History reveals strong links between the two most ancient and powerful empires that ever existed – Rome and Ancient Egypt. Roman art was greatly influenced by Egypt as revealed by the many obelisks and other artifacts brought to Rome from that country. The Borgias wanted the story of Egyptian deities painted on the ceilings and walls in their rooms in the Vatican and Raphael used a semblance of Artemis Ephesia (thinking her to be Isis) on the ceiling of the Vatican’s Stanza della Segnatura. Egyptian influences also permeated religion, as temples to Isis and Sarapis were built all over the Roman Empire with remains still standing at locations such as Hadrian’s Villa in Rome. An intense passion for Egypt was rife throughout the 18th century, partly due to Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign, and has continued on until the present day.
Far Horizons proudly presents an eleven-day trip to Italy that explores the Rome-Egypt connections. We visit several museums overflowing with exquisite artifacts, including Turin’s museum with the second largest Egyptian collection in the world. Our quest includes the thirteen obelisks still standing in Rome, either created by pharaohs or copied by Roman rulers, and four UNESCO World Heritage sites – the historic centers of Rome and Florence, Residences of the Royal House of Savoy in Turin, Villa d’Este and Tivoli Gardens.
Join Professor Bob Brier and Art Historian, Patricia Remler, for this unique learning experience!
Want to explore our other history tours around the world? Check out our Calendar of Trips.
“During its long history Egypt was invaded, conquered, and vandalized by foreigners from many directions… Europeans carried home all kinds of spoils because they were exotic and beautiful, but also as symbols of conquest. The largest and most visible of these objects were obelisks, and the conquerors who carried away the most were the Romans.” – Bob Brier, excerpt from Cleopatra’s Needles: The Lost Obelisks of Egypt
Depart to USA for an overnight flight to Milan, Italy.
Arrive to Milan and transfer to Turin by bus. After a welcome lunch at a charming local restaurant, transfer to Starhotel Majestic, a 4-star hotel located in the historic city center and our home for the next two nights. The rest of the afternoon and dinner are on our own. (L)
Begin today at Turin’s world-renowned Museo Egizio, containing the second largest Egyptian collection in the world and the only museum other than the Cairo Museum in Egypt that is solely dedicated to Egyptian art and culture. Among the many important items are an extraordinary collection of papyri, considered the most important set of Egyptian written documents in the world, and the Royal Papyrus with a list of all the kings from 3000 to 1600 BC. Turin, or Torino, is a city of parks, palaces, arcades, cafés and colleges, and it has been the seat of a university since the Middle Ages. This afternoon, we tour the city’s historic center to see the Baroque and Rococo architecture, elegant palaces, residences and castles, and eleven miles of porticoes. (B/L/D)
Travel by train to Florence this morning. One of the most beautiful cities in Italy and heart of Italian Renaissance, Florence is a cultural and architectural gem and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch, the afternoon is free to explore the historic center. Overnight at the elegant 4-star Hotel Adler Cavalieri, located in the city center within walking distance of Palazzo del Bargello, Piazza della Signoria and Piazza del Duomo. Dinner will be in a charming local restaurant. (B/L/D)
Begin the day in The Egyptian Museum of Florence containing over 14,000 artifacts, displayed in nine rooms. The most remarkable pieces are statues dating back to the age of Amenhotep III, an 18th dynasty chariot, a pillar from the tomb of Seti I, a mummy portrait from the Fayum, and a collection of fabrics belonging to the Coptic age. After lunch, travel by train to Rome. Our home for the next six nights is the 5-star Grand Hotel de la Minerva, located in the heart of the city within walking distance of the Pantheon, the Coliseum, and the Forum. We dine this evening in an elegant local restaurant. (B/L/D)
