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Country Roads: Rome
Country Roads:
Caput Mundi

Story and photos by Tom Weber

Rome at night

aput Mundi. It's a Latin phrase taken to mean "capital of the world" and best describes the power and strength that ancient Rome, as both a republic and an empire, wielded for centuries via its mighty sandal-clad legions, tremendous influence over the arts, architecture and politics, and as the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and its continuous lineage of 266 pontiffs, from Saint Peter to present-day Pope Francis.

Appropriately, it is here in the "Eternal City," where once upon a time all roads lead to her, that my "Country Roads" journey of Umbria and Tuscany, as a guest of Insight Vacations (Insight), begins.

entrance  to the Hotel Regina Baglioni, Rome

With a level of sophistication worthy of a Caesar (emperor), Insight took the wraps off this familiarization trip, an assaggio (taste) of its 17-day premium escorted itinerary, and greeted my group of 23 travel-savvy international journalists and media with open arms at one of Rome's renowned palaces, the Hotel Regina Baglioni along Via Veneto, the avenue that symbolizes la dolce vita.

suite at the Hotel Regina Baglioni

Built in 1904 as the temporary residence of Margherita, Italy's then Queen Mother, this five-star luxury property, which fronts the U.S. Embassy, was constructed in the Liberty style and is accented throughout with understated art deco elegance befitting a home of noblesse. Unlike Regina Margherita, however, we only got to sample life inside the palace for one night. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Insight Vacations bus

Before DO NOT DISTURB signs were hung outside, our band of merry travel scribes and photographers was introduced to Insight's mode of travel for the next eight days – a luxury motor coach with business class legroom and WIFI – and treated to a tour of Rome by (rainy) night followed by a welcome dinner.

steps at the Piazza del Campidoglio or Capitoline, Rome

marble sculpture of greek god on the steps of Capitoline hill

the Roman Forum at night

With everyone comfortably onboard and seat belts fastened, Carlo, our modern-day charioteer, negotiated the wet pavement and cobblestone, while Belinda, our par excellence tour director-slash-storyteller, narrated in graphic detail scenes of long ago as we glided around the city, passing by ancient landmarks and monuments – the Coliseum, Circus Maximus and the Victor Emmanuel II Monument to name a few – taking in all that history as we made our way up to Campidoglio (Capitoline), one of the seven hills of Rome, for a casual stroll through the ornate piazza, designed by none other than Michelangelo, to an OMG panoramic view of the Roman Forum.

Back inside our spacious Mercedes built chariot, dinner was only minutes away as we now headed to one of the most picturesque squares in all of Rome, Piazza Navona.

Fountain of the Four Rivers by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Rome

A grand theater of water, we stopped long enough under a light drizzle to admire the ornate Fontana dei Quattro Fiume (Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, with statues representing the rivers from the then-known four continents (the Nile, the Danube, the Rio de la Plata and the Ganges). As Belinda pointed out, this is just one of the more than 2,000 fountains that dot Caput Mundi's landscape.

We capped our "get acquainted" evening with a delicious four-course dinner at Ristorante 4 Colonne, located in the atrium of Palazzo Lancellotti, a late 15th century building just off Piazza Navona.

The food was delightful, the wine flowed freely, and in between courses we were serenaded with live opera arias and traditional Italian favorites sung by a talented and attractive Neopolitan mezzo-soprano named Dragana.

the writer's empty bowl and wine glasses at the Ristorante 4 Colonne

My apologies, but it wasn't until after I left the restaurant that I realized I had forgotten to photograph the dishes BEFORE I consumed them and, therefore, I don't have any virtual tastes to share with you now, other than the wiped-clean bowl, the nearly-spent wine glass and the bone-dry espresso cup. Mea culpa. I promise to improve on my foodie framing in the coming days. Scout's honor!

Now, if you're up for it, I'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning when Insight's "Country Roads of Italy" journey pays a visit to the Vatican Museum, highlighted by a private viewing of the Bramante Staircase, the double-helix flight of steps not accessible to the general public, but a "signature" experience provided by Insight.

Insight Vacations' Country Roads of Italy travel guides

For complete information on Insight Vacations' 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries and over 100 journeys throughout Europe just click HERE, or call toll free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.


Related Articles:
Country Roads, Italy; Rome: Basics for Beginners; Vatican Museums; Norcia, Umbria; Vicenza: The City of Palladio; Vicenza Walks: Piazza dei Signori

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

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Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, the Garden District, the streetcar (now a bus) to Desire, the jazz clubs, the beignets at the Café du Monde and breakfast at Brennan’s come to mind when you think of New Orleans. But that’s not all there is to this unique American city, filled with treasures both culinary and cultural.

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