After travelling by rental car through some of the most scenic regions of France, you will switch to the rails for a trip around the Riviera to Milan, then continue on to Venice, Florence and Rome.
This trip will be customized according to your wishes.
Paris is more than just a city – the name itself is legend. From the late Middle Ages to the nineteenth century the focus of the entire country was on Paris, the center of western culture and a major influence on western history.
The city's layout and buildings reflect its cultural and political significance: the Champ-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Place de la Concorde and Notre Dame. Paris is also considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world. The museums of the French capital are unparalleled. From the Louvre to the Orsay, from the Centre Pompidou to the Rodin to the Cité des Sciences, each museum offers a unique aesthetic experience. Moreover, names like Faubourg, Saint Honoré and the Avenue Montaigne are reminders that Paris is famous for fashion. A shopping excursion with a stop for pastries at a picturesque street café is a must in Paris. Whether you prefer the opera, a ballet, classical music, jazz, a night club or a dance revue, the word Paris is synonymous with night-life. In the surrounding localities you can experiences aristocratic Paris: Versailles, Fontainebleau, Saint-Germain and Vaux-le-Vicomte. Here travelers are invited to escape to the glitter of the Louis XIV era.
This enchanting little hotel is situated in the heart of Paris, in the shadow of the Louvre. It is so close to St. Germain l'Auxerrois that you can hear the hymns from the former “King's Church” and see the Gothic windows from your bedroom.
In the cellar there is an old printing press that was used to print illegal leaflets during the French Revolution. It is said that the reception area was once the Café Momus (a debating club of the revolutionaries) and it was here that Puccini allowed parts of his opera “La Boheme” to be played. Breakfast, true to Parisian custom, is served in your suite. The hotel is air conditioned. Sophie Aulnette has managed the hotel for the past 10 years and personally attends to her guests' comfort. Tickets to local museums and other attractions can be purchased at a shop near the hotel.
For centuries, the Louvre served as the palace of the French kings and was the largest construction site in France. Almost every king made changes to it. In the 12th century it was still a proud castle but was expanded over the course of the next two centuries to become a symbolic residence. The four wings around the square courtyard are what remain of the original palace. When Louis XIV moved his residence to Versailles, the building was left to deteriorate. The Louvre did not become a museum until after the French Revolution when the National Assembly decided to use it to collect and exhibit the artistic treasures seized from the nobility. Today, the Louvre receives around ten million visitors every year and is the largest museum in the world. Its collections include over 380,000 pieces, and only about a tenth of them are on display. Its most famous painting is probably the Mona Lisa, which Leonardo da Vinci painted around the year 1503.
The traditional student district in Paris is located near Sorbonne University and is known as the Quartier Latin, because Latin had been the language of scholarship for many centuries. Numerous writers lived in the area, including Honoré de Balzac, Gabriel García Márquez and Klaus Mann. During the student riots in 1968, the quarter became the scene of heavy fighting in the streets. Thousands of students were arrested and hundreds were seriously injured by the police during the “Night of the Barricades.” When the trade unions called for a national strike in support of the students, President de Gaulle stepped down. Not many students live here today since the rent is unaffordable and they have given way to popular restaurants and boutiques.
This church for the archbishop of Paris took nearly 200 years to build. Yet when it was completed in 1345, it had become a marvel the likes of which the world had never seen. Although it is one of the earliest Gothic cathedrals, it remained the crowning achievement of Gothic architecture. Notre Dame rises over the Seine like a jewel. Its two towers are 69 meters high and its ridge turrets reach 96 meters in height. The nave, which provides room for up to 10,000 people, is 130 meters long, 48 meters wide, and 35 meters high. The cathedral was unprecedented in its day, and this was intentional. It was supposed to outshine the Louvre, which was the royal palace. Notre Dame is a testimony to the fact that Paris has not only been the center of France, but also the most important city in the Christian West from the Late Middle Ages until the 19th century and has had a decisive impact on its history.
