A Roman Pilgrimage: Becoming Human

Open to persons of all faiths, or none, this week-long Roman pilgrimage will bring us through some of the most important religious sites in the history of human community as our outer journey transforms our inner aspirations and life.

8
Days
2
Cities
8 - 16
Travelers
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Tour Summary

Open to all persons, our eight-day pilgrimage through the city of Rome and surrounding sites will explore three thousand years of human and spiritual history. While experiencing the history, people, and places that continue to shape who we are, we will consider some of life’s most fundamental questions: Why am I restless? What is a good life? How should we love? Our journey will begin with the shepherds who preceded the founding of Rome, then follow the rise of the Eternal city alongside republics, and empires, before encountering it as the centre of two thousand years of Christian pilgrimage. While visiting temples, catacombs, churches, and monasteries, we will engage, read, converse, and listen. Our pilgrimage leader will guide us both through the great sites of Rome and through the voices and ideas that gave rise to the Eternal City, from the epic poet Virgil, to Horace, Saint Benedict, Keats, and many others.

Tour Price:

$2,150

All tour revenue will go to support the people of Ukraine

Tour Dates:

To be announced

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Itinerary

Day 1

All Roads Lead to Rome

Our Roman pilgrimage will begin with an orientation to Alithea’s style of travel and pilgrimage. We’ll meet at 3:00 in our hotel, a 17th century Palazzo and former convent still operated by the sisters of Santa Lucia. Our afternoon walk through the ancient city will orient us to many layers of civilization, aspirations, and the foundations of pilgrimage itself. We’ll visit the nearby Capitoline before dusk settles over the city and we begin to unravel the story of the shepherds who founded the city that would become the center of pagan and Christian pilgrimages for millennia. 

We’ll dine this evening nearby the ancient theater of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was assassinated, as we take time to become acquainted with our traveling companions on this first night of our own version of the Medieval pilgrimage.

Walking moderate: 3-5 miles.

Day 2

Via Appia, the catacombs, and a vision of paradise

After breakfast this morning we’ll set out to explore the ancient serenity of the Via Appia. Our stroll along this ancient Roman road will not only give us a sense of the grandeur and strength of the Roman empire, but also its limits, as we encounter the ancient sepulchers of those buried along the way. Virgil will be our guide as we reflect on the sixth book of the Aeneid and the ancient hero’s journey through the underworld. Does the ancient Empire aspire towards an end that exceeds its own best efforts? 

The second part of our morning will bring us to a new sense of the possible and to a limitlessness that redefines the cruelty and suffering imposed by the Roman empire. We’ll follow Saint Peter’s footsteps as we visit Quo Vadis and explore the underground places of early Christian worship as we visit the catacombs. In these early places of Christian prayer we will try to glimpse the transformed vision of the cosmos, state and soul that animated the fledgling and unlikely religious movement that grew like wildfire in the early centuries of the common era. We’ll return to the city’s center for a free afternoon to continue our explorations through Rome’s vast museums and antiquity.

Walking: moderate 3-6 miles

Day 3

From Roman cults and Martyrs to the peace of the Church

Our pilgrimage today will begin near the Roman bath complex of Diocletian that now stands transformed into the church of Angels and Martyrs and the early Christian mosaics of Santa Prassede. As our guide this morning, we’ll follow the Exsultet, one of the oldest continuously used liturgical poems in the Christian tradition still sung at Easter celebrations. And as further images of today’s journey from the empire to the origins of Christianity, we’ll see the chains that held Saint Peter, the arch of Constantine, the Colosseum. After lunch today, we’ll visit one of Rome’s oldest extant neighborhoods, we’ll see old Roman apartment buildings and legislative offices that have been transformed into churches and we’ll descend through the excavated layers of the underground city to visit Roman temples, early Christian places of worship, and Republican era buildings where an underground stream still flows. In all of this, we will reflect on Christianity’s passage from a fringe religious community in the sprawling Roman Empire to its growing centrality to the early medieval world. The images we explore today may well provoke or guide our own inward reflections – how did the cult of a dying Jew become central to a renewed vision of political life? Why did the earliest Christians doggedly persist in their faith during an age of violent persecution? What does it mean for an instrument of Roman torture (the cross) to become a symbol of new life? Does the early Christian demand for love of neighbor and forgiveness of enemies still echo in our own best hopes for the world and even in our institutions?

