Romulus and Remus myths aside, how did Rome begin? What were the causes of its success? How did normal people live and what was normal life like beyond the dramatic stories of emperors and gladiators? These are the questions we try to answer—and many more—in the course of this daily life in ancient Rome tour, which visits the Foro Boario (cow market), Tiber Island, and several Republican-era temples.
Led by a classical historian, archaeologist or other scholar of antiquity, this walk takes us beyond the Roman Forum, Colosseum, and other "big name" monuments in Rome to discover an array of less-well-known ancient ruins not normally included in a typical tourist itinerary, but all the more amazing, unique, and critical to understanding Rome and her history.
We begin in the Foro Boario, or cow market, of ancient Rome, located along the Tiber River, where we can discuss the importance of the river as a source of trade and the importance of trade to the development of Roman civilization. Although central, this is an area of the city that few people explore. However, it is filled with a tremendous wealth of ancient sites, including over 15 different temples. We'll take the opportunity of being in a less-touristy part of ancient Rome to draw on our docent's wealth of knowledge to have her paint a detailed portrait of Rome's of social and economic life during antiquity.
Nearby we'll find several of the oldest structures in Rome, some Republican-era temples as well as the Cloaca Maxima, the great drain (sewer) of ancient Rome. We'll find some comfortable shade and talk about the endeavor of temple building and the role of temples in everyday life. Although it may seem strange, we'll talk extensively about the sewer, arguably one of the most important things ever built in Rome—at least in terms of daily life—and still in use today!
We'll eventually wind our way across the Tiber River to view the Ponte Rotto, or broken bridge, one of the oldest bridges in the world and filled with vivid stories. Our program will finish on the Tiber Island, a fantastic place to find lunch or dinner. One of the hallmarks of this walk is the wide range of different sites visited. During our time together we'll visit an important early building complex from the Republican era, one of Rome's few surviving quadrifons arches, a circus racetrack, a 2000-year-old bridge, and several temples absorbed by medieval churches over the centuries. It's a bit mix-and-match, but we'll tie it all together to provide a clear picture of what it would have been like during antiquity to live in the greatest city on earth.
Our exact itinerary will vary from day to day, depending on the specialization of our docent and the interests of the group. Often our conversation will center on daily life during antiquity, the evolution of the city from a small trading settlement along the Tiber to the capital of the world, the role of religion and cults, the palimpsestic urban layers that are unique to Rome, or architectural and engineering innovations.
This is certainly a walking tour that will interest return visitors who have a distinct interest in Ancient Rome and want to find out about daily life in Roman times. But, at the same time it is designed to be accessible for any traveler who wants to dig a little deeper, get away from the crowds, and engage in a fascinating discussion about ancient Rome. It provides a fantastic counterpoint to either our Colosseum Tour or our Caesar and Empire Walking Tour of Rome.
Tom came to Rome on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1991 after completing his architectural studies at Harvard. Tom was the founder of Scala Reale, an association of scholars leading small-group study walks that was acquired by Context in 2004. Currently Tom is dedicating himself to the fields of cultural and environmental sustainability, architecture and design through his teaching and his design firm TRA_20. He is the author of the book Rome Works: An Architect Explores the World’s Most Resilient City, and the editor of the Still Sustainable City blog sustainablerome.net which was chosen by Guardian Cities as Italy's best city blog.
Liz, a native of San Francisco, California holds degrees in architecture from the University of California at Berkeley and Università degli studi "La Sapienza", Rome. She specialized in restoration and urban design. Her restoration projects have brought her to work in direct contact with the rich historical layers of Rome and Italy. She has been leading study walks for Context Rome since its beginning and has lived in Rome since 1988 practicing architecture, researching design and lecturing at university study abroad programs.
Sara is an art historian with doctoral degrees in Medieval and Modern Art History and Classical Antiquities. She is the author of a book, published by the Accademia dei Lincei, on the antiquities collection of Pope Julius II and has written various articles in important scholarly journals on the history of Renaissance and Baroque collections. More recently, she had published a book on some of the most famous paintings of Caravaggio in Rome which introduces a new interpretation of the works, based on philological data, and which is changing the way we look at this artist. For many years, she has combined her philological research with her work as a university instructor, museum educator and professional tourist guide.