Have the Rome tour of your life!

Rome is a city full of surprises, a living museum with great weather, food, sites and above all people.  It’s the perfect holiday destination on many levels.  Visiting sites such as the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla, the Trevi fountain and the Spanish steps are just as pleasurable as enjoying a superb meal in the Ghetto, or taking a stroll amongst the cobbled streets of Trastevere while eating a delicious ice cream.  Either way, you will need to do some planning so that you don’t waste time queueing for tickets or wandering around the city with your nose in a map trying to find Piazza Navona!

Some places, the Vatican and Colosseum especially, have queues to overcome and can be skipped by booking a fully qualified licensed guide.  It’s worth doing not only as a way to jump the queue, but also a good guide has a wealth of knowledge and many stories to tell that will make your visit all the more interesting and worthwhile. In a group tour each person is issued with a headset so nobody will have to strain there ears above the noisy crowds in order to hear what the guide is explaining.

Many of the sites of course don’t need tickets or a guide, places like the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and the many piazzas of Rome can be seen whenever you want, a guide isn’t really necessary for these, but having someone who knows the history is always recommended, having someone who is passionate about the city and who is able to tell you stories and facts that you won’t find in any guide book, really makes a difference.

Planning your holiday makes it a much less stressful experience.  Booking ahead will save you time, and money, and by booking a guided tour you will be able to see all of what this city has to offer and still have time to relax.  Remember, Rome also has many restaurants, bars, shops and parks to see!  If you have time, why not book a trip to the island of Capri, Castel Gandolfo( the summer residence of the Pope) or even Pompeii?

Whatever you end up doing in the Eternal City, a professional tour will make your experience and unforgettable one.  This city is a treasure when it comes to architecture, history, artists and food, make sure you make the most of your time by planning ahead.  If you are not sure what to see, book a general tour of the city so that you can see the main points of interest and then you can choose where you would like to spend more time.  Whatever you see or do, one this is guaranteed, you won’t be disappointed.


What the Butler Saw

Joe Orton. Circumstances surrounding his brutal murder apart, and that I watched ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’ at Manchester Royal Exchange in 1984 when Adam Ant played the lead, the plot of ‘What the Butler Saw’ never really grabbed my attention, a veiled parody of British sexuality in the sixties with a twist at every turn, a Carry On on any other rainy day.

So what did the butler see? Too much, according to Vatican authorities who have incarcerated their nemesis for leaking sensitive documents. ‘Sensitive’ meaning evidence of collusion between the Vatican and Italian politicians, vast amounts of money, policy on sex scandals in the Catholic Church, and other matters of a disconcerting nature.

Paolo Gabriele, known as ‘Angel Gabriel’ to the godly good, is currently detained at His Holiness’ Pleasure in cells somewhere beneath Saint Peter’s Square. Paolo is permitted to attend Mass once a week, but his future looks somewhat bleak according to the Swiss Guard who offer him blessed bread and the blood of Christ when the cock crows thrice round about noon each day. Gabriele’s ‘aggravated theft’ (lifting papers from the Pope’s desk) was an act of faith, committed to promote honesty and integrity in the church. If he is sentenced, he’ll serve time in a Roman jail with common criminals.

Pope Benedict XVI has the authority to pardon ‘little Paul’ at any time, but for now, under the watchful eyes of a commission of cardinals, insider sources report that he’s biding his time until a September hearing at the earliest. The official line suggests a 2013 trial, if at all. Worst case scenario for Gabriele is 8 years behind bars for stealing state secrets, but a lifetime of smear and scapegoating is more realistic.

Meanwhile, Vatican tourism carries on regardless, a few hundred metres away from the mouth of truth.

Nuns on the run? Almost!

‘Socially active’ nuns in Iowa, USA hit the headlines this week. Ladies working beyond the call of duty, something which the Vatican disapproves of, have been doing their utmost to help the downtrodden in the wake of hard line Republican social policy. The rallying call to arms came courtesy of an organisation which goes by the somewhat sinister cyberpunk name of ‘Network’, and there was no holding back the battling nuns at the fight for the rights of the poor sign up desk. However, before battle lines could be drawn, the Vatican made it known that they would rather see the poor continue to suffer for the sake of ‘doctrinal values’, ergo their teachings on abortion and same sex marriage.

Network is a catholic group seeking social equality, and their plan was to send a bus load of goodly nuns across the not insignificant matter of nine states to protest and educate, timed to interfere with budget cuts by Congress. Not a slap across godly chops, nor a swipe at stateside bishops, whatever you have been instructed to believe from on high. Rather an act of goodwill, pure and simple.

Support for 14 doughty nuns who are working ‘kindness shifts’ from their technicolor ‘God Squad’ coach is growing, despite the mandate thrown across the pond to three servile bishops. The Vatican has given them five years to bring similar society ‘The Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ into line, and quell any further displays of kindness.

Equality in it’s many forms is perhaps purge priority #1, but whatever the Vatican elite decide, there’ll always be millions of Catholics out there who disagree.

Hyper Smash

Beat my Guest!

The beatification of John Paul II brought some 1.5 million Catholics into Rome on May 1st, the vast majority of whom had travelled from Poland to be as close as possible to his sainthood, work in progress since the date of his passing on April 2nd 2005. They occupied the entire area of Piazza Risorgimento with a kaleidoscopic range of camper vans, caravans and all manner of random four wheeled sleeping contraptions.

5,000 armed police set up hundreds of road blocks around the Vatican, while the likes of Robert Mugabe flouted an EU travel ban to sneak into ceremonies alongside Lech Walesa, Silvio Berlusconi and Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain. A curious mix of attendees drawn from the worlds of politics and royalty.

During his papacy, the Catholic church was embroiled in one serious sex abuse scandal after another, and many are of the opinion that Catholicism fell into a 27 year period of withering decline under John Paul II.

However, this did not deter the assembled masses of fanatical Polish believers, who would not be moved from Roma 00136 and 00192 for well over one week. Indeed, they made their presence felt in the most unlikeliest of places; bossing metro trains and all available public space as if their lives depended upon it. It was akin to watching the last days on earth for many, and the spectacle was a memorable one.

One cannot deny the fact that John Paul II was instrumental in the fall of Communism in Poland as part of Walesa’s Solidarnosc movement, but as the Catholic world waits for a second miracle to be awarded his way before canonization (Sister Marie Simone-Pierre of France, who mysteriously recovered from Parkinson’s disease, was somehow declared miracle #1), the rest of the world waits for common sense to prevail.