• An art historian leads a walk through the Vatican Museums.

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  • The Apollo Belvedere sculpture in the Belvedere Courtyard, Vatican Museums.

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  • The Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums

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  • Photo illustrating our Vatican walking seminar.

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  • Photo illustrating our Vatican for Families walk

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Photo by Jessica
  • a pre-dawn image of the Vatican, taken by client Ira Paur
  • Photo by Jessica. Arte Vaticana walk led by Karen Lloyd. August 13, 2009

Walk Description

The Sistine Chapel and Pietà by Michelangelo, and the frescoes by Raphael in the Stanze, are just some of the many artistic treasures we visit in this four-hour, in-depth Vatican tour. Led by a trained theologian or art historian, our critically acclaimed Arte Vaticana walk visits both the Vatican Museums and the Basilica of St. Peter’s and is conducted more like a walking seminar than a normal tour: by limiting our group size to no more than six people we are able to take a deeper approach to the Vatican collections as we explore papal history and the role of art throughout the history of the Catholic Church.

Armed with reserved entry tickets, which guarantee a quick entry into the museums, we begin with the Vatican art collection, one of the world's great repositories of ancient and Renaissance works. Although each walk evolves differently depending on our docent's area of expertise and the interests of the group, we generally start with a thorough overview of papal history and the construction of the palace. Depending on the party's interests, we may then veer off to the chronologically-arranged picture gallery known as the Pinacoteca, which forms the perfect backdrop for a seminar on the history of painting from the late medieval to high Renaissance periods.

From here we will traverse the halls of the museums, visiting the most important rooms including the ancient statuary collection of Pope Julius II and his personal apartments decorated by Raphael. By the time we reach the Sistine Chapel, we will have set the context to appreciate the cultural and artistic climate in which Michelangelo worked when he frescoed the ceiling and later the Last Judgment on the altar wall.

The final forty to sixty minutes of this walk cover St. Peter's Basilica, a vast church and the symbolic center of Catholicism. Our docent will navigate the enormous interior and discuss works by Michelangelo (the dome and the Pietà) and Bernini (the Baldacchino), fixing the church and its artworks in a social and historical context. Finally, we will emerge into St. Peter's square.

To assist you in planning your trip to the Vatican, we have created an informative resources page - How to Tour the Vatican

Note: While our visit includes advance entry reservations, the Vatican Museums are extremely crowded. We organize this walk to take place at the most opportune times. However, we may yet spend a few minutes at the beginning of the walk waiting in the reserved entry line, during which time our docent will provide an overview and contextualization for the walk. No time will be wasted. Please keep in mind that the museums are generally more crowded on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. If you can organize your visit for a Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday, that is best. We also recommend either an 8am start, before general admission to the public, or later in the afternoon when the morning crowds have thinned out.

Our Arte Vaticana walk is one of two approaches we take at the Vatican. For travelers looking for a more in-depth approach we suggest splitting the Museums and Basilica into two separate itineraries, our Vatican Collections and our St. Peter's Symposium, which deal with each site in separate three-hour segments. These itineraries can be linked together into a single, six-hour walk (with stop for lunch) or booked on successive days to allow more time between.


Duration: 4 hours
Category: Vatican
Venues: Vatican Museums, St. Peter's Basilica
Additional Costs:
  • Vatican Museum Reduced Ticket - €13.50 (mandatory)

    This ticket is a reduced price entry for children between 6 and 18 and for students (with student ID) under 26.

  • Vatican Museum Full Price Ticket - €21.50 (mandatory)

    Full price entry for adults over 18 or students over 27.

  • Vatican Museum Free Ticket - €0.00 (mandatory)

    This ticket is a free entry for children under 6 years old.

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    Cecilia Martini

    Cecilia Martini has a Master's degree in Medieval and Renaissance art from the Sapienza University of Rome. Although her specialty is painting and decorative arts, she has a broad knowledge of the history of Rome, and leads many antiquity-themed itineraries. Cecilia works actively as a curator of exhibitions and lecturer and is a frequent consultant with the Galleria Colonna. She also has a specialized teaching degree, and works as a visiting professor in several art institutes.

