Ciao Roma!

by Vicky - Spirit of Italy Tours on November 12th, 2010

Spirit of Italy Tours was invited by the Italian Government Tourist Board (ENIT) and Roma Capitale (the city of Rome) on a fabulous 4-day trip to see the city of Rome. The main premise of the trip was to show travel professionals (even us, a start up!) the incredible beauty of the Eternal City and the ancient sites for which it is so well known but to also kick-off an incredible new initiative called the The Second Tourist Pole. This is an ambitious city-wide expansion plan involving new construction and reconstruction of buildings and attractions to integrate historic Rome with contemporary Rome and make it a premier destination for both business and leisure travelers. Already in the works is a convention center with uber modern hotel, new aquarium, a theme park based on ancient Rome, new Formula One race track, new sports center, cycling track, golf course and much, much more. Rome is one of the greenest cities in Europe. There are parks and waterfront areas and all of the old cityl will be linked with expanded metro service, etc. to the new destinations. The “forecast” is to have much of the work, privately funded, finished by 2012. (From my observations, I would say that isn’t very realistic. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I don’t think “new” Rome is any different.)

Regardless, the trip was OUTSTANDING!!!!!!!!!!!! It was one of those rare moments in life when you think that something is too good to be true but it's actually better than true?! ENIT were the MOST gracious and generous hosts and truly gave us red carpet treatment from start to finish. This included greetings from the Mayor of Rome each day, a ground staff that catered to our every need, police escorts to many of the most prominent and stunning sites of antiquity and private guided tours to sites, some not open to the public, or opened off hours specifically for our group of 50.

The highlights are almost too many to mention. We were whisked like rock stars from one incredible spot to the next but in typical Italian style nothing felt rushed even though we were on the go from 9:00 a.m. to midnight each day.

Link to some of my pictures:

One of the gems of the trip was the weather. The entire week was SUNNY and in the 70's VERY uncharacteristic for this time of year when it’s often rainy and cold. On the first night we were taken to the Spazio Cremonini al Trevi, a mixed-use building. On the rooftop we had a welcoming cocktail reception with views of the Trevi Fountain with dinner following two floors below at Harry’s Bar. Just magical. Later in the evening, in that same building we were taken to the Trevi Cinema, a small and private screening room where the Mayor of Rome greeted us and showed us an Homage to Rome short film by Franco Zefferelli. This was followed by a near midnight tour of recent arachaelogical ruins of ancient Roman houses they recently excavated in the lowest levels of the Cremonini adjacent to the screening room! What’s so amazing is that so much of present day Rome is literally built over centuries of antiquity.

On day two we saw an area of the Forum ruins which are beyond description, just so vast and impressive with views in every direction of important buildings, temples and monuments. For lunch we were taken to a modern complex --Parco della Musica --where the Rome International Film Festival was taking place. What stood out was the long red carpet and a 20-long foot wall of fresh orchids –breathtaking!

Later that night toured we toured Villa Torlonia that was last inhabited by Mussolini, and only recently restored as a museum by the Roman government. The vast property is surrounded by lush gardens and the stairs of the grounds leading to the main entry were lit by candles. After a private tour and before an elaborate dinner on an enclosed outdoor terrace, we were again welcomed by the Mayor of Rome and other important dignitaries from the Rome travel commission and treated to a private 45-minute concert with two tenors from the Rome opera in what was once the official music room of Villa Torlonia. It was wonderous and beautiful and moved some of the group members to tears.

On day three we were whisked mainly to the EUR area of Rome to see some the areas and some of the buildings being constructed and renovated which are part of the new Second Tourist Pole initiative. We had lunch at Spazio 900, which is used for special events and art exhibits which is quite interesting architecturally and the Palazzo Civilta del Lavoro which was built in the 1940’s and is being restored as the site for the new design mart. Another fabulous moment was also on the last night when they invited us to a black tie event for the Premio Colosseo Awards ceremony, an event which honors people who help promote the beauty of Rome. This event took place on an enclosed roof top area of the Piazza del Campidoglio. Before dinner they also provided us with a a private tour of a section of the huge Capitoline Museum which is housed below.

My Harvest Italia 2011 tour – an experience to live like Italian for one week -- is now open for registration. If you’d like to tack on time before or after the tour to visit Rome, I can make those arrangements for you. I think you’ll be happy you did!

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