Many of Rome’s artistic riches are not easily accessible to the visitor. The emphasis of this tour is on places which are difficult of access or are rarely open to the public – on treasures which lie beyond normally impenetrable portals.
Privileged access also takes the form of visits to places outside their normal opening hours. Instead of sharing the Sistine Chapel with hundreds of others, around forty Martin Randall Travel clients, from two tours which do not otherwise meet, will have the place to themselves for a couple of hours. The two tours overlap so that the high cost of private admission to the Vatican museums is spread between the two.
What we manage to include varies each time we run the tour. Though it is likely that most of the places mentioned in the itinerary given below will be visited, arrangements depend on the generosity of owners and institutions and are occasionally subject to cancellation, but our network of contacts and know-how would enable us to arrange alternatives.
Some better-known and generally accessible places are included in the itinerary as well, so the tour should appeal both to those who are unfamiliar with the city as well as to those who have been many times before.
Fly at c. 12.45pm (British Airways) from London Heathrow to Rome Fiumicino.
Visit the 16th-century Villa Medici, now the seat of the French Academy. Palazzo della Cancelleria, begun in 1485 by Cardinal Raffaele Riario, is a masterpiece of Early Renaissance secular architecture and has frescoes by Vasari of the life of Pope Paul III. The delightful Villa La Farnesina has frescoes by Raphael. Also see San Giovanni Battista Decollato, a 16th-century confraternity church containing the best cycle of Mannerist frescoes in Rome.
In the morning visit the stunning collection of sculpture and painting in the Villa Borghese. Continue to the Villa Ludovisi, which houses Caravaggio’s early ceiling painting Jupiter, Neptune & Pluto. In the evening there is a private visit to the Vatican to see the Sistine Chapel and the adjacent Stanze. With Michelangelo’s ceiling fresco, his Last Judgement on the end wall and the quattrocento wall frescoes, together with Raphael’s frescoes in the Stanze, this is the most precious assemblage of painting in the western world.
See Bernini’s oval church of S. Andrea, and in the attached monastery the rooms of St Stanislav Kostka with sculpture by Pierre Legros. The ceiling fresco by Guido Reni in the Casino dell’Aurora in the garden of the Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi is one of the greatest works of 17th-century classicism. In the afternoon visit the Sancta Sanctorum, adjacent to St John Lateran, part of the mediaeval papal residence and decorated with Cosmati mosaics dating to 1278.
Palazzo Colonna is an agglomeration of building and decoration of many centuries, and has a collection which includes works by Bronzino, Titian, Veronese and Guercino. The 17th-century Great Hall is surely one of the most magnificent secular rooms in Europe. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj holds a famous picture collection (Caravaggio, Velasquez), and S. Ignazio has an illusionistic ceiling painting by Andrea del Pozzo.
Some free time. Fly from Rome Fiumicino, arriving at London Heathrow at c. 7.00pm.
This gives a fair picture of the tour, but there may be substitutes for some places mentioned and the order of visits will probably differ.
Dr Michael Douglas-Scott
Associate Lecturer in History of Art at Birkbeck College, specialising in 16th-century Italian art and architecture. He studied at the Courtauld and Birkbeck College, University of London and lived in Rome for several years. He has written articles for Arte Veneta, Burlington Magazine and the Journal of the Warburg & Courtauld Institutes.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,810 or £2,700 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,150 or £3,040 without flights.
Flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus 319 and 321); travel by private minibus; hotel accommodation; breakfasts; 1 lunch and 3 dinners with wine, water, coffee; all admissions, including a private visit to the Vatican Museums; all tips for waiters, drivers and guides; all taxes; the services of the lecturer.
Hotel Bernini Bristol: 5-star hotel excellently located on the Piazza Barberini. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
Unavoidably, there is a lot of walking on this tour. The historic area is vast, and vehicular access is increasingly restricted. Minibuses are used on some occasions but otherwise the city is traversed on foot. The tour should not be attempted by anyone who has difficulty with everyday walking and stair-climbing. Fitness is essential. Average distance by coach per day: 9 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
'It was truly wonderful to have a private visit to the Vatican Museum and have the Sistine Chapel to ourselves. A fantastic experience and privilege.'
'This was our first MRT tour. We shall certainly look forward to others.'
'I feel very privileged to have been to many of the sites. They were once-in-a-lifetime experiences.'