Broker: Sunny Cars GmbH
Vehicle: Opel Astra or similar (CDMR)
Location: Paris City (Railway Station)
This classical Baroque palace is not much older than Versailles and was the most magnificent palace in Europe after its construction from 1656 to 1661. Three villages had to be moved to make room for the huge building complex. The palace did not belong to the king, but rather Nicolas Fouquet, his superintendent of finances. He made the mistake of inviting Louis XIV to his extravagant celebration at the building's completion. Louis himself owned nothing of comparable splendor. Fouquet was arrested three weeks after the party for embezzling state funds, meaning that the proud palace owner had little time to enjoy his luxurious estate. He spent the last 19 years of his life in considerably less comfort – in prison.
Fontainebleau is renowned for the large and scenic forest of Fontainebleau, a favourite weekend getaway for Parisians, as well as for the historical château de Fontainebleau, which once belonged to the kings of France and is one of the largest castles in France. The Fontainebleau style combined allegorical paintings in moulded plasterwork where the framing was treated as if it were leather or paper, slashed and rolled into scrolls and combined with arabesques and grotesques. Fontainebleau ideals of female beauty are Mannerist: a small neat head on a long neck, exaggeratedly long torso and limbs, small high breasts-almost a return to Late Gothic beauties. The new works at Fontainebleau were recorded in refined and detailed engravings that circulated among connoisseurs and artists.
The Forêt de Fontainebleau is one of the largest contiguous forest areas of Western Europe. 3,000 fungi and 7,000 animal species – most of them insects – thrive in the more than 25,000 hectares of oak forest. During the 19th century, artists of the French romanticism discovered the refuge. They were particularly fascinated by rutting deer and the bizarre sandstone rocks, which are now mainly used by climbers. Although the forest is almost entirely man-made, it has all the charm of an unspoilt natural landscape.
Burgundy must be enjoyed with all five senses, especially the eyes! In Dijon you can visit the palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, the museum of fine arts and the beautiful old town.
Other highlights in the vicinity are the Romanesque Basilica of Vézelay, Beaune with its famous high peaks and brightly painted roof tiles, and Nevers with its cathedrals. Outside the cities the beautiful landscape beckons. The forests in Morvan Nature Park seem to have existed since the dawn of civilisation. An excursion on foot or horseback is an unforgettable experience. Waterways covering a distance of 1,200 km represent a tranquil means of transport to the castles, abbeys and convents in one of the most beautiful regions of France. The wines of Burgundy are world famous and include Chablis, Côtes-de-Nuits, Côtes-de-Beaune, Côtes-Chalonnaises, Maconnais and Pouilly. The wines are rivalled in importance by the region's cuisine. Visitors shouldn't miss such specialities as the famous vineyard snails, eggs meurette (in delicate wine sauce), hams from the Morvan hills, Charolais beef and Bresse chicken.
The manor house has served as an inn since the 16th century and many famous people have stayed there – including Ludwig XIV.
The property was fully renovated in 1986 and turned into a modern hotel. One of the towers contains a glass elevator which offers nice views of the old town. The rooms are decorated with priceless antiques. The hotel has a first-class restaurant with an excellent wine cellar. The old wine cellar, a cosy room with a low, arched stone ceiling, is used as a Breakfast room when the courtyard cannot be used due to inclement weather.
With its medieval buildings in the historic city center, its magnificent location in the heart of the Cote d'Or wine region, and its numerous restaurants and wine cellars, this city with a population of 23,000 is one of the most rewarding destinations in Burgundy. The best sight to see is the Hotel de Dieue, a splendid 15th century hospital. The Office de Tourisme and the Bureau Interprofessionell des Vins will tell you where to find vineyards, wine tastings and wine seminars.
