of Santa Maria dell’Assunta, designed by Bernini. It is perfectly preserved and can best be understood as Bernini’s interpretation of what the Pantheon in Rome was originally like.

We then visit the Palazzo Chigi. This is a prime example of a feudal palace in the Alban Hills with an attached hunting park, developed in the 17th century under the Chigi pope Alexander VII, who also developed the new church of Santa Maria dell’Annunziazione facing it across the Piazza designed by Bernini. Until the 1990s this palace still belonged to the Chigi and had hardly been changed since its construction; it has now undergone restoration, but it is particularly important for its rare intact 17th century interiors. We will look at the piano nobile, which has a little domestic chapel with the sinopia of a Bernini fresco. The Apartments of Cardinal Flavio Chigi have rooms with stamped leather hangings and late 17th century beds that were used in Visconti’s film of  The Leopard, pretending to be a 19th century Sicilian palace. Of particular interest is the room with the Belle Donne (beautiful women), portraits of the most beautiful women of the day. One room is a pharmacy with tiny portraits of all the Chigi family, while other rooms have striped damask wall hangings in 17th century style, and a rare example of a trucco table, an early form of billiards. Upstairs is the Museum of the Baroque, housing the Fagiolo dell’Arco Collection with works by painters like Baciccio.

We drive to the magnificent gardens of Ninfa, some of the most remarkable in all of Italy. Entrance to the gardens is restricted and we are fortunate to be able to visit them and enjoy a private tour. The town of Ninfa is but a memory of a once prosperous medieval commune owned by the Caetani family since the mid-13th century. In the early 20th century the family began to regenerate the ruins, taking advantage of a microclimate greened by rich spring water. Thousands of species were introduced from all over the world under the guidance of botanical experts. Lelia Caetani, the last of her ancient family, died in 1977 and bequeathed her property to the Foundation Caetani that maintains the wonderfully atmospheric gardens. Today plants weave themselves over ruined towers, ancient archways and churches, while ducks and swans glide on the castle’s moat. Highlights include a walled garden, small orchard and diverse plantings in which roses, banana trees and maples thrive together in this unique and beautiful landscape.

We then return to Tormaggiore where David will give an illustrated talk about some of the remarkable places we have seen. After dinner, and weather permitting, you may choose to join a screening of a movie such as Roman Holiday on the villa porch. (Overnight Casale di Tormaggiore, Pomezia) BD

Castel Madama - 1 night

Day 11: Thursday 21 September, Pomezia – Tor San Lorenzo – Olevano – Subiaco – Castel Madama
  • La Landriana, Tor San Lorenzo
  • La Serpentara, Olevano Romano
  • Sacro Speco, Subiaco

In the late morning we drive to La Landriana, a garden created by the great 20th century garden designer Russell Page and the Marchesa Taverna, where we have also lunch. The 10 acre garden is divided into thirty ‘rooms’, each endowed with a seasonal charm. These include formal gardens with clipped hedges, a rose garden with flowerbeds bordered with lavender, an olive garden, and a long staircase flanked by white garden beds.

This morning we board our coach and cross the mountains to La Serpentara. On the way David will talk about the German Nazarene painting movement and the Austrian Anton Koch, who made these mountains around Olevano Romano their favourite subject. We pause for a few moments at La Serpentara, a rocky outcrop with a handful of distinctive trees that frequently appear in the paintings by the Nazarenes.

We then follow the path of the Aniene river to Subiaco, into increasingly mountainous country. Subiaco (‘Sublacense’ – meaning ‘below the lakes’) was named after the lakes built here by the Emperor Nero, traces of whose villa can be seen above the town. On passing through the town we see a fine medieval bridge before the coach climbs to the Monastery of Santa Scolastica, where we will stay the night and have dinner. The complex is named for Santa Scolastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Order.

In the late afternoon we visit the Sacro Speco, the oldest and most evocative monastic site in Europe. The monastery is built over the cave in the side of the cliff face where St Benedict lived in the 6th century. We pass through various eras, from the 12th-14th century church at the top down to the Sacro Speco itself and then out into a little rose garden perched on the side of the valley where one of Benedict’s miracles took place. One can understand why Benedict came here, as the valley is spectacularly rugged and remote. We then drive to Castel Madama on the outskirts of Tivoli where we shall spend the night. (Overnight Castel Madama) BLD

Rome - 4 nights

Day 12: Friday 22 September, Tivoli – Rome
  • Villa D’Este
  • Lunch at ‘Ristorante Sibilla’
  • Hadrian’s Villa

This morning we first visit the Villa d’Este, built in the 16th century by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este to rival the splendour of its ancient neighbour, Hadrian’s Villa. Set among the hanging cliffs of the Valle Gaudente, the Villa d’Este and its surrounding gardens and waterworks has undergone a series of innovative extensions in layout and decoration, including those of Bernini in the late 17th century. This UNESCO world heritage site boasts an impressive concentration of nymphaea, grottoes and fountains, including the famous hydraulic Organ Fountain that still operates. The Villa d’Este’s use of water and music became the definitive model for Mannerist and Baroque gardens across Europe, and also provided inspiration for a myriad artists and musicians, including Liszt in his work Jeux d’eau à la ville d’Este.

