A history infused weekend in Rome

18 October 2023
Written by
The Italy Insider

With our insider Alexander Mariotti

Alexander Mariotti is a Romano-British Historian and consultant, born in the provinces with a passion for history and culture. He works in various fields of the history world, talking on documentaries, teaching, researching in Museums and consulting on film and television shows. In recent years he has become a historian to the stars, arranging, only on request, private walks that mix history and culture with a personalised touch. His reputation has led to names like Tom Cruise, the Kardashians, Dustin Hoffman, Kate Hudson, Bill Gates, Justin Beiber, and Peggy Ghou. Alexander currently appears on the Hit documentary series Colosseum, streaming on the History channel and BBC.

Describe Italy in a few words
Wildly Adventurous yet intimate, visually seductive yet secretive. The greatest lover, friend, flirt, and relationship you ever had transformed into a country.

Why Rome? 
It speaks to the soul, from the past to the present day with a calming voice that spans the ages. An unconquerable city that somehow you feel yours. Rome is undeniably home.

What is the most interesting aspect of the Colosseum? 
It demonstrates how clearly the Romans understood the human psyche,  and tapped into it, harnessing something that has power over our primal and intellectual desires at the same time. An irresistible combination of immense beauty, violence, spectacle, politics, and humanity. There is no place like it.

Which is your first stop on a walk and why? 
A terrace that overlooks the forum, it is the most unique view in the world. It provokes talks, thoughts, and discussions that can only be had there. The scale envelopes you, the ancient technology impresses you and the ruins remind you of the fragility of civilisation.

Where would you go to feel the essence of Roman history? 
A late night walk or an exceptionally early morning stroll, both when the city sleeps. From the Pantheon to the Capitoline Hill and then the Colosseum. In the calm and quiet, Rome will talk to your heart, mind, and soul from her cobbled streets, ancient monuments, and immortal art.

If you were to select your top three churches to visit, which would they be? 
There is no such thing: there are over 900 churches in Rome. Don’t believe social media, it is impossible to make a “top ten” of anything in Rome.

Ice cream pit-stop during the tour? 
Always, Rome is not just history and monuments, it is culture and tradition. An experience for all the senses and that of course includes cuisine. Since I was a boy I would always walk to the Colosseum with a gelato and to this day I continue with this tradition.

The best moment of the day to visit the Vatican Museums to avoid a large queue? 
I advise to visit Rome Mid to late September, early October or mid April, the city is evacuated of the large crowds, the weather is moderate and you can enjoy a more intimate, local version of Rome far from the madness of summer crowds.

Favourite art-gallery in Rome? 
Ancient Romans were illiterate so the city, monuments and decorations had to tell you a story and give information. The Romans themselves talk to us two thousand years later through their sculpture. For this reason, the Capitoline museum enchants, past the unquantifiable beauty; there are conversations to be had with the art and much to be learned from it.

Historical palazzi – which are your top 3? 
Each person must find their own, Rome’s gift is that you can make your own version, this is why she is the Eternal city, an eternity would not suffice to know her, discover her or be with her.

Favorite foodie outlet for good pasta and house wine?
Lunch at Hostaria Antica Roma, on the immortal Appian way where you step back through time with Ancient Roman recipes. Massimo will serve you deep volcanic red wine, local cheeses, lasagna and bread made as it was in 1st century Pompeii. Dinner at La Rosetta, hidden in a side street with a secret view of  the Pantheon, Chef Massimo will spoil you with fresh egg spaghetti, red prawns and lime, served with a crisp, cold, local white wine.

Best fact on Rome? 
It impacted and still impacts our apparently “modern” language, lives, customs and behaviour, two thousand years on. Our summer holidays in July and August are because of Julius Caesar and Augustus, a “hand in marriage” is because handshake were contracts and a salary is from salt (sale) which was a form of payment. As the general Maximus Decimus Meridius once said “what we do in life echoes in eternity”, that is most true of  Rome.

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