Our family highly recommends Rome in December/January. The weather is usually good (okay, it rained the entire time we were there last year), the crowds and prices are somewhat mitigated, and the city lights up its streets in festivity that the US doesn’t attempt to match.
Most years, we take educational tours around Rome. We always use the same company, going through Cristina Giannicchi, who has incredible guides. Cristina’s guides meet you at your hotel or at the site you’re touring, and you usually walk or take taxis during the tours. Their prices are so reasonable for the quality. We’ve done the uber pricey guides. My recommendation: skip them. They’re pompous and only mildly knowledgeable. With Cristina, you get historians. I always ask for Mauro because he’s taken us on at least 8 tours, and I love his somewhat jaded yet respectful take on the monuments and their builders. If you want to hire Cristina and her group, email her at email@example.com.
This year was unlike other years, however. We arrived on December 23 after taking a 6AM flight, so our eyes were too glazed to take in much culture. As in other years, we stayed in a giant room at the petite Lord Byron Hotel, which is about to get a desperately needed facelift. The Lord Byron is located in Parioli, where all the embassies are; it’s not super convenient, but the bang for the buck is huge, and the food in Parioli towers over the food in the rest of Rome. That’s really what keeps drawing us back. It wouldn’t make sense to stay elsewhere and take taxis to Parioli for every dinner, which is what we’d do.
Anyway, here we were, back at the Lord Byron, arriving the day before my birthday, and I felt like formal tours wouldn’t inspire in Josephine the love of Rome that I feel. I wanted to walk her around and show her the beautiful sites she’s already seen multiple times to whittle lasting memories into her brain. So, what we did was buy regular tickets to the Colosseum — no access to the floor, nothing fancy, just wandering. My stories of gladiators, naval battles, and emperors mesmerized her. I told her about the corrupt Nero, whose Domus Aurea (Golden House) once stood where the Colosseum is today, and pointed out where his massive statue likely stood. We talked about Vespasian, who tore all signs of Nero’s self-glorification to bits to erect the most famous amphitheater in the world. We talked about how the walls would have been white with marble, lined with statues, and far taller than they are today. From the upper levels, we peered down at the labyrinthine chambers and passageways, where gladiators, lions, Christians, bears, ostriches, and so forth awaited their turn in the ring. It was such a wonderful little mommy-delivered tour, and the new museum-like displays upstairs were extremely helpful in providing a didactic experience. I really wanted to take her to the Forum the next day, but things were sold out, and I decided instead to show her the various obelisks and columns that stand in piazzas throughout the centro.
I’m no Mauro or Cristina, but I think she likes hearing the history from me. I sure love sharing my passion with her.
Author: Jessica Givens.