The Renaissance: think of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, beautiful art and a revival of culture – but it’s also been a time of intrigues and corruption, ambitious cardinals and gorgeous courtisans, greedy bankers, reckless adventurers and unscrupulous popes. This tour is mostly about the many stories history books usually don’t tell.
We’ll immerse ourselves in the intrigues at the papal court exploring Castel Sant’Angelo, the pope’s fortress, from top to bottom. Once the mausoleum of the Roman emperor Hadrian, it was then turned into a castle to provide a safe hiding place for the pope, should he get attacked by enemies. Its dungeons were also used up to the 1800’s as a prison for all the political opponents of the papacy, and this is where many executions took place. On the other hand, the top floors house the grand frescoed rooms the pope would enjoy during his stays at the castle, while the top terrace offers an unforgettable view over the entire city.
Crossing the most beautiful bridge in town, known as Ponte Sant’Angelo, we’ll get to the neighbourhood where the rich bankers from Florence used to live in the 1400-1500’s; you’ll see how Rome has always been a city of stark contrasts, with aristocratic palaces mixed with humble buildings and colourful markets such as Campo de’ Fiori.
At Palazzo della Cancelleria you’ll hear about the powerful cardinal Riario, who had to hand over his riches to the pope to save his life, after having been caught taking part into an attempt on the pope’s life; Palazzo Farnese takes us back to the time of pope Paul III, who owed his speedy career to his sister Giulia Farnese, mistress of pope Borgia; and in between, we’ll discover hidden courtyards and quaint artisans’ workshops that will make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.