We then go to the Ristorante Sibilla, a famous restaurant built on the terrace of the temple that specialises in regional dishes. Marble plaques on the walls list the members of royalty and other famous people who have come here to dine for more than 250 years. We will walk about the temple ruins and gaze at the spectacular views of the gorge of the Aniene River across the Villa Gregoriana below, and at the site of the former cascata (great cascade), relocated in the 19th century to the opposite side of the valley. The view from the other side on the valley was one of the most famous subjects for landscape painters, including Claude Lorrain right through until John Glover.

After lunch we drive to Hadrian’s villa, located just outside the town itself. It still retains the atmosphere it had in the 17th and 18th centuries, as mysterious ruins set amongst olive groves. It was carefully studied by Pirro Ligorio and Piranesi and drawn by Fragonard and Hubert Robert. It is the first great ‘representational’ villa in the sense that each of its features was a representation—not necessarily literal—of a famous site of the ancient world that had been visited by the Emperor Hadrian, such as the Canopus canal in Alexandria and the Stoa Poikile in Athens or the Vale of Tempe in Greece. We see extraordinarily evocative, seemingly impossible structures, such as the Large Baths, whose partly intact, partly ruined vaulting is as exciting and extravagant as any work of contemporary architecture. We also see the structures that inspired Baroque architects like Borromini.

We then drive back to Rome and the Hotel Santa Chiara where we will be based for the rest of our program. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 13: Saturday 23 September, Rome
  • Villa Farnesina
  • S Maria in Trastevere
  • Casino Ludovisi-Boncompagni
  • Afternoon at Leisure

Today we cross the Tiber to Trastevere, a fascinating neighbourhood of narrow winding streets, medieval houses and a strong local flavour. Until about 270AD this district was outside the official precinct of Rome, though many wealthy Romans chose to build their grand villas and gardens here, including Clodia and Julius Caesar.

We start our morning program with a visit to the Villa Farnesina. This is a charming Renaissance suburban villa built for Agostino Chigi, the treasurer of Pope Julius II. Chigi commissioned many great artists to work here, and the fresco decoration is by Sebastiano del Piombo, Giulio Romano and Il Sodoma. However, the greatest works are undoubtedly Raphael’s frescoes – mythological scenes of Cupid and Psyche and the Triumph of Galatea.

Two of the city’s oldest churches were founded this district and we will visit the very beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The 4th century church was replaced by Pope Innocent II in the 12th century, and was richly decorated with re-used ancient Roman marble columns and with sparkling mosaics. The 13th century apse mosaic depicts the Assumption of the Virgin again a golden background, while other mosaics in the nave and chapels depict scenes from the Life of the Virgin. One fascinating chapel was designed by  Antonio Gherardi and houses a great treasure – the icon of S Maria Salus Populi Romani, a rare early icon painting of the 5th century.

Our final visit this morning is to the privately owned Casino Ludovisi-Boncompagni. The rest of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Rome) B

Day 14: Sunday 24 September, Rome
  • Domus Aurea (subject to confirmation in 2017)
  • S Carlino alle Quattro Fontane
  • Palazzo Barberini
  • Afternoon Refreshments at Pasticceria Dagnino
  • Santa Maria della Vittoria

This morning take a tour of one of ancient Rome’s most cherished sites – the Domus Aurea, or the Golden House of Nero. This is the legendary palace was built by the emperor on land cleared by the destructive Great Fire in 64AD. Displacing the vast population whose homes were destroyed, Nero built himself a luxurious villa set within a vast landscaped garden of the kind only found outside the crowded city. The ceilings were decorated with stucco set with semi-precious stones, beautiful and delicate fresco painting adorned the walls and gold leaf was used throughout. When Vespasian came to power in 69AD he had the villa stripped of its precious marble and ivory veneers, buried and built over, where it lay forgotten for centuries. It was rediscovered in the 15th century by chance, and it became a important source of inspiration for artists during the Renaissance who would visit the dark interiors with torches to explore the work of the ancients.

Note: entry to the site is carefully controlled due to the fragile nature of the remains, and the opening times and availability will only be confirmed closer to the visit date.

In the afternoon we visit the church of S Carlino alle Quattro Fontane, positioned at the famous intersection where a Late Renaissance fountain adorns each corner; two have representations of the River Tiber and the River Aniene, while the other two have the goddess Diana and the goddess Juno. The church itself was designed by Borromini, his first independent commission and its façade has a flowing design of concave and convex surfaces, Corinthian columns, statue-filled niches and inscriptions. The interior is complex in both its architectural design and its decoration, particularly the intricate geometric pattern that ornaments the oval dome.