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    Sara Magister

    Sara Magister has a master's in art history and a doctorate (PhD) in archaeology from the University of Rome. A native Roman, Sara has worked as the archaeological editor for the Italian national Encyclopedia. She also works as a consultant for the Vatican Museums and the former minister of culture, designing museum exhibitions and supporting the restoration of monuments with archive research. She is also currently working as a professor in the American University in Rome, teaching Baroque Art and Subjects and Symbols in Art. One of Sara's interests is the political use of ancient art during the Renaissance and Baroque and Pope Julius II's collection of ancient art, which forms the core of the Vatican's collection of ancient statuary.

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    Giovanna Terzulli

    Giovanna Terzulli is an art historian and Rome native. She has a Master's degree in art history from the Sapienza University of Rome with a specialization in Modern and Medieval art. She works as an editorial consultant for a number of cultural organizations in Rome including the Superintendency of Archaeology of Rome. Giovanna is fluent in Italian (mother tongue), English, and French, and has a unique interest in Mannerism.

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    olivia ercoli

    Olivia Ercoli is a Rome licensed guide and an expert art historian and worked as a main contributor to the award-winning Eyewitness Guide to Rome. She combines this with teaching and leads a course at the the Lorenzo de Medici School in Rome on Roman civilization. In addition she has contributed to the National Geographic Lost Cities of the Ancient World. Olivia infuses her discussion of Rome with a sense of what it's like to grow up in the city and be Roman.

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    gregory dipippo

    Gregory DiPippo, a native of Providence, R.I., studied classics at high school and as an undergraduate at McGill University. He has completed coursework for a Master's degree in theology at the Pontifical Institute for Patristic Studies, or the "Augustinianum," in Rome and is currently waiting to take his comprehensives and defend his thesis on the church fathers. Gregory leads walks of the Vatican and other religious sites in Rome, but he is also a superb classicist and one of the few Context:Rome docents who can hold a conversation in Latin.

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    Richard Bowen

    Originally from England, Richard Bowen has lived in Rome for the last fourteen years. He holds a Master's degree in medieval and twentieth-century history from London University and, as this might suggest, has a broad-minded and synthetic approach to understanding Rome. Richard works quite frequently with institutional travel organizations, such as museums and church organizations, and as a result spends much of his time traveling all over Europe. He brings this cosmopolitan and pan-European experience to bear on his work with us in Rome, constantly making connections to other cities and countries in the course of his lectures and seminars.

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    Patrizia Sfligiotti

    Patrizia Sfligiotti holds a Master's degree in Medieval archaeology and has studied at the Vatican and at the University of Aix-en-Provence. Her experience excavating in Rome is extensive, including major work at the Crypta Balbi in the 1990s, arguably the most significant archaeological excavation in central Rome in the last century. She works for FAI - Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano (Italian National Trust) as Rome's cultural attache. A dual citizen (USA and Italy), Patrizia is the author of the guidebook to Villa Gregoriana (Tivoli). She is an accomplished teacher and guide whose knowledge of the city of Rome (and passion) is boundless.

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    Vannella Carrelli Palombi

    Vannella Carrelli Palombi earned her Master's in art history from the Sapienza University of Rome, with a special focus on teaching. She is an accomplished lecturer and teacher, and has been organizing on-site learning and tours in Rome for nearly twenty years. Vannella is an official guide for the Vatican Museums and has worked in such Roman museums as the Borghese Gallery, Castel S. Angelo, Galleria Colonna, and Galleria Doria Pamphili.