Rome, the Eternal City, has been in existence for more than 3,000 years and the historic center is filled with the remains of former civilizations. Today’s quest takes us in search for Egyptian obelisks. At least eight of these monuments were created in antiquity and taken from Egypt to Rome after the Roman conquest. And five other obelisks were manufactured in Egypt in the Roman period at the request of the wealthy Romans, or made in Rome as copies of ancient Egyptian originals. This morning will be a walking tour of Campus Martius, the ancient center of civic life, starting at the obelisk in Piazza di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (next to our hotel). It was originally erected in Sais in the western Egyptian Delta by Pharaoh Apries and later brought to Rome by Diocletian for the nearby Temple of Isis. The obelisk called Macuto sits in front of the Pantheon, nearby in the Piazza della Rotonda. It was one of a pair originally erected in Heliopolis by Rameses II, and its mate is standing at the Villa Celimontana (which we visit on Day 9). In the 18th century Pope Clement IX moved this obelisk to an already created fountain with water spouting dolphins. The top of the obelisk is decorated with mountains and a star, the emblem of the pope. Continue on to Piazza Montecitorio to view the so-called Solare obelisk. Originally erected by Psammetikos II, the third king of the 26th Dynasty, at Heliopolis near Cairo, many of the inscriptions on this obelisk have eroded away, though a list of the king’s many names remains: “The Golden Horus, ‘beautifying the Two Lands,’ beloved of Atum, lord of Heliopolis; the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Neferibre, beloved of Re-Harakhti; the son of his own body, who seizes the White Crown and who unites the Double Crown, Psammetikos, beloved of the Souls of Heliopolis.” It was carried to Rome in 10 B.C. to commemorate the Emperor Augustus’ victories in Egypt, and finally restored and re-erected in the 18th century. Our final stop of the morning will be to view the Agonalis Obelisk, which stands in the Piazza Navona on top of the magnificent 17th century fountain of the sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini. It most likely originally decorated the Isaeum/Serapeum Campense, a large complex of Temples dedicated to the Egyptian gods Isis (thus Isaeum) and Serapis (Serapeum) in Campus Martius. Its hieroglyphs are related to the cult of these gods. After an al fresco lunch in magnificent Piazza Navona, we will visit Palazzo Altemps. This small but impressive museum hosts a number of items from the Egyptian collection of the National Roman Museum, with material from the sanctuary of Isis and Serapis in the Campus Martius. Dinner is on our own this evening to enjoy one of Rome’s excellent restaurants. (B/L) (Note: We will walk to all of our site visits today.)
Today we venture across the Tiber River to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square, where we view the first obelisk that was originally raised in the Forum Iulium in Alexandria by the Prefect Cornelius Gallus on Octavian’s orders. It was brought to Rome by Caligula in 37 for the spina, the raised median of the Vatican Circus. After seeing the obelisk, we enter the Vatican. Pope Gregory XVI founded the Gregorian Egyptian Museum in 1839. It houses monuments and artifacts of ancient Egypt partly coming from Rome and from Villa Adriana in Tivoli, where they had been transferred mostly in the Imperial age, and partly from private collections purchased by nineteenth century collectors. Our tickets to the Vatican Museums include access to the Sistine Chapel and there will be free time to visit the other collections before returning to the hotel. Dinner is on our own this evening to enjoy one of Rome’s excellent restaurants. (B/L)
We continue in our search for obelisks today with three impressive stops. The Flaminio obelisk, located in Piazza del Popolo, is 75-feet tall covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions. Seti I decorated three sides of the obelisk, while his son Ramses II carved the fourth and then erected the obelisk in the sun temple at Heliopolis. In inscriptions on one side of the monolith, Seti I describes himself as “the one who fills Heliopolis with obelisks that their rays may illuminate the Temple of Re.” Ramses II, one of history’s greatest self-aggrandizers, styled himself as one who made “monuments as innumerable as the stars of heaven. His works join the sky. When Re shines, he rejoices because of [the obelisks] in his temple of