Monday, August 14, 2017

See More of the Colosseum, with the Roman Guy

The Colosseum in Rome, an iconic monument Now you can have a closer look with 

 The Roman Guy

Today the Roman Guy is showing me Rome from a new perspective!    

Most tourists to Rome have seen the Colosseum.    On every trip I walk down Via Cavour in the evening just to see this massive, ancient structure 

The group was large, over 22 .  Keeping us all together was a challenge for our guide.
      We were issued wrist bands when we checked in with a staff member located near the metro stop
Our tour began at what most would consider, the BACK of the Colosseum
                     There are security stations at the entrances and EVERY bag is checked.    A slow                                                       process so be prepared and bring patience.

                     Up close and personal
The group is given a timed entrance and a scheduled amount of time on the new platform that overlooks the floor of the Colosseum.  This photo shows you the location your tour will view the interior.  Photo taken from across the arena

360 degree view taken from the platform

                  You will see all the numbered entrances that took thousands of Romans to the level and                                                        section where their seats were located

The sheer size can be appreciated from the platform we had access to.

If your seat was near the top and uncovered it was exposed to the hot sun.

A closer look into the lower areas, what would have been under the original floor

Upper left:  this is the area The Roman Guy tours allows you access too

Were Romans tall?   The steps to the upper tiers were very steep
                                      and our group climbed all the levels and explored everything

We climbed to the TOP of the arena to give us the view Romans would have.

                The next part of the tour took us to the forum

Our guide had endless energy even after hours in the HOT sun.

Her depth of knowledge was amazing .  She had additional photos to explain what the ruins originally looked like.

But  the size of the group made questions impossible except for the few in the front of the pack to ask questions and  we moved quickly from one part of the Forum to much to see and learn.

The Roman Guy offers a wide assortment of tours.   Many experiences are unique and perfect for first time visitors.  
Returning travelers to Rome can see much more than the basic monuments with the Roman Guy.  I have taken two of their tours 
and found them well organized and comprehensive.    

Contact The Roman Guy for any of their amazing tours, the list is available on their site:  tours


  • The Colosseum and Form can be very hot during the middle of the day (tour was in May).  Bring water and the smart travelers were wearing hats.   
  • The meeting point for the tour is outside the Metro station and there is a free water station, something I have not seen in Rome before.  
  • Solo travelers need to stay with the group.   There are many groups in the area and it is easy to loose site of your leader and the secondary entrance site requires another security check.   It is very easy to loose the group as I did. 

The Roman Guy web site:   click here

Toll free from USA or Canada
+1 888 290 5595
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+39 342 876 1859
8270 30th Avenue N.
St. Petersburg, Fl 33710

My tour was complementary of The Roman Guy.  The opinions are my own and the photos  are the property of Home to Italy.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Where did Caesar really die? LivItalytours when you want to see more of Rome

Caesar did NOT die in the Colosseum in 44 BC, but he was stabbed in  Largo di Torre Argentinawhat is NOW better know as the cat Sanctuary  

Largo di Torre Argentina, now the home to homeless cats      

This is how my 3 hours with LivItaly Tours in Rome began and I knew it would be a great time..........

As my frequent trips Home to Italy now try to go deeper than the 'tourist must sees', the in-depth tour with this family run, local company offered me what I wanted, but I had NO idea how much I would enjoy this!   

Meeting our guide Rachel in central Rome, our group of only 3 travelers greeted each other and the day began!  Rachel is an expat from the USA who has made her home in Rome.  

Blue sky and HOT:  Rome was having a heat wave
Although I visit Rome often, I know very little about the two neighborhoods that border the Tiber River, the Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere, therefore this tour  was perfect.

The 3 hours program covered a lot of ground and even more history starting at Teatro Argentina.  An apartment house nearby has ancient mosaics in the entry.


Rachel dazed and amazed with a blend of information on architecture, history, religion and daily life facts.  We were encouraged to ask questions and I don't think there was anything she could not answer!   I quickly realized I knew very little of the history of Rome and within the first few minutes my head was buzzing with new facts and debunked fiction that I had about Roman history!  

Since my focus is always on the local part of any city or town I visit, walking the back streets from the busy via ...... across the river and back to ............... was a wonderful look into daily life in Rome.
With so many photo opportunities I must admit I missed some of the important facts our guide shared with us..............all done without notes.

                     We started with a quick walk through Piazza dei Fiore, busy with the morning local                                                                 shoppers and some tourists.

Always time for a cafe

Our guide knew lovely hidden courtyards, passages and even
pasta created in a store front.

Behind the Palazzo Farnese where we were able to glimpse the formal garden through the fence, is Via Giulia, a wide avenue that will take you directly to St. Peters.   


        Skull carvings outside Santa Maria dell' Orazione e Morte, Holly Mary of Prayer and Death Church

The Farnesi Arch

Mascheroni Fountain where in ancient times, wine flowed once a year for the local populace to enjoy

Crossing the Tiber river to Trastevere you can see the dome of St Peters at the Vatican in the distance

As we crossed the bridge you have a wonderful view of St. Peters

      A temporary art mural lined the walls of the river banks created by the South African artist William Kentridge.  The process called reverse stenciling, created by removing years of dirt from the walls, will eventually fade as dirt/pollution returns.  See story here.

In late morning the street is quiet but the cafe is ready for guests

The narrow, cobbled streets of Trastevere meander through a true local neighborhood where apartments are above restaurants and stores and you can shop daily for fresh food.