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    Francesca Barberini

    Francesca Barberini is an art historian with a degree in modern and contemporary art from the Sapienza University of Rome. She specializes in the art and culture of the Baroque period, a subject on which she has published several essays. She is a licensed guide and leads itineraries all over Rome, a city she truly loves. She has worked for many Roman museums, such as Galleria Doria Pamphili, Galleria Colonna, Galleria Spada, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in Palazzo Barberini and the Corsini Gallery. She is an officilal guide of the Vatican Museums and Vatican City

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    Valentina Follo

    Numbered among the city's contagious enthusiasts, Valentina is also a native Roman who trained as a classical archaeologist at the Sapienza University of Rome, before joining the University of Pennsylvania's graduate group of art & archaeology in the Mediterranean world. At present, she is conducting her doctoral research on the Capitolium, one of ancient Rome's most sacred and civically significant hills, which today exhibits Michelangelo's urban marvel. Valentina has written and published on a variety of topics spanning the ancient, early modern, and modern periods, including: papal designs to re-purpose the Baths of Diocletian, Etruscan forgeries from the nineteenth-century, Italian legislation on the protection of cultural patrimony, and Mussolini's imperial models for Fascist Rome. Valentina possesses years of experience engaging University of California students in the discovery of Italy's multi-layered past in Florence, Rome, and Pompeii.

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    Alessandro Celani

    Alessandro is an archaeologist and art historian, and studied Greek and Roman archaeology with Mario Torelli and Filippo Coarelli. He has published his undergraduate thesis on “Greek Works of Art in the Age of Augustus,” as well as a number of articles on Greek and Roman art. An expert in cultures and civilizations of the Mediterranean, Alessandro has traveled from Morocco to Iran, participated in excavation programs in southern Italy and Greece, and lived in Athens for a long period. He has collaborated with travel magazines, published a guide book on the Greek Islands, and is currently publishing his PhD dissertation on Hellenistic Sculpture of Rome and Central Italy. A booklet of photos and short poems written by him was recently published with the title “Diario mediterraneo” (Mediterranean Journal). He gives tours in Umbria and Rome, lectures for public and private associations, and leads archaeological trips to Greece, Turkey, Libya, and North Africa, and teaches archaeology and art history in American and Canadian universities in Rome, Tuscany, and Perugia. He has two children, Sofia and Dario, and recently opened a B&B in Umbria.

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    Livia Galante

    Livia Galante obtained a degree in Archaeology at the Sapienza University of Rome and has a Master's degree in the History and Conservation of Cultural Heritage from the University of Roma Tre. Her main field of interest is ancient Roman topography and early Christian architecture; however, she is an accomplished scholar whose teaching ability extends to the Renaissance and Baroque Rome. As a native Roman, Livia is very enthusiastic in sharing the deep love and knowledge she has for her hometown with clients.

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    Agnes Crawford

    Brought up within sight of London's Roman walls, Agnes then strayed north of Hadrian's Wall to Edinburgh University. After graduating with an Master's in Architectural History, with a specific focus on the Early Renaissance, she came to Rome drawn by warmer climes, ruins, and the prospect of a Vespa. Eleven years, and one Roman husband, later she's still here. As well as being a licensed guide for the City and Province of Rome, she contributes to numerous guide books, and every so often translates academic art historical and archeological papers from Italian to English.

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    Pier Paolo Racioppi

    Pier Paolo Racioppi has a doctorate (Ph.D) in Art History from the University of Roma TRE. He also earned a higher degree in the History of Medieval and Modern Art at the Sapienza University of Rome. Winner of the Accademia di San Luca scholarship in 1997, he conducted research in the United States on Academies and Collections in early Nineteenth Century America. Since 1998 he has collaborated with the ONG Museum With No Frontiers (editor of the Italian edition of the catalogues Islamic Art in the Mediterranean, and of the Italian section of the website Discover Islamic Art and Discover Baroque Art). Since 2003 he has taught art history at IES Study Abroad Program (Rome). He has published several articles in specialized art history journals, exhibition catalogues and in the Treccani Encyclopedia. His fields of specialization are museology, eighteenth century art and politics and history of art criticism.

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    Alessandra Poli

    Alessandra is a native Roman and art historian with a Master's degree in art history from the Sapienza University of Rome. Her specialization is Modern and Contemporary art and she has a deep-rooted love for the city where she lives with her two children. Alessandra is fluent in Italian, English, and French, and has a great interest in Mannerism, Baroque art, colored antique marble and decorative arts. Due to her broad knowledge of the history of Rome she leads a wide-variety of antiquity-themed itineraries. Since 2001 she has been a consultant at the Galleria Colonna in Rome.