This city's historical appearance with its magnificent palaces and numerous artistic treasures testify to its past importance. As early as Roman times, there was a settlement here called Divio, which was located on the major road from Lyon to Mainz. Yet the city's heyday came a thousand years later when Dijon became part of the Duchy of Burgundy and, in 1477, the capital of the royal province of Burgundy. The focal point of the beautiful old town is the Place de la Libération with the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. Its east wing houses one of the most distinguished art museums in France, the Musée des Beaux Arts. The city's most famous son is Gustave Eiffel, who designed the city's market hall. Today, Dijon has a population of around 150,000 and a large university with 30,000 students.
The town of Tournus is situated on the right bank of the Saône surrounded by the idyllic wine-growing region of southern Burgundy. Its cathedral, St. Philibert, is among the most significant Romanesque buildings in France. It houses relics of Saint Philibert that were brought here for safekeeping during the Norman invasions. To the southwest of the town lies the charming Mâconnais hill country with its ancient wine villages, palaces, castle ruins and Romanesque churches. The region's mystical and peaceful atmosphere seems to have especially appealed to the monastic orders drawn to the area.
The history of this ecumenical monastic order began in 1940 when Roger Schütz, a Reformed theologian from Geneva, bought a house in Taizé for helping war refugees on their way to Marseille. He fled from the gestapo in 1942, but returned with the first monks after the being freed in 1944. The modern Church of Reconciliation was built in the early 1960s by German youths from the Action Reconciliation movement. Students from Paris, Frankfurt and Berlin were soon coming to discuss justice and spirituality with the monks. Today, thousands of young people meet here every week to partake in the simple lifestyle of the community. The church services are very impressive with their dim candlelight and simple polyphonic singing, which combines modern and Gregorian elements. They are held every day at 8:15 am and 8:30 pm and are open to the public.
This charming hill country in southern Burgundy is one of the largest wine-producing regions in France. Grapevines cover around 25 percent of the land, or just under 17,500 acres. The region borders the Massif Central to the west and the river Saône to the east. Between these two landmarks lie ancient wine villages where time seems to stand still. The ruins in the monastic city of Cluny are a witness to the region's importance to the entire Christian West. Before the construction of St. Peters in Rome, this was the site of the largest church in Europe.
During the Middle Ages, Cluny Abbey was the most influential monastery in the West. It owed this status to its first six abbots, who were advisers and friends of emperors, popes and princes. They were the intellectual stars of their day and turned Cluny into the center of a radical monastic reform. The reform was based on a strict interpretation of the Benedictine Rule, involving poverty, chastity and obedience. The liturgy was dominated by the concept of “momento mori” (remember that you are mortal). Practical living emphasized caring for the poor. The abbey came under the control of the French kings starting in the 13th century and the abbey began its spiritual and intellectual decline when the monks lost their right to choose their own abbot. The abbey's enormous church was demolished during Napoleon's reign and used as a quarry for the construction of a horse farm. Unfortunately, the remaining buildings are not very impressive and now serve as an engineering school.
The trail starts at the Chateau de Nobles, a private country castle from the 16th century and takes you through an idyllic Burgundian landscape up to the historic village of Vieux Brancion, where you can take a break at a sandwich shop. From above you have a wide view of the gentle picture book landscape (there and back: 2:15 hours, 8.2 kilometres, up and down: 160 metres).
The center of the former Roman “Provincia Fallia Narboniensis” forms the Bas Provence around the city of Avignon. It is one of the oldest cultural landscapes of Europe and has written world history more than once.
During the schism of the medieval church, alongside the Pope in Rome there was another one, residing in Avignon and shaping the city and region. Ancient towns nestle in the mountain wilderness, deserted villages are being reclaimed by nature. In addition to cities such as Arles, Nimes or Aix visitors can find almost untouched landscapes: Mont Ventoux, the highest massif of the Provence or the endless oak forests of the Luberon. Considering the pleasant Mediterranean climate, it is understandable that this land has always attracted travelers, painters and artists.
This country inn is located in the regional park of Luberon in the heart of Provence. The 200-year-old building, which is typical of Provence, has been meticulously restored.