millions of years.” Sited within the Piazza del Pincio is an obelisk commissioned by Hadrian and erected in Tivoli for the tomb of Antinous. It was moved to Rome to decorate the spina of the Circus Varianus, and finally erected on the Pincian by Pope Pius VII in 1822. Salustiano Obelisk is above the Spanish Steps in Trinità dei Monti. It is an Aurelian copy, although smaller, of the Flaminio obelisk of Ramses II in the Piazza del Popolo. It was erected in 1789 by Pope Pius VI. After lunch at a nearby local restaurant, we will visit the Egyptian Academy in Rome, located in a state-of-the-art building at picturesque Villa Borghese. Here approximately 200 items are on display, including a life-sized statue of the pharaoh Khafre from the fourth dynasty, Tutankhamun’s canopic coffinette, an enormous edition of the Qur’an with gold-decorated pages, the sphinx of Tohotmus III and a varnished sarcophagus. Dinner is on our own this evening to enjoy one of Rome’s excellent restaurants. (B/L)
Today we complete our search for obelisks with five stops. The small obelisk in the garden of the Villa Celimontana is one of four originally erected by Ramses II in the Temple of Ra in Heliopolis. It was presented in 1582 by the Senate of Rome to Ciriaco Mattei, who placed it in his villa on the Celio. The so-called Lateran Obelisk is the largest standing obelisk in the world. Its inscriptions state that while it was begun during the reign of Tuthmosis III, it lay in the craftsmen’s workshops for 35 years and was finally erected by his grandson Tuthmosis IV. The only single obelisk ever put up in Karnak Temple (obelisks usually came in pairs), it was removed under the orders of the Roman emperor Constantine, who hoped to raise it in his new capital at Constantinople. He died before the obelisk ever left Egypt, and his son and successor Constantius had it taken to Rome in a specially built ship, where it was re-erected in the Circus Maximus. Today the obelisk stands in the Piazza San Giovanni. Originally paired with the Quirinale obelisk, the obelisk in the Piazza dell’Esquilino was erected on the western flank of the Mausoleum of Augustus. Augustus had visited the tomb of Alexander the Great in Alexandria and he decided to build his family tomb in the same grandeur as the tomb of Alexander. Lost in floods, it was again found in 1527 and erected in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V behind Santa Maria Maggiore. Now standing in the Baths of Diocletian, Dogali Obelisk was created by Ramesses II for Hieropolis. It was raised in its present site in 1924 and commemorates the Battle of Dogali. After lunch, we will stop at the Museum of Medical History to view instruments used in ancient Egyptian surgeries. Before returning to the hotel, we will view the Quirinale obelisk. Originally erected on the eastern flank of the Mausoleum of Augustus and paired with the Esquiline obelisk, it was later erected by Pope Pius VI in 1786 on the Quirinal Hill next to statues of the “horse tamers.” After lunch at a local restaurant, we continue to Museo del Vicino Oriente (Near East Museum) to view their small, but impressive collection of Egyptian artifacts. Dinner is on our own this evening to enjoy one of Rome’s excellent restaurants. (B/L)
Travel outside of Rome today to Villa d’Este and Tivoli Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we will explore the impressive concentration of fountains, nymphs and grottoes in search of the Egyptian influences in architecture. A good example of this can be seen in the canopus and serapeum at Hadrian’s Villa, the emperor’s a retreat during the 2nd and 3rd decades of the 2nd century AD . The elongated canal (canopus) and artificial grotto (serapeum) is modeled after the Egyptian town of Canopus, in the Nile Delta, and its sanctuary dedicated to Serapis. On our way back to our hotel in Rome, we stop to view the Pyramid of Cestius near the banks of the Tiber. Built between 18–12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, it is strongly reminiscent of the Egyptian pyramids of Nubia (modern-day Sudan), in particular of the kingdom of Meroe, which had been attacked by Rome in 23 BC. Gather this evening for our gala farewell dinner. (B/D)
Transfer to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport for our international flight to the USA. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.