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    Guido Airoldi

    Guido is an archaeologist who completed his graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He has years of experience in major digs in Italy and throughout the Middle East, and is a specialist in egyptology. He is a natural teacher, and has been giving detailed seminar walks in the archaeological sites of Rome as well as the Vatican for years.

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    Fiorenza Mancuso

    Fiorenza Mancuso holds a Master's degree in art history from the University of Rome, and an additional graduate degree in the management of cultural events. A native Roman, Fiorenza possesses extensive experience doing on-site teaching for a variety of cultural associations in Italy, and is an expert in the art and patrimony of Papal Rome.

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    Annalivia Villa

    Annalivia Villa holds a Masters in art history from the Sapienza University of Rome, with a specialization in Renaissance painting and history, including daily life in the 1600s. She wrote her thesis on Raphael's decoration of the Papal bathroom in the Vatican residence. Annalivia is a native Roman whose roots go back decades. Her grandfather was one of the Palatine honour guards of the Pope. In addition to teaching (in which she holds an additional graduate degree) and lecturing, Annalivia also works for the Modern Art Gallery of the Municipality of Rome.

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    Simona Pellegrini

    Simona Pellegrini is a Roman archaeologist specialized in the Late Imperial and Middle Ages periods. She graduated in Archaeology and Ancient History from the Sapienza University of Rome and subsequently obtained her higher degree in Restoration and Heritage preservation. Currently she works as field director on excavations and restorations for the Superintendency of Rome and Latium (Ministry of Cultural Heritage). She is also deeply involved in an international project (CNR) the scope of which is the application of high technology to artefact conservation and ancient structure preservation.

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    Sabrina Spinazze

    Sabrina graduated in Art History at the Sapienza University of Rome and went onto complete a postgraduate degree in History of Medieval and Modern Art. Since 1993 she has worked for some of the most important art museums in Rome, such as the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. She is very active on the publishing side; her papers and books focus on 19th and 20th century Roman art, in particular on the history of female artists and art’s politics of Fascism. She is vice president of Ottocento Romano, a cultural association pursuing and promoting scholarly research on the Roman artistic production of the XIX century.

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    Ludovica Candrilli

    Maria Ludovica Candrilli has a Master’s degree in Art History from the the Sapienza University of Rome and is specialized in Renaissance and Baroque Art. She is a licensed tour guide in Rome and is also an official guide for the Vatican Museums. She co-operates with the Galleria Borghese Superintendency Educational Service by guiding tours for adults and students. She prepared for her phd-thesis by studying the manuscripts of the Vatican Library and is specialized in Vatican Art and History.

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    Antonella Merletto

    Antonella holds a Master's Degree in Baroque Architecture and a three year Post Graduate Specialisation in Ancient Greek and Roman Architecture. She is currently completing her PhD at Bath University in the UK on Ancient Roman Sanitation Buildings. Since 1989 she has worked on many archaeological digs in Greece and has published archaeological drawings of many notable buildings and historical areas such as the Serapeium, the Canopus and the Cento Camerelle of Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, the map of Late Antiquity Athens, mosaics and buildings of Kos (Greece) and Gortys (Crete-Greece). From1997 she has worked on educational projects in Rome and in the Middle East, where she worked as Archaeological Tour guide up to 2003 in Lybia, Jordan, and Iran. She has published academic articles on Ancient sanitation and translates academic archeological papers from Italian to English. She settled in Rome and fell in love with its beauty, its art, architecture and historical complexity in the mid1990's and became a Licensed Tour Guide of the Eternal City in 2001. Since 2003 she is Adjunct Professor at American Colleges in Rome, teaching History of Art, Archaeology and History of Architecture.

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    Rossella Licata

    Maria Rossella Licata, originally from Rome, holds a history of art degree from the University of Rome, and a Master's in conservation and cultural management from the University of Siena. She has worked as a researcher, historian and conservator at a number of prestigious institutions around the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In addition to English and Italian, Rossella speaks Spanish and is studying Portuguese. Her interests encompass Restoration to medieval illumination to the effects of time on patina. Although she never tires of talking about artists and paintings with enthusiastic visitors, her passions now include taking care of her six-month-old baby.