Walking: strenuous 5-8 miles

Day 4

The monastic way: redeeming time

This morning we’ll leave the bustle of Rome behind for a reflective morning visit to the mountains of Subiaco where the first European monastic community was established by Saint Benedict. With Saint Anthony and Saint Benedict’s reflections to guide us, we’ll visit the cave where Saint Benedict lived a life of prayer in solitude before founding the model of monastic life that swept through the European world. As we visit the monastery built into the cliffside our pilgrimage guide will lead us through the fresco narratives and the interior life of prayer that became the foundation of Medieval European communities As we reflect on the ordered life of prayer and work that is the cornerstone of monasticism we might reflect on the ways in which our own experience of time becomes porous, or more open to the eternal, as we practice the weaving together of prayer and labor day by day. Church bells, ubiquitous in Italy, are a constant reminder that even the busiest of us can pause to “lift up our hearts” in the midst of the daily round. Time permitting, we’ll participate in noonday prayer with the monks before enjoying a leisurely rustic lunch with the Benedictine monks as our company.

Walking: Moderate 2-3 miles. 

Bus time ~ 2 hrs.

Day 5

The mendicant pilgrim: human meaning beyond the monastery walls

Today’s pilgrimage journey will bring us from the heavy and unmovable architecture of Rome and the Romanesque to the inspired lightness of Gothic architecture. We’ll begin our day this morning with a visit to the Pantheon, perhaps the most idyllic and famous expression of ancient Roman stoicism and tranquility. 

With this moving experience still charged in our hearts and minds, we’ll travel just a few meters to visit Rome’s only untouched Gothic church, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Here, through the high ribbed and vaulted ceilings we’ll take an architectural leap through space and time, uncovering the dignity of purpose that sets the highest aspirations as the aim of human life. We’ll next witness these aspirations in action. Visiting with the community of Saint Egidio, we’ll aim to glimpse the all-adorning dignity of love in the simple acts of kindness to immigrants and strangers. Inspiring our journey today will be our reflection on the rise of mendicant (or wandering) religious orders in the high Middle Ages. St Francis is perhaps the most famous mendicant friar in the world whose simple desire to live a life of gospel poverty in the world while serving the poorest of the poor continues to inspire.

Before our day concludes, we consider the notion of pilgrimage through community with a walk through Rome’s Jewish district. The poetry of Immanuel Ben Solomon will focus our hearts and minds as we discover the resilience of a community in pilgrimage over the course of centuries and also reflect on the ease with which the very best and most spiritually Christians gifted can fail in the love of neighbor. Tonight we’ll feast in the Jewish Quarter. 

Walking: Moderate 3-6 miles.

Day 6

The Imagination rediscovered: the Counter-Reformation

This morning we’ll follow the steps of countless pilgrims through the ages. Our day will begin with a visit to church Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini, the Holy Trinity of Pilgrims. Reflecting on the words of Ignatius and Philip Neri, we’ll meet with local parishioners or priests, and participate in sung morning prayer from the Latin tradition.. 

Our morning will continue with an experience of the Pope’s vision of pilgrimage in a Counter-Reformation Rome. Time permitting, we’ll visit Campo Fiori, and the Chiesa Nuova before walking over Rome’s oldest bridge, the Ponte Sant’Angelo, as we cross the river Tiber towards the welcoming arms of Saint Peter’s. Here, we’ll arrive at the foundation of the church, and the very stones beneath which Saint Peter is buried. All the previous centuries of Christian pilgrimage will be recollected in this place as we move back in time through the centuries to the foundation of the original church built here by the Emperor Constantine. A center of earthly pilgrimage for centuries of Christians, St Peter’s will invite us to reflect on the “rock” that grounds our own best hopes and gives weight to our deepest desires.