It exudes joie de vivre and comfort. Each of the 14 rooms has unique furnishings with traditional furniture, colorful tiles, local fabrics and warm colors. Most of the rooms are large enough for families. The sizable park shaded by sycamores offers a refreshing pool for hot days. The food is a daily highlight here. An ample Breakfast is served with homemade jams, fresh fruit from the market and figs from the inn's own garden. In the evenings, your host, Thierry, will conjure up a tasty seasonal meal made with local ingredients. If you are interested, you can even take a cooking course delving into the secrets of Mediterranean cuisine.
The beautiful countryside of Provence was declared a biosphere reserve (Réserve de la Biosphère) by UNESCO. The landscape is characterized by jagged rocks, wild gorges, desolate peaks, pine forests and fields covered with lavender and grape vines. Gorgeous villages cling to the edges of cliffs. The 60 kilometer long mountain ridge that points from east to west is a paradise for hikers, bikers and nature lovers. The gorge of Lourmarin separates the Lesser Luberon in the west from the Greater Luberon in the east. The Greater Luberon reaches its highest elevation at the Mourre Nègre (1,124 meters).
Today, the city east of the Rhone has less than 100,000 inhabitants. In the Middle Ages Avignon was a city of international standing. From here seven popes have reigned the Occident during the schism from 1309-1376. At that time the town was a brilliant art center. The “City of Popes” was able to keep its city walls around the old town, the Palace of the Popes, the Bishops' complex and the bridge of Avignon undamaged to the present day. The old town of Avignon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was European Capital of Culture in 2000.
This monastery is among the most famous in Provence. It is also a popular backdrop for photos owing to the fields of lavender that unveil their splendor every year between July and the beginning of August. Sénanque was founded in 1148 by Cistercian monks known for their strict asceticism. The monastic rules were the strictest of their day. The plain buildings are devoid of ornamentation. The cloister is the only building with arches (48 of them) with short pillars. The monastery was disbanded during the French Revolution, but was revived 40 years later.
The River Verdon is a tributary of the River Durance. Along its 175 kilometer route it has dug a huge canyon into the Alps which is the deepest valley in Europe and one of its most impressive natural wonders.
The canyon is 21 km long, 700 m high and only 6 m wide in some places. It represents a constant challenge for climbers, white water rafters and well-equipped hikers. There is a road around the edge of the gorge which leads to splendid viewpoints.
The auberge is situated in a huge garden just one kilometre from Moustiers, a charming little village on the backdrop of high mountains.
Breakfast is excellent – and not just compared to the standard French Breakfast. The host is a passionate collector of antiques, old watches, and historic home appliances, so you will find such items all around the premises. The tranquil atmosphere is remarkable at this hotel, which is an ideal starting point for excursions to the Grand Canyon.
Tucked away in the mountains between Nice and Antibes is the charming township of Vence. Its splendid location and medieval city center attracted many artists in the 19th century.
There is a lot to discover in the surrounding mountains: St-Paul-de-Vence with its old city wall, Haute-de-Cagnes, a picturesque village, and Tourettes sur Loup. Although the Côte d'Azur is one of the most popular tourist destinations worldwide, there are still plenty of places off the beaten track where you can enjoy the beauty of this unique region.
This guesthouse in downtown Vence was a pharmacy in the 18th century – the oldest pharmacy in the French Riviera.
The building subsequently served as the residence of a wealthy family and was later used as a small hotel before being acquired by its current owners, who converted it into the elegant guesthouse it is today. The inninterior reflects Venceimportance as a city of artists: the reception area is decorated with modern sculptures and original paintings, while the living room contains a large library. The guest rooms are all air conditioned. A garden with a swimming pool is available to guests.
The port city with 75,000 inhabitants is one of the oldest on the Côte d'Azur. “Antipolis” was founded around 340 by Greek merchants and became a bishop's seat in late antiquity. The seaside resort Juan-les-Pins was opened in 1882 and has since been incorporated. At the beginning of the 20th century, writers and artists settled there, including Picasso, to whom a museum is dedicated at Château Grimaldi. Port Vauban is now one of the largest marinas in Europe, with up to 1700 luxury yachts anchoring here. The best view is from the fortress Fort Carré.