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    Simona Olivetti

    Simona is a native Roman. She holds a Master's degree in Art History and a PhD in Medieval and Modern Art from the University of Rome. She is a licensed tour guide of Rome and she has worked as a teacher in many Italian High Schools. She is a consultant and a tour guide for various cultural organizations, companies which organize art exhibitions and some Italian Ministries. Simona lived in Finland for three years and cooperated with the Italian Cultural Institute of Helsinki. She is mother tongue Italian and fluent in English and Spanish. Simona really feels at home at the Vatican, having always studied there and published about it, focusing on the XV and XVI centuries of art.

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    Maria Stella Bottai

    Maria Stella is an art historian and a licensed guide with a Masters in Medieval and Modern Art History and a PhD in 19th and 20th century European art from the Sapienza University of Rome. She has worked for several years as an art teacher with children and teenagers and mis still involved in outreach projects tailored to the younger generation. Maria Stella is also very active on the contemporary art scene in Rome through her publications, and as a curator of a number of international exhibitions in the city and abroad.

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    Roberta Bernabei

    Roberta Bernabei is an Art Historian and Art Critic. She has a Degree in Art History from the Sapienza University of Rome and a postgraduate degree from the School of Specialization in Archaeology and Art History at the University of Siena. She is an independent curator and journalist and is enrolled in AICA International Association of Art Critics. As well as this she is an licensed Roman tour guide. She collaborates with several publishing houses including Electa, Mondadori, Poligrafico dello Stato, Editalia, and Rizzoli. Sheis also an author of many books and articles about the art and the history of Rome, Italian art, contemporary art and the history of American art. She curates many art exhibitions in Italy and abroad and is also the President of the EOS Cultural Association, pursuing and promoting art history and culture in the city of Rome.

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    Giulia Facchin

    Giulia is an archaeologist, she earned a PhD in Archaeology and History of the urban landscape of Rome. She regularly takes part in archaeological field work and academic projects aimed to research and discover our History. She is a licensed guide of Rome. And loves her job because she can reach a wider public, she enjoys explaining and sharing knowledge and ideas about the past and the present Human condition. As an Historian she is fascinated by the city of Rome, and how with its 3000 and more years of history, it grew and expanded over the centuries, re-using, transforming and destroying its past. She likes to share this passion and knowledge with all her clients. She is also a musician and graduated as pianist.

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    Costantino D'Orazio

    Costantino D’Orazio is an art historian and a writer. A native Roman, he teaches at LUISS University and Link University in Rome, where he leads courses about the cultural heritage of the city and the relationship between Ancient and Contemporary Art. He is the author of some bestsellers which include: “The keys to open 99 Secret Places in Rome”, “ Caravaggio Revealed" and " The Mysteries behind his Masterpieces." His guide book “The Secret Rome through the movie The Great Beauty” was released earlier this year. Currently he is working on an essay about Leonardo da Vinci. He also works as a collaborator for Italian National TV (Rai 3). His research focuses on the exciting history of the artists that worked for the Popes during the XV, XVII and XVII century such as Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Caravaggio, Bernini and Borromini. As well as this he is specialized in teaching Art to children and teenagers.

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    Tiziana Sbisà

    Tiziana holds a Master's in Medieval and Renaissance Art from the Sapienza University of Rome and a Ph.D. in Art History from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Over the past five years she has conducted extensive research in Rome, Greece and Cyprus. She has also worked as curatorial intern in the Cleveland Museum of Art and art educator for children and students in the Vatican Museums. She currently teaches history at the Lorenzo de' Medici Institute in Rome. Her research interests center around ancient and medieval Mediterranean history, culture, art, politics and religion. As a docent at Context, she likes working with family travelers and enjoys transmitting her enthusiasm and knowledge about Rome's extraordinary sites while encouraging active participation and honing observation skills.

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    Felix Monguilot

    Felix Monguilot is an Art Historian and he is now in the final stage of his Ph.D program, as he is completing his doctoral thesis. He is specialized in Education and he also has a Master's in History of Cinematography. Felix has worked for many different museums and institutions within the Italian art world, as a researcher, an art project coordinator and a docent. He has published and presented widely in a number of different countries and at a variety of institutions, also receiving several fellowships and awards in Europe and the United States, where he worked for many years.
    He is now happily living and working in his favorite city, Rome.

