Story by Norma Davodoff
Photos courtesy Andrea Capoor and through Eternity Tours

Rome Fontana di Trevi Night

Finally Tours that Matter

Ever go on your own to a pile of rocks looking like an inscrutable ruin, or  to an institution so big and vast you couldn’t cope? It can all seem  frustrating and totally unintelligible. And you’ve got just a day or  two to see it all. I wanted a better experience when bringing my husband to Rome.

Through Eternity Tours solved the problem, guiding us at “the smallest wealthiest nation in the  world”€. Like small batch whiskey and chocolates, this company limits  its tours to 12 people.  Quality counts. Don’t kid yourself, small is  beautiful where 30,000 people tour the Vatican each day. It could feel  more like a zoo than the spiritual capital of the Catholic Church. “Through Eternity”€ made it easy to get around, ask questions, and get  meaningful answers.

Rome Vatican Square

Let’s face it. The Vatican is mammoth and dizzying. A long gallery of maps of regions that eventually coalesced into Italy was impressive, but that  doesn’t begin to describe it. Knowing that geography was hazardous to  chart when the maps were created was mind-boggling.  Thank god for  someone to guide us!  Our ever-so-animated guide, a Ph. D. in Byzantine art history, Caterina Panetta, was unflagging in her desire to help us  appreciate all that we saw, including, of course, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. 

Amidst jaw-dropping white marble sarcophagi, muted 15th century tapestries, a bust of Julius Caesar -- his expression intense  and penetrating -- and magnificent works by some of the most famous  artists in the world, Caterina explained treasures of the Vatican in  ways that gave it meaning.

Rome Forum

At the Roman Forum, our Through Eternity Tours guide had a degree in archaeology.  Both guides made things come alive,  telling stories, giving insights.  We had plenty of time for questions  and learned much about the class system in ancient Rome. The Latin  inscriptions, the still-intact arches, the original travertine marble  facades of the Coliseum --- the Super Bowl of Ancient Times, as our  guide described it - - all thrilling.  In those old glory and gory days, 50,000-70,000 people could be in this amphitheater at one time. Today  the Forum and the Coliseum receive four million visitors each year, and  that is just half of what the Vatican gets.

I was so intrigued that I asked owner, Rob Allyn, what he was doing  different.  He wanted to create tours that were more intimate.  His  customers can ask questions , interact and connect with the guides. His  staff are historians or archaeologists, all with degrees.  Having been  an actor, Rob auditions applicants.  They must create a story about a  piece of art, not just show they can speak good English.

Rome Coliseum

Rob is particularly proud of their five-hour tour of the Forum and the  Palatine Hill and their special 5-hour Vatican Tour. It gives early  entry into the Vatican before -- what can I say?.-- the hordes. You get  to see the Sistine Chapel with perhaps twenty people as opposed to 500 € says Allyn, And for the Forum tour, you go underground at the Coliseum through its ancient network of passageways. It’s unique, and you get  away from the crowds.

We would have liked to have experienced more withThrough Eternity.Their Twilight Tour takes place just before dark; the Love and Death Tour  includes the Jewish ghetto and the Campo dei Fiori and ends at Castel  San Angelo, that spiral of a building on the Vatican side of the river.  They give a tour of the Capitoline Museum which is  the  museum to visit  to understand ancient Rome. (Don’t miss the statue of Romulus and Remus  or the giant foot or the bigger-than-life statue of an equestrian.) And  now there’s a food tour, too. The company also runs tours in Florence. There, too, Through Eternity strives for flexibility and convenience.

Rome Roman

The major attractions in Rome are staggeringly popular, and you can stand  in line for hours to get in. Yes, you can pick up a guide last minute  and probably avoid the lines, but who knows what you’ll get. Best to  book in advance and maybe give Through Eternity Tours a try.http://www.througheternity.com/

AFTERWARD: HEAD NEARBY FOR VATICAN VIEWS AND DRINKS

The Hotel Atlante Stars Terrace has a panoramic 360-degree view of Rome  and the Vatican.  Open all day, it’s  so close, you can walk over for a  frosty drink, a bracing cappuccino, or a cocktail, long or short.  It’s a soothing way to end a day on your feet.  Set amidst the low-storied  rooftops and flowered terraces of Romans, it is a peaceful place...  intimate, yet out-of-doors. We actually heard the soothing sounds of  pigeons and sea gulls flapping their wings as they landed on the  terrace. A small choir and church chimes at 5:30 felt so natural there.  Rome is indeed the Eternal City!

 

 

 

© October 2015 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.

 

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