Location: Nice Airport (Desk at Airport)
Alternatively you can book on www.italiarail.com, where prices will be displayed in most currencies, but tend to be more expensive. Another option is to purchase your ticket on arrival at the station.
This city at the foot of the Alps, which was founded by Etruscans in 600 B.C. and conquered by the Romans in 222 A.D., is more than just the main city of Lombardy.
The second largest city in Italy after Rome is one of the world's leading commercial and financial centers. The AC Milan and FC Internazionale play in the first division and at times in the European Champions League. The Milan opera, La Scala, is located in a classical 18th century building and enjoys worldwide renown. Several historical buildings can be found in the city center. The most important of these is the Italy's largest Gothic cathedral, which took nearly 200 years to build starting in 1375 and holds 40,000 people. Close by is Milan's shopping district with its famous fashion designers and cozy cafés.
This small, attractive inn is located in an 18th century building in the heart of Milan, within walking distance of the opera and the famous Milan Cathedral.
All rooms in the 4 star hotel are air-conditioned and furnished with en-suite marble tile bathrooms.
Alternatively you can book on www.italiarail.com, where prices will be displayed in most currencies, but tend to be more expensive. Another option is to purchase your ticket on arrival at the station.
This centuries-old city has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Countless churches and palaces bear witness to the power and unsurpassed wealth of this small republic.
The lagoon city was founded in northern Italy during the troubled times of the decline of the Roman Empire. The remains of the evangelist Mark were transferred to Venice in 829. The streams of pilgrims that followed gave the city much added importance. Since then the sacred symbol of the lion has been the city's coat of arms. Venetian troops later occupied eastern Italy and, in 1204, even Constantinople. At the height of its power Venice ruled the Mediterranean. The demise of the “serrenissima repubblica” began with the fall of Constantinople and the opening of the Western Hemisphere by Spain, Portugal and Holland. Venice's political importance declined after the Congress of Vienna and it was given to Austria. Returned to Italy in 1866, Venice has inspired generations of artists, writers and musicians. More than a city, it is a symbol of wealth and beauty as well as death and decay.
The 15th century palazzo, former residence of a wealthy Venetian family, is located in the maze of narrow streets in the heart of Venice near the Rialto Bridge.
Today it houses a B&B. Each room is tastefully decorated in an individual design and partly furnished with antiques. The idyllic, green inner courtyard with the ancient well was once open and led to the canal. Here you can enjoy Breakfast in the morning or the peace and quiet, reviewing the impressions gained after a strenuous day of sightseeing. All major sites are within easy walking distance.
Bacaro – the name is derived from the wine god Bacchus – is the name given to the simple taverns in Venice. There are few chairs, but a long bar and a large selection of wines with a few snacks. Do Mori not far from the fish market is the oldest Bacaro of Venice and already over 500 years old. Countless pots and copper kettles hang from the ceiling, more than 100 excellent wines await you in the bar. There are also many different tramezzini.
More than 400 bridges cross about 150 canals and connect 100 islands. Some are nameless or inconspicuous. Some are of particular importance from a traffic or cultural-historical point of view. The Rialto Bridge, which has connected the districts of San Marco and San Polo since the 16th century, is world-famous and most frequently photographed. Business flourished here for many centuries: merchants and seafarers unloaded their goods at the quay behind which the banks and trading houses were located. Bridge architect was a certain Antonio da Ponte, who was able to assert himself against star architect Michelangelo with his practical design because he left enough space for shipping traffic.
The Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is the great Gothic Franciscan church of the city. On the outside it is modest and simple, as is the mendicant order itself. Inside, however, it documents the power and wealth to which the disciples of Saint Francis have come. The Frari turns out to be an art shrine of the very first order. The tomb pyramid of the sculptor Antonio Canova immediately catches the eye in the enormous nave. Opposite is the tomb of Titian with his Pesaro Madonna. Precious altar leaves by Bartolomeo Vivarini and Giovanni Bellini hang in the choir chapels. A sculpture of St. John by Donatello stands where the composer Claudio Monteverdi is buried. Everything, however, is surpassed by Assunta, the sky-driving Mary, who floats freely above the high altar. Titian created it and, at the end of the Renaissance, already anticipated the Baroque era with it.
