The Glory of Rome: From Gladiators to the Digital Age May 26-June 3, 2019

This custom-designed tour of Rome surpasses the ordinary, offering an exclusive invitation to historic villas, Baroque palaces not open to the public, fragrant gardens, and personal art collections.

Together, we'll travel through the ages, from the iconic Ancient Roman structures of the Forum to grand Renaissance and Baroque palaces, to modern architectural feats by international star architects Richard Meier, Renzo Piano, and Zaha Hadid. At the American Academy of Rome, we'll enjoy lunch by private invitation. We will be granted special access to hidden masterworks throughout the city and will be joined by a renowned art and architecture scholar, who is also a native Roman, eager to share his extensive knowledge of the innermost secrets of Roman culture.


  • Accommodations at the sophisticated four-star Rose Garden Palace Hotel. Ideally located near the stunning Villa Borghese, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain, the Rose Garden Palace is nothing shy of elegant and convenient.
  • Splendid views of the terraced gardens and historic cascades at Villa d'Este as well as other sights in the charming countryside town of Tivoli.
  • By special arrangement, enter the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel before they open to the public and marvel at sprawling frescoes by Renaissance masters, Michelangelo and Raphael.
  • Behind-the-scenes access to private villas opened by their owners exclusively for Washington and Lee travelers.

Custom Itinerary

This custom travel program has been created uniquely for Washington and Lee University.

Sunday, May 26, 2019: Departure for Rome, Italy

Take independent, overnight flights to Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO).

Monday, May 27, 2019: Arrivals in Rome

Upon arrival at the Rome airport, you will meet your tour director before boarding a group transfer that will take you to the lovely four-star Rose Garden Palace Hotel in the heart of Rome. After eating lunch independently, we embark on an in-depth walking tour of Centro Storico. Notable stops include Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Sant'Ignazio, and the Trevi Fountain. Arranged specially for our group is admission to the rarely-visited Vicus Caparius, a fascinating subterranean archaeological site that perfectly-and beautifully-shows the inner workings of ancient Rome's water system. This evening, we gather for a festive welcome dinner of traditional Roman cuisine at Il Roseto, the Rose Garden Palace's stunning al fresco restaurant. Hotel Rose Garden Palace (D)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019: Ancient Rome

Today, an early-morning visit to what is perhaps Rome's most iconic structure awaits us. We will discover architectural gems, endless centuries of fascinating history, and larger-than-life personalities during an in-depth tour of the spectacular Coliseum and the nearby Roman Forum. This afternoon we enjoy lunch along the Roman Forum at a rooftop restaurant with sweeping views of ancient ruins. Afterwards, we will visit the Markets of Trajan, the largest surviving intact market structure from the ancient Roman world. The grand structure was built around 110 AD by Apollodorus of Damascus, an architect whom the Emperor Trajan entrusted with the planning of his Forum. This day of ancient wonders ends at the Palazzo Massimo, where we will see the highlights of the best collection of ancient art in Rome. We return to the hotel for dinner and the evening at leisure. Hotel Rose Garden Palace (B, L)

Wednesday, May 29, 2019: Vatican Treasures & Villa Farnesina

The day begins with a private early opening of the Vatican Museums where we will be among a very small group of visitors allowed into the cultural treasure trove of the papacy. Highlights of this tour include visits to the Raphael Rooms, lavishly decorated and originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II, and the Sistine Chapel, famously decorated with Michelangelo's master ceiling frescoes. Once the museum opens to the public, we continue touring other masterworks, from Raphael's Trans guration to ancient sculptures like the Laocoön and the Belvedere Torso. Following a light lunch in the historic Borgo district, we arrive at St. Peter's Basilica, avoid the line, and view the great monuments of the main church, as well as the amazing ancient necropolis that lies below. With special permission from the sacristan, we will view the burial grounds where St. Peter was taken after his death. Later this afternoon, we visit Villa Farnesina, a Renaissance jewel opened exclusively for W&L. The villa is considered one of the noblest and most harmonious creations of the Italian Renaissance and is home to glowing frescoes by Raphael, among countless other beautiful works. This evening, we'll join fellow travelers for a dinner of authentic cuisine at a charming restaurant not far from our hotel. Hotel Rose Garden Palace (B, L, D)

Thursday, May 30, 2019: Villas of Tivoli

Our day outside the urban sprawl of Rome is spent among cypress trees and umbrella pines in and around the historic hill village of Tivoli, a favorite location for country estates since the days of the Emperor Hadrian. First, we visit Hadrian's Villa, an enormous complex comprised of ancient baths, a library, private study, and theater. This was the emperor's stunning retreat that incorporated dramatic designs re ecting his constant travels around the Roman Empire of his day. We then depart for the nearby center of Tivoli to enjoy a co ee reception overlooking the picturesque waterfalls that reside near the ancient Temple of Vesta. We will have a gourmet lunch at one of the nest hidden restaurants in the Roman countryside, almost unknown to foreign visitors. Finally, we are led on an in-depth journey of the Villa d'Este, a sumptuous 16th-century villa with splendid gardens and fountains fed by a complex and innovative hydraulic system. We return to Rome for the remainder of the evening and dinner at leisure. Hotel Rose Garden Palace (B, L)

