Discover the soul of the Eternal City with this tour of Rome’s hidden gems and breathtaking views. Our experienced RomAbout guide will lead you through picturesque alleyways and cobbled piazzas to some of Rome’s most charming and underappreciated sights. In a group of no more than 15 people, you’ll delve into the fascinating history of the Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars, admire sculpture and architecture at Piazza Barberini and Piazza del Popolo, and marvel at masterpieces by the famed Caravaggio. Oh, and don’t forget your camera either – there’ll be plenty of photo opportunities and stunning vistas to capture.
Art and architecture fit for a noble family
We begin the tour at Piazza Barberini, named for the noble Barberini family who were prominent movers and shakers of 17th century Rome. Today the piazza is a busy intersection, linking top shopping streets with luxury hotels and chic bars. Our focus though, is the dramatic Fontana del Tritone by famed Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Made from travertine stone, the fountain depicts the muscular sea god, Triton, who raises a giant seashell to his lips and spurts a jet of water into the sky. Piazza Barberini has changed dramatically since the 17th century but, thanks to Bernini’s theatrical centrepiece, it’s still an impressive scene.
Hidden in the corner of the piazza is one of Bernini’s lesser known works, the Fontana delle Api, or the Fountain of the Bees. This modest water feature is in the shape of a seashell and was originally intended to be a water trough for horses – though there aren’t as many about these days!
Unearth a lost world buried underneath the city
Our next stop is Rome like you’ve never seen it before. The Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars contains the skeletal remains of an estimated 4000 individuals, most of them believed to be former monks of the Capuchin order. Their bones were used to decorate this bizarre and macabre crypt, forming elaborate patterns, crosses, archways and even chandeliers. Our guide won’t let you leave either – at least, not until you’ve seen ‘St Francis in Meditation’. This painting by Caravaggio depicts Saint Francis in prayer, cradling a skull in his hands – an appropriate choice of art for the spooky setting.
The original hipster neighbourhood
Next, we take a stroll to the Trinità dei Monti, a Renaissance church which sits atop the Spanish Steps. The steps were built in the 18th century to connect the French church above with the Spanish piazza below (named for the Spanish Embassy of the Holy See). From this viewpoint we look over the heart of Rome’s designer shopping district while learning about the history of this area that was once frequented by artists, writers and poets from around the world.
The master of light and shade
The views across the city just get better and better as we continue our tour along Viale della Trinità dei Monti and Viale Gabriele D’Annunzio. These roads lead us to the next stop of the tour, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. Here, we’ll admire two paintings by Caravaggio, the ‘Conversion of St Paul’ and the ‘Crucifixation of St Peter’. Both canvases were commissioned specifically to be hung in the church so it’s a real pleasure to see Caravaggio’s work exactly in the setting he envisaged. Our expert guide will also delve deeper into the artist’s mastery of chiaroscuro.
Do as the locals do at the people’s piazza
We’ll finish our tour at Piazza del Popolo, a large neoclassical square to the north of the historic centre. The piazza is one of Rome’s most iconic public spaces and is characterised by two twin churches and the enormous Egyptian obelisk of Rameses II – which, astonishingly, was brought to Rome in 10 BC by the Emperor Augustus.