The capital of Tuscany lies on the banks of the Arno between the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian seas, near the center of the Italian peninsula.
It is a city that bustles with industry and crafts, commerce and culture, art and science. The Chianti region between Florence and Siena is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy and a famous wine production area. Founded by the Romans in the first century B.C., Florence reached its pinnacle between the 11th and 15th centuries, when it was a free city balancing the authority of the Emperor with that of the Pope. In the 15th century it came under the rule of the Medici family, who later became the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The city is considered the cradle of the Renaissance and humanism and was a leading center of art, culture, politics and economic power during this period. The universal geniuses Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo thrived here. Their works, along with those of many generations of artists up to the masters of the present century, are gathered in the city's many museums.
The sixteenth century villa with a beautiful garden is surrounded by olive groves, vines, rows of cypress trees and ochre-coloured farmhouses – all this just twenty minutes from Florence and a little more than thirty from Siena. It is more like a private house than a hotel: a Tuscan villa with its family antiques, an elegant but very warm ambiance, spacious and quiet bedrooms, lavish breakfasts. The latter feature a large buffet that includes Tuscan specialities such as fresh ricotta cheese, the local focaccia bread, prosciutto and home-made brioche. Whereas the loggia looks out onto a formal garden, the swimming pool is located in an olive grove. All the bedrooms are spacious – most are even enormous – some have frescoed walls and ceilings, and a couple of them have a fireplace. Each room has its own refrigerator, computer outlet, safe, air conditioning, an electric kettle and a tea and coffee tray. The view is of the garden, the olive grove or the central courtyard with the old well and fragrant creeping vines. The bathrooms have been decorated with thorough attention to detail, each with handmade tiles and some with original frescoes.
Getting to Florence from the hotel is quite easy: guests can drive into the city and park at the train station, drive to a large park & ride parking lot just outside of Florence and take the tram into town, or take the bus to Florence from a stop two miles from the hotel. A visit to a working winery, including wine tastings and a light buffet of local products, can be booked upon request.
The magnificent renaissance park at Palazzo Pitti was the most famous garden in all of Italy during the 16th century. The landscape architects have created it in such a way that Florence is always a focal point. Today visitors can explore grottos, fountains, an amphitheater and even an Egyptian obelisk on the nearly five-hectare site. The Boboli Gardens are open daily.
The palace from 1458, which belonged to the wealthy merchant family Pitti, is still one of the largest buildings of Florence. However, it only took on its current appearance a hundred years later when an even richer family, the Medici, moved in. The Pittis had been disowned after they had allegedly taken part in a conspiracy. After the Medici had lost their power, the dukes of Tuscany and later the kings of Italy resided there. In 1565 a kilometer-long corridor between the Pitti Palace and Palazzo Vecchio was built to shield the noblemen and wealthy from the plebs when they left their residence to walk to the town hall. Today dukes and kings have disappeared, so the palace only houses a few museums and exhibitions.
The basilica on the highest point of the city is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Italy. Although built around 1000 the Church is neither spectacular nor particularly large from the outside. But the interior is most convincing. The altar is in fact not on a level with the nave, but is elevated and one cannot look onto the the top of it. The unusual symbols on the portico are to this day a mystery to art historians. The ceiling has a very different style and really does not match the rest of the church. However, all elements work harmoniously with each other. There is a beautiful view over Florence when leaving the Basilica.