                      .    At the heart of Trastevere is the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere


Entering the cool interior, it was a welcome relief from the heat, the church is dazzling with mosaics, pictorials around the dome and baptistery.  This will be a return visit for me and well worth finding a guide to explain everything.

Back across the river we are headed to the Jewish Ghetto.   The history of this area is ancient and sad.

                                One of the original synagogues in Rome.  Now a restaurant.

                                               We continued to a main area of the Ghetto.
                  Shops and cafes among the apartment buildings right next to ancient ruins.

I quickly noticed how much wider the streets were in the Jewish quarter.   You still find historic buildings being restored or preserved and treasures uncoverd while the city does street projects.

In with historic sites among the shops and residences, the locals enjoy daily life:  markets, cafes and a famous Boccione Pasticceria bakery that I was able to visit after the tour.   There is no web site but face book gives you some information.   This small corner shop is at Via Portico d'Ottavia, 1.   One well know travel writer said the clerks are rude, NO so.  They were tired after a long day but when I ordered something that looked good, the kind woman told me it was a 'hard' cake and suggested something else.

Near one of the apartments I found more stumble stones that memorialize families or individuals who were deported during WWII.   See my post in Germany off the beaten track for more details on these memorials found all over Europe.

LivItaly offers a wide range of experiences in Rome, Florence, Venice and other areas in Italy.  
If you are looking for  something longer than a 3 hour tour, consider their day trips.   

LivItaly offers many unique experiences and some with novel approaches to traditional site seeing: running tours, drawing tours, virtual reality  and even test driving a Ferrari!  

See how this family run company offers high service, quality guides and unique itineraries 
If you have been to Italy before, there are new new adventures to experience. 
If you also travel solo, I found the small number of guests (no more than 6) to be far more comfortable than the usual 25 or more participants following a guide, wearing a headset.

I would like to thank LivItaly for making my tour of Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto possible.   The photos in this post are the property of and all opinions are my own.
And a special thank you to Rachal for a great tour.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Rome One Bite at a Time: food tour

I was introduced to The Roman Guy prior to my spring trip Home to Italy.   This Roman based company offers group or private travel experiences in major Italian cities as well as day trips.  For the week I was in Rome tour choices included early morning Vatican visits, art tours, gallery tours, walking and bike tours and many more.  Too many to fit into a week long visit!

Since I am a solo traveler the opportunity to enjoy local Italian food in locations I would not find on my own, was perfect.  I arranged to join the evening food tour "Trastevere Locals Food Tour in Rome". 

Michaele Henry would be leading our group tonight and he warmly welcomed each participant and introduced himself.

piazza Farnese 
The tour began at the piazza Farnese Michaele shared the history of the areas we were visiting and many antidotes that made our tour far more engaging.

Our first stop was a short distance away to sample a wide selection of cheeses.  The interior of this shop reminded me of an Italian deli in the Italian neighborhoods in New Jersey.

There were several trays of cheese samples prepared and Michaele  explained how each cheese was made and how they differed from each other.   This was a learning experience as well as a great start to our evening. 

Our appetites wet we moved on to Campo di' Fiore and had a quick history lesson about Giordano Bruno (statue in the center of the campo).   Bruno was a philosopher who died at the stake for heresy.
Campo di Fiore is a favorite place for locals as well as tourists.

 Next stop to try baccala.

Baccala was described as a "favorite Roman street food snack".   I only think of this fish in the dried form so it was a surprise to find  how moist the fried morsels were.    The batter is made with sparkling water and renders coating that is light. 

One woman cooks all the fish in a large fry pan

Our group finished all the platters of baccala

From Campo di Fiore we walked over the Ponte Sisto (bridge) to Trastevere to have some of the best pizza this Italian American has ever tried.  Pizza al taglio:  pizza by the slice.

The hot slice of pizza was crisp and very flavorful  


Farm to Table: 

Our next stop is for antipasto in a Kilometer zero restaurant.    "The Roma Guy explains that whatever is served in a KmO shop or restaurant is produced in the local region or surrounding area.  The product has traveled almost zero kilometers to your plate".

Our group almost filled this entire artisan restaurant.   Large platters of meats and cheeses were set in front of us to taste and cold white wine (for some of us) to sip while we tasted.   Not a fan of cured meats,  I passed on those and enjoyed the wonderful toppings on the fresh breads.   Wine, bread, cheese............

It was growing dark as we walked to our next restaurant.  The lights from the buildings surrounding the small square where we sat outside made a festive mood.  After a few glasses of wine our group became more chatty.   And I believe we were all becoming happily full.

                                                         And we ate some MORE!

OK this was so GOOD I forgot to photograph it!

In addition to the great food and new restaurants this was a great learning experience about how the dishes were prepared, sometimes the history of a dish or the ingredients and preparation.   Michaele has an endless knowledge of Rome, it's neighborhoods and food.

                                                         White and Red pasta.
                 Hard to say which was better and YES I finished my plate as I was taught to do.
                 Fresh pasta is a  unique taste and texture and the fresh sauce and grated chees was     
                                                   filled with a wonderful aroma
The best saved for Last    Gelato
With many falvors to choose from everyone selected two.

An evening tour is the perfect time to see Rome with almost no tourists, avoid the heat of the day and join the locals in their evening passeggita. 

On your next trip to Italy enjoy an experience not just a tour. 
See all the opportunities at The Roman Guy www. and enjoy!

I want to thank The Roman Guy for such a wonderful evening and I will join another food tour with them on my next trip  Home to Italy.   All opinions and photos in this post are my own.