by Chris Leadbeater, The Telegraph, March 5, 2018
From artistic masterpieces to cycling tours and gladiator classes, Chris Leadbeater finds plenty to enjoy beyond Rome’s landmarks.
Roman holidays? As in a reference to a film that came out in 1953? What sort of topical feature is this? Next week – the moon landings? Yes, yes. But Rome is the Eternal City. And Roman Holiday is a timeless classic, full of the joys of romance in a glorious setting. Are you going to tell Audrey Hepburn’s ghost her Oscar-winning turn wasn’t good enough for you? No? Fine. You can follow her and Gregory Peck to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. You can even go to Cinecitta World (€24/£21; cinecittaworld.it), an amusement park themed around the studio where it was created. Because that’s what we all think of when we see Roman Holiday – rollercoasters.
Be a gladiator
It is clearly very bad to let your children play with blades while pretending to hack each other to bits. Except, of course, when it’s the Gladiator Training School run by the Rome Cavalieri. This sees youngsters learn the ways of the ancient warrior in the five-star hotel’s fragrant gardens. From €500 for up to six people, lions not included. Family-size rooms are available in May for €419 (romecavalieri.com).
Ides of March
Poor Julius Caesar. A builder of empire who posterity has as a guy stabbed in the back. Gruppo Storico Romano restages his murder on the Ides of March (March 15), at the Largo Argentina historic site (gruppostoricoromano.it). Citalia (citalia.com) offers a trip that has you in town (at the Starhotels Metropole) at the right time.
Rome does more than dead men in togas. Exclusive Tours is offering a four-day Michelangelo in Rome escorted trip scheduled to explore the city from Nov 21 in the company of art expert Martin Gayford. This will include private after-hours admission to the Sistine Chapel to glimpse the great brushsmith’s work minus the crowds. From £2,060 per person, including flights.
Nothing says “up-to-the-minute Rome travel article” quite like mention of the Colosseum, the incomparable amphitheatre. Yet it’s worth remembering that the fourth and fifth tiers reopened to the public last autumn after being closed for 40 years.
Watching the wheels
The Giro d’Italia (giroditalia.it) cycle race begins this year – obviously – in Jerusalem, on May 4. Perhaps unsurprisingly, its final stage, on May 27, will be a little more, erm, Italian, as it trundles through Rome. Catch the action via a three-night city break at the five-star Hotel Eden, from £1,079pp, with flights. Book at kirkerholidays.com.
Professional cycling? You can do as well yourself. On the Via Francigena guided break scheduled to leave Pisa on May 19, meander through the Tuscan countryside before arriving in Rome in time for the Giro denouement. From £1,810pp, including flights, with skedaddle.co.uk.
Portraits of Doria
More people have seen Michelangelo’s depiction of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel than will be at the Last Judgment. Probably. No, that isn’t logical. But anyway, if you want a less obvious take on Rome’s art treasures, head instead for the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, where a somewhat under-heralded collection has marvels by Raphael, Titian, Velazquez, Brueghel the Elder and Caravaggio (€12; doriapamphilj.it).
Table with a view
When does the Colosseum look at its best? At night? When all the tour buses have gone? When you’re stationed at the rooftop Aroma restaurant at the delightful Palazzo Manfredi, gazing at the iconic arena over a plate of ravioli with oxtail stew and Parmesan fondue (€40)? Yep, that one. Double rooms at this converted 17th-century mansion, in the amphitheatre’s very shadow, start at €400 (palazzomanfredi.com).