This medieval abbey in the vineyards southeast of Florence is today a renowned winery. It is also the starting point for a pleasant walk through a delightful cultural landscape that will lead you down to the Pesa River. (2 hrs, 30 min, 9.5 km, total vertical distance: 290 m)
This is our suggested route if you want to get to know Florence on your own. From the train station, it will take you to the cathedral, the historic center of town and then across the Arno over the Ponte Vecchio. The Boboli Gardens on the other side of the river offer the most beautiful view of the city. (3 hrs, 6 km, elevation change: 90 m)
The journey will take you through Tuscany and Lazio.
Your train tickets will not be booked by Umfulana. You have several options to book them online.
The two official websites of the local providers are www.italotreno.it and www.trenitalia.com. Alternatively you can book on www.italiarail.com or www.raileurope.com, where prices will be displayed in most currencies, but tend to be more expensive. Another option is to purchase your ticket on arrival at the station.
The western world was ruled from the city built on the legendary seven hills for 1,500 years. Rome was the stage for many historic events of worldwide significance during that era.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire the city became the seat of the Catholic Church. During the zenith of its power (the second century A.D.) Rome's population numbered more than a million, making it the world's first metropolis. However, only 25,000 people lived among the city's ruins at the close of the Roman Empire. Regrowth didn't begin until the return of the Pope from Avignon in the fifteenth century. Today the Italian capital ranks amongst the premiere cities of Europe with regard to art, culture and a fast-paced lifestyle. Millions of tourists visit Rome annually to take in the sights, shop and enjoy the cuisine.
This centuries-old building is located in the city centre, between the Spanish steps and the Via Veneto. Marco and Giulia, the enterprising proprietors who have roots in the hotel business, have completely restored the property and now offer modern, comfortable accommodation in a historical building.
Marco can suggest the best sites to see – he is an accredited Rome tour guide. The building offers many practical conveniences. An elevator takes guests to the air-conditioned rooms on the three upper stories. The upstairs suites have a view extending over the roofs of the old city to the dome of St Peters. You're guaranteed a good night's rest here (a valuable commodity in Rome), as the guesthouse is next door to a convent! The subway station Barberini is only a few steps away.
Villa Borghese is not a building, but a green area in the middle of Rome. It was built at the end of the 16th century on the vineyard of the Borghese noble family. In 1901 the state bought the estate and opened it to the public. Today there are numerous museums on the site, including the Galleria Borghese and the Museum of Etruscan Art. On the north side lies Bioparco, the Roman zoo with over 200 animal species. Villa Borghese is also a popular place for joggers and walkers; on a small lake you can rent rowing boats and watch the ducks. A beautiful place to rest after strenuous sightseeing.
The impressive rotunda with its columned façade was erected 25 B.C. as a temple for all gods and converted into a church over 600 years later. The dome is particularly impressive: it symbolizes the sky, the opening in the middle stands for the sun and the contact with the stars. With a diameter of 43 metres, the dome of the Pantheon was the largest in the world for 1700 years until St Peter's Basilica was built. Visitors to the Pantheon enjoy the meditative atmosphere inside and the delightful play of sunlight that falls through the openings in the roof and “wanders” along the floor. The Pantheon became the architectural model for domed buildings worldwide, such as the Capitol in Washington DC, the Berlin Cathedral or the Invalid Cathedral in Paris.
A closer look at the huge square in the heart of the city reveals much about its origin: the long, almost oval surface resembles a track in the stadium. In fact, Piazza Navona was originally an arena. Emperor Domitian had it built. More than 30,000 people found a place here. In the Middle Ages the spectator stands were gradually converted into houses. In the 15th century, the stadium first became a park and then a square by paving. The most important monuments are the church of Sant Agnese, built in honour of the martyr Agnes, and the 17th-century four-stream fountain: On it four male sculptures symbolize the four continents known at that time in the form of the rivers Danube, Nile, Ganges and Río de la Plata.
If you would like to explore Rome on your own, our recommended route starts at the Roma Termini train station and takes you to the key sights in the Eternal City. On your way past the opera house, you will come to the Palazzo Berberini, the Fontana di Trevi, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and finally the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum. (4 hrs, 8 km, elevation change: 70m)