Friday, May 31, 2019: Trastevere & The American Academy

Pending special permission, the Italian Fine Arts Ministry will grant us private access to the country's top painting restoration laboratories, housed in a centuries-old warehouse in the Trastevere district. There we will have the opportunity to see priceless works of art up-close while world-class experts clean and restore them - a fascinating insider's look! Next, we are granted a private tour of the American Academy in Rome, with its beautiful palace and gardens designed by the legendary American architectural firm, McKim, Mead and White. We will tour the library and kitchens before meeting with the current artist-in-residence to see her work. Lunch today is with fellow travelers in the Academy's striking palace courtyard. After lunch, we will walk to the Janiculum Hill for one of the best views over the Ancient City. Before descending back to Rome, we will stop to admire two monuments beautifully immortalized in Paolo Sorrentino's Oscar-winning Best Foreign Film, The Great Beauty: the graceful Acqua Paola Fountain, completed in 1612, and Bramante's remarkable 1502 Tempietto, architectural perfection on a tiny scale. Back in Trastevere, there will be an optional walk through the neighborhood. Otherwise, free time may be spent enjoying Rome at your own pace. We enjoy the rest of the evening and dinner at our leisure. Hotel Rose Garden Palace (B, L)

Saturday, June 1, 2019: The Best of Baroque Rome: Bernini, Borromini & Beyond

The rivalry between great Baroque masters Bernini and Borromini shaped much of the Roman 17th century, not to mention the future contributions of a troubled young genius named Caravaggio. Today, travelers will experience these artists' masterpieces to take measure of this dark, yet fascinating, period of Roman history: Santa Maria della Vittoria, where Bernini's remarkable and controversial Ecstasy of St. Theresa resides; the interior of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Borromini's first independent commission and a truly innovative space; and Bernini's stage-like Sant'Andrea, another miniscule masterpiece on the Quirinial Hill. We stop for lunch at a quaint café overlooking the expansive Villa Borghese park. Then, we will be guided on an in-depth tour of the beautiful Galleria Borghese, a whirlwind of magnificent interiors and virtuoso paintings and sculptures that encompasses the very best of the 17th and 18th centuries in Italy. Highlights include numerous statues by Borromini and masterpieces by Caravaggio, Titian, and Botticelli. Finally, we arrive at an amazing private home hidden away in a lush garden at the heart of the city. The owners have graciously permitted W&L travelers to enter their beautiful residence, which was originally built by one of the city's most prolific art-collecting cardinals. The interiors, dotted with sumptuous frescoes by Guercino and a delightful surprise by Caravaggio, remain largely untouched since the 17th century. We return to the hotel for an evening and dinner at leisure. Hotel Rose Garden Palace (B, L)

Sunday, June 2, 2019: World War II & Contemporary Rome

This final morning is dedicated to the dramatic stories of World War II within Rome. We arrive at the Palazzo Venezia where Mussolini held his office in the Sala del Mappamondo and used its balcony overlooking the Piazza Venezia to deliver many speeches. Nearby is the Jewish Ghetto, where we will learn about the tragic story of the expulsion and massacre of Rome's longtime Jewish population. There will be free time to take an independent lunch in the Ghetto neighborhood. We will regroup this afternoon and visit three spectacular new works of architecture that have given Rome a unique 21st-century air: the Parco della Musica, Renzo Piano's incredible auditorium designed specially for the Rome symphony; the soaring Jubilee Church, a Richard Meier building in Tor Tre Treste, a working-class district on the periphery of the city; and the daring MAXXI Museum exterior, designed by Zaha Hadid and completed in 2012. We return to the hotel for some free time before rejoining fellow travelers at a memorable farewell dinner. We will dine at a lively restaurant along the Via Veneto and share stories of an amazing week in the Eternal City! Hotel Rose Garden Palace (B, D)

Monday, June 3, 2019: Departures for the U.S.

This morning, a group transfer by private motor coach takes guests back to Rome Fiumicino Airport for independent flights home. (B)

Extension: Art & Beauty in Umbria. June 3-6, 2019

The timeless countryside and picturesque stone towns of Umbria, just a couple hours from Rome, provide the perfect backdrop for three additional days of cultural exploration and Italian dolce vita with George Bent.

The colorful hill town of Spoleto will be our home for three nights, with accommodations in the delightful four-star Hotel San Luca, and every meal included in the program. Dazzling artistic masterpieces await us in Orvieto, Spoleto, Montefalco, and Spello - from the brushes of Renaissance painters like Signorelli, Lippi, Perugino, and Pinturicchio. Special experiences are sprinkled throughout the extension itinerary: a luncheon in a one-of-a-kind converted hamlet; a meeting with a top local art restorer; a pizza dinner with an American couple at their beautiful organic farm with views for miles!

