Traveling to Italy has been number one on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. So when an invitation came to join Dark Rome for a few days in Italy—exploring Rome, Pompeii, and Tuscany—I was beyond excited. I would daydream about the gorgeous Tuscan hillsides and small towns. I would long for the taste of olives, mozzarella, pasta, and wine as I prepared dinner for my family. I smartly tucked away some extra savings into my shopping fund—anticipating a few splurges while abroad.
But not once did I let my mind drift to the immense history that would inevitably be a part of my visit to Italy. I’ve never been much of a history buff. History was a sizable part of my liberal arts education but I never really got excited about it. In fact, I regularly tease my husband about him being a history geek—reciting historical facts, reading alternate history novels, watching documentaries.
And then I visited Italy and all that changed.
Surrounded by history
Dark Rome—the sister company of City Wonders—brought history to light for me. My fascination began almost immediately upon leaving the airport in Rome. The drive to my hotel was littered with buildings that had me whipping out my phone camera—sure that the buildings I was seeing were ones of great importance based on the architecture, the statues and fountains attached, the age, and the sheer mass of them. And then I realized these buildings were everywhere.
The narrow roads—many of which are one-way streets—are laid out in a way that makes no sense for modern day traffic simply because they were constructed around such historically significant buildings. When I arrived at my hotel—the 5-star Palazzo Montemartini Rome—I realized that there is history literally everywhere in Rome.
The ruins of the Baths of Diocletion were just steps from the hotel as were the ruins of the 4th century Servian Wall. Part of Servian Wall is even located inside the nearby Termini Train Station—the ruins can be seen in the McDonald’s restaurant there.
When I say history is everywhere in Rome, I’m not exaggerating.
And so began my newfound appreciation for history.
Tours of a lifetime
On my first full day in Italy, I went on two Dark Rome tours. The first was a tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum. This tour was followed by a Vatican tour—through the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and ending in St. Peter’s Square.
The following day I took a day trip to Pompeii which included the opportunity to climb Mt. Vesuvius. The next day I enjoyed a unique tour of underground Rome via a Crypts and Catacombs tour—the very first tour Dark Rome ever offered.
I rounded out my time in Italy with a day trip to Tuscany—visiting a Montalcino vineyard and rustic small towns.
Dark Rome did not disappoint. Each tour offered skip-the-line access to the venues. When you only have a few days in a bucket-list country, you certainly do not want to spend hours in lines and I was so grateful for Dark Rome’s ability to garner us immediate access to the top sites—the Colosseum and the Vatican in particular.
All Dark Rome tours have size limits allowing for an intimate feel and plenty of space to ask questions and dive into history that is of interest to you. Each guide is fluent in English so there’s no straining to understand the guides. This is important because the very best part of the Dark Rome tours are that the guides are true storytellers. Each of the guides told little-known tales that brought history into light.
My guides each had interests in differing things—architecture, botany, history, art, archeology—and it showed in their passion and exuberance when sharing stories of the area. One of my guides—Andrea—was showing our group a painting and referred to the “author of this painting.” He then interrupted himself to say that it was not an accident—nor poor English—to refer to the painter as an author. He went on to say that the painting truly tells a story and therefore the painter is an author—telling a tale through the artwork.
By the end of my time in Italy, I felt the same about Dark Rome guides—they are the authors of the stories that brought history to life for me.
The author, Kayt Myers, was hosted by Dark Rome during her time in Italy. All opinions are her own.
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