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    Agostina Appetecchia

    Born in Rome, Agostina knew she wanted to become an archaeologist when she was just 10 years old. Since then she's gone on to obtain a PhD in Post-Classical Archaeology from the Sapienza University of Rome and an MA in Christian Archaeology from the Pontifical Institute for Christian Archaeology, the most important Vatican authority in this field. Her professional background in archaeology and history has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics such as monastic archaeology, digital methodologies in the investigation of archaeological contexts and building archaeology. In addition she has been Involved in several international projects in Sweden, Austria and the Vatican City State. She has studied some of the most important monuments in Rome including the Lateran Baptistery, Domitilla Catacombs and St. Paul's Basilica. Her articles have appeared in a number of selected scientific journals. She is currently working as a field director for the Italian "Soprintendenza" and publishing her PhD Dissertation on the first Benedictine monasteries in Italy. When she's not leading tours you can find her in her family farm where she produces organic olive oil, wine (she is a fine wine connoisseur), honey and jams. With an Italian grandmother who was a great chef, it was perhaps inevitable that she would eventually combine her own love for cooking with her interest in history: she is currently working on her book "Italian Traditional Mama-Cuisine."

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    Jason Cardone

    An Italian-American, Jason has lived in Rome for over twenty years. He completed graduate and undergraduate studies at the Sapienza University of Rome. His experience as an American student with an Italian education has given him a unique perspective. He is currently in the middle of his doctoral studies at Ca’ Foscari, Venice, specializing in the history of Renaissance perspective construction in the works of the great masters. Jason spent many years involved in the dramatic arts, which has no doubt enriched the experience he provides to visitors of Rome. In particular, he has developed his own approach to presenting this city and its rich history to children of all ages.

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    Valeria Lenuzza

    After obtaining her degree in Classical Studies, Valeria had the great opportunity to spend a few years in Athens, Greece, and attend a three-year Masters in Aegean Prehistory (the history and archaeology of Bronze Age Crete), at the Italian Archaeological School, one of the most eminent institutes for Italian archaeological research abroad. Once back in Italy, she completed her education by and earned a PhD in Aegean Archaeology. Since 2003, she has been involved in field work and international projects relating to the archaeology of Greece and since 2011, she has began to collaborate as a free-lance archaeologist with ISMA (Institute of Studies on Ancient Mediterranean, a department of CNR (National Center of Research). She has been giving lectures on a wide range of topics concerning archaeology and the history of ancient art to upper secondary school students and to American University students. In 2010, she began to work in the field of art education and to guide tours in Rome. Passionate about sculpture, both ancient Greek and Roman and Modern, her most beloved places in Rome are the Borghese Gallery and the Vatican Museums. She has a baby boy.

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    Valeria Pugiotto

    After obtaining her degree in Literature at the Sapienza University of Rome, Valeria completed a Master's in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology at U.C. Berkeley where she received the A.H.M.A. Graduate Fellowship. Valeria came back to Europe and took a M Litt. in Modern History at the Oxford University, Oriel College. She can read documents in Latin (Classical, Medieval); Greek (Classical, New Testament); Egyptian (Hieroglyphics, Hieratic); Coptic; Hebrew; Aramaic; Hittite (Cuneiform); Linear B; Old Persian; Sogdian; Pahlavi; Parthian and Sumerian. She has extensive archeological field work experience, which includes working as a Site Director at the ‘Largo di Torre Argentina Project’, the excavation of the Ripafratta Castle, (Lucca) with the Università di Pisa-G.A.R., and the Tel Dor Excavation (Tel Dor, Israel), alongside a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1988, she was a representative of her University at the International Congress of Egyptology in Cairo, Egypt and she is also qualified in Book and Manuscript Conservation. When she was doing her Master's at Berkeley, she taught Italian Language and Literature as and, at Oxford, she taught History to undergraduates. She has been working as a tour Guide since 2006.