  • Extension Land Package: $1,995
  • Extension Single Supplement: $325

Extension Land Package Includes

  • Three nights accommodations in the Hotel San Luca, Spoleto, based on double occupancy;
  • breakfast daily, all lunches (3) and dinners (3);
  • leadership of Professor George Bent;
  • services of an experienced ISDI Tour Manager;
  • land transportation by deluxe air-conditioned motor coach;
  • all sightseeing and admission charges as outlined in the itinerary;
  • one group transfer from Rome hotel to Spoleto, and one upon departure to the FCO airport;
  • porterage of one piece of luggage per person at the hotel;
  • bottled water during daily excursions, service charges, taxes, and basic gratuities for meals included in the itinerary;
  • gratuities for guides and bus drivers.

Trip Information

Tour Dates

May 26 - June 3, 2019.

Tour Cost

  • Land Package: $4,995
  • Single Supplement: $1,095
  • Extension Land Package: $1,995
  • Extension Single Supplement: $325

*Tour Price is per person based on double occupancy, with a minimum of 25 paying participants. Land prices are calculated as of December 2017 and are subject to change.

Activity Level

Moderate, good walking ability.

Deposit & Final Payment

A deposit of $1,000 per paying participant will be required to guarantee participation in the program. This may be paid by check, or by Visa or MasterCard. Final payment will be invoiced and is due on February 15, 2019. Final payment must be made by check payable to International Seminar Design, Inc. Registrations will be accepted beyond this date on a space-available basis with payment in full by check only.


Airfare is not included in the tour price. Participants are responsible for all aspects of their round-trip air arrangements into and out of Rome.

Terms & Conditions

International Seminar Design, Inc. (ISDI) acts only as an agent for the participant with respect to transportation, accommodations, and all other services relating to this tour. ISDI, Washington and Lee University, and/or their agents assume no responsibility or liability for any act, error or omission, or for any injury, loss, accident, delay or irregularity, which may be caused by any defect in any aircraft, ship, train, bus, or other carrier, or through neglect or default of any subcontractor or other third party, which may be used wholly or in part in the performance of their duty to the participants of the tour. ISDI and Washington and Lee University reserve the right to cancel any tour prior to departure for any reason including insuf cient numbers of participants, as well as the right to decline to accept or retain any person as a member of the
tour at any time. If bookings fall below the minimum required, passengers will be advised of additional costs or itinerary alterations before departure date.

Cancellations & Refunds

All cancellations must be received in writing by ISDI, and charges are calculated as of the day noti cation is received in writing by ISDI. If a tour member cancels, the following scale of charges is incurred: Cancellations received by ISDI on or before November 26, 2018 incur no penalty. After November 26, 2018 there is a non-refundable administrative fee of $500 per person. The costs associated with any tickets purchased for planned activities (as indicated in the itinerary) are non-refundable. Written cancellation received by ISDI on or between November 27, 2018 and February 15, 2019: full refund minus $500 per person administrative fee. Written cancellation received by ISDI between February 16, 2019, and April 10, 2019: full refund of any recoverable land costs, less $2,500 per person cancellation charge (includes administrative fee). Written cancellation received by ISDI after April 11, 2019: no refund. After the tour has commenced, it is not possible to issue any refunds. No refunds for any unused portion of the tour including, but not limited to, occasional missed meals or any missed sightseeing tours. Costs for promotion, staff, and other group expenses are not refundable. In the case of cancellation, substitutions are not acceptable. The tour cost is non-transferable, and no substitutions are allowed. If ISDI or Washington and Lee University cancels the tour due to low registrations, active registrants will receive a full refund of all tour payments.

Travel Insurance

ISDI and Washington and Lee University strongly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. For more information on Travel Insurance, please contact the W&L Traveller at the Washington and Lee University Of ce of Lifelong Learning at (540) 458-8723.

Tour Price Inclusions

Seven (7) nights at the four-star Rose Garden Palace in Rome; breakfast daily, ve (5) lunches, three (3) dinners, coffee and tea with most meals, two (2) glasses of wine with included dinners, one (1) glass of wine with included lunches; private air-conditioned motor coach or minibus for all land transportation as outlined in the itinerary; one (1) group transfer upon arrival and one (1) group transfer upon departure between Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO) and the Rose Garden Palace Hotel; expert, local English-speaking guides for planned sightseeing; services of Italian-speaking ISDI Tour Director (Jordan Cook); entrance fees to all sites and private visits as listed in the itinerary; gratuities for all guides and motor coach drivers; personal listening devices for guided visits; bottled water for all excursions by private motor coach; handling of two (2) pieces of luggage per person upon arrival and departure at the Rose Garden Palace Hotel.

Tour Price Exclusions

Airfare, airline taxes, and fuel surcharges; airport porterage; passport fees; individual transfers to and from the airports for those not using group transfers; excursions, activities, or meals during traveler's free time; personal items; personal services; travel extensions; personal insurance for health, baggage, and tour cancellation; passport fees; visa fees; gratuities for hotel housekeeping; any other items not specifically included in the itinerary.

For Questions or Additional Information