Walking: Moderate 3-6 miles.

Day 7

An Artist’s Rome: a pilgrimage of beauty.

Rome has been a site of pilgrimage for artists for millennia. 

In the early afternoon, we’ll taxi over to the Borghese Gallery where a local guide will lead us through the daylight magic of the Baroque, and Counter-Reformation. We’ll glimpse earthy visions of paradise through the complexity of artists’ lives and the lightness and darkness of Carravagio, the chiaroscuro, and the limits of this life’s experiences. 

With Keats and Shelly’s letters and poetry as our companions, we’ll stroll through the Borghese gardens towards Piazza del Popolo, the people's square of the city. It has been through this gate that pilgrims have entered the city for centuries. Following their examples, we’ll experience the architectural prologue into the city as the people’s square welcomes us with images from every age of Rome over the past three thousand years. Our stroll through the city will conclude with a visit to the Keats-Shelly House and the iconic Spanish Steps. This evening we’ll feast together with countless variations of bread and wine, friendship, and reflections.

Walking: Moderate 3-6 miles.

Day 8

Pilgrimage and a new beginning

This morning our week-long Roman pilgrimage will draw to an end. For those interested in an early stroll through the city, your Alithea guide will lead a walk through the great sites of Rome as the sun rises. We’ll take this opportunity for reflection, photos, and to enjoy the beautiful solitude only experienced in the early hours of the day. 

There will be no other structured activities this day. Your guide will be available throughout breakfast to help with continuing travel arrangements or to provide suggestions for the next step on your pilgrimage.

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 14
Day 15

Day 15

What's Included

All breakfasts and seven lunches and dinners
All transportation to tour related activities.
13 nights in family-run boutique style hotels
The cost of all entrances, local guide, and pilgrimage leader more than 12 different sites
Your friendly Alithea tour manager for the duration of the tour
COVID travel safety measures
A pre-tour consultation with an Alithea expert
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Tour Tips

Pack Light

Our Roman pilgrimage hotel is a 1600 convent guesthouse run by the sisters of Santa Lucia. Although, we are not moving cities on this tour we encourage all travelers to pack light. The art of packing-light is akin to the art of pilgrimage, bring only what is necessary, and trust that as the sparrows are cared for, so will you be. Please remember that many churches in Rome expect modest dress. This typically means that shoulders and knees must be covered. Feel free to memorize your favorite poem, prayer, or passage of literature to share with our fellow travelers.

Come Prepared

A pilgrimage is a special kind of journey. It is both personal and shared. Come prepared to live in the moment, mind, body, and soul. We will walk, talk, celebrate, dine, and make beautiful discoveries together. When we’re not exploring with our pilgrimage leader we’ll be encouraged to venture out on our own, to celebrate our discoveries with a glass of wine, to sit in quiet contemplation in some of the world's oldest and most sacred spaces, or simply to relax and take in the beauty of history and community. Of course, walking is essential to our pilgrimage. Every day on this trip is designed to be spiritually nourishing and rejuvenating, but that will often mean very significant walking. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns before booking.

Bus and Travel Time

Like every great story, there is no possibility of discovery and of arriving at beautiful places without a journey to get there. On our Roman pilgrimage we will take public transportation, taxis, and a private bus in order to arrive at the spectacular destinations we’ll be visiting. Of course, we can’t arrive at the Sanctuary of Sacro Speco without some driving on winding roads.

Reserve Your Place

A Roman Pilgrimage: Becoming Human

To reserve a spot on this tour we ask that you pay a $500 deposit. All deposits are refundable within 30 days of payment.

 $500.00
Deposit
*Read our refund policy here