Borromini received his commission from the Barberini family whose palace is located close by, and on which he worked in collaboration with Bernini. We will visit to Palazzo Barberini which now houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica. However, the purpose of our visit is to see the 18th century apartments which contain splendid Rococo decorations, furniture, porcelain and costumes.

No doubt ready for refreshments, we will make a visit to the historic ‘Pasticceria Dagnino’, a famous café that produces typical Sicilian pastries, prepared with natural ingredients and according to the old Sicilian recipes. The original café is located in Palermo and dates to 1896 when Nicholas Dagnino, newly arrived from Genoa opened a pasticceria there. In 1955 in a gesture to create a bridge between Palermo and the nation’s capital the Pasticceria Dagnino set up in the Galleria Esedra, designed and decorated by artists from Palermo: Joseph Corinth, Herta and Alfonso Amorelli and Mangiameli. Displays of mouth-watering Cassata, Sicilian cannoli, Cassatine, Frutta Martorana, Pignolata Messina, Buccellato, sweet almond and many other specialties will prove to be very tempting!

We end our day with a visit to S. Maria della Vittoria, an early Baroque church is the work of Carlo Maderno and is a echo of the church of Santa Susanna that mirrors it across the piazza. Within the church is Cornaro Chapel by Bernini, housing perhaps the sculptor’s greatest masterpiece Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. The marble sculpture depicts an episode in the life of St Teresa of Avila, who wrote of a vision she had when an angel appeared an pierced her heart with a golden shaft, causing her both pleasure and pain. Bernini has abandoned the traditional saintly restraint in his representation, and instead Teresa, engulfed in a mass of billowing drapery, throws back her head in a manner both sensuous and voluptuous. (Overnight Rome) B

Day 15: Monday 25 September, Rome
  • S Pietro in Montorio & Tempietto
  • Villa Aurelia incl. buffet lunch
  • Afternoon at Leisure
  • Farewell Evening Meal at a local restaurant

Today we return to Trastevere the church of San Pietro in Montorio. On the left of the church is the Raimondi chapel which was designed by Bernini, and on the right is a chapel painted by Sebastiano del Piombo. We shall also see the Tempietto, a small commemorative tomb designed by Bramante situated in the church’s courtyard. Bramante was influenced by the circular buildings of ancient Rome, such as the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli and the early Christian mausoleum of Constanza, and in this little jewel of a building he created one of the masterpieces of High Renaissance architecture.

Trastevere is also home to the American Academy in Rome, at the Villa Aurelia. Here we will have the special opportunity to tour the villa, the extensive gardens and see many parts of the complex before we enjoy a buffet lunch with the scholars and artists who form the community of the academy.

The afternoon is at leisure, and in the evening we gather again and head out for a farewell evening meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Rome) BLD

Day 16: Tuesday 26 September, Tour ends in Rome
  • Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Our tour ends in Rome. Participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight home to Australia will be transferred to Fiumicino Airport. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in Italy. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B


16-day Cultural tour of Rome

Accommodation is comfortable and conveniently situated. Rooms are all equipped with en suite bathroom. Double/twin rooms for single occupancy may be requested – and are subject to availability and payment of the Double (as Single) Supplement. Further information on hotels will be provided in the ‘Tour Hotel List’ given to tour members prior to their departure.

  • Rome (8 nights): 3-star Albergo Santa Chiara – a charming hotel located close to the Pantheon in the historic centre of Rome. www.albergosantachiara.com
  • Pomezia (2 nights): Casale di Tormaggiore – a private country villa retreat. www.casaleditormaggiore.com
  • Castel Madama (1 night): 3-star Green Park Hotel Madama – a modern, newly-renovated hotel in the hills outside Tivoli. www.greenparkmadama.it
  • Rome (4 nights): 3-star Albergo Santa Chiara – a charming hotel located close to the Pantheon in the historic centre of Rome. www.albergosantachiara.com

Notehotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

How to book

Make a Reservation


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Passport Details

All participants must provide no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the program a photocopy of the front page of their current passport.

Double (as Single) Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double (or twin) room for single occupancy throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Gallery Tour Map
Physical Endurance & Practical Information
Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 16-day tour involves:

  • Extensive walking and standing during museum/site visits.
  • Walking tours may include steep slopes, flights of stairs, cobbled streets, visits to hilltop towns and uneven ground during garden visits.
  • Moderate travel by air-conditioned coach, including winding roads.
  • Visiting a range of towns and villages on foot, walks uphill from bus parks to historic town centres and other sites.
  • The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
  • Three accommodation changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person. Assistance with luggage can be slow on occasion.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $8580.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 31 October 2016

AUD $8780.00 Land Content Only

AUD $1520.00 Double (as Single) Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities
  • Breakfast daily; lunches and evening meals as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach between cities and use of public transport in Rome
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
  • Tour reference book
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Rome, Rome-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance


Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply. We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

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.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA. ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies. ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider. ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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