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Rome Group Tours

Caravaggio in Rome Tour: Experience Outstanding Paintings

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€ 49

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TOUR DETAILS

all inclusive price

PRICE

€ 49,00

GROUP SIZE

Max 8

DURATION

3 hours

SYNOPSIS

It’s July on a beautiful beach in Tuscany. The spectacular light reflects on the exquisite blue of the sea as it laps gently back and forth over the sand. A gaunt and sick man clings to two paintings, just 39 years old, he will soon die after a short but ferociously lived life. He was attempting a journey back to Rome after two years on the run, with the hope of being pardoned by the new Pope for a murder he committed. This man is Caravaggio, a great Italian painter and second only to Michelangelo.

No one but him knows how to depicts the human condition in its splendour, strength and fragility, with the skills to recreate true light and epic scenes that changed the world of art forever. For his last exhibition in Rome, people waited in line for 12 hours.

Yet now and on this unique tour, many of his great works are visible and without any crowds in the central churches of Rome that commissioned him, between Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo. Judith with the Head of Holofernes, in Palazzo Barberini, has an epic and magnetic impact. His works grab you and hold onto you forever. The museum is relatively quiet, granting the chance to admire this masterpiece from just half a meter away. This man, who was impulsive, rebellious, a lover of men, women, prostitutes and boys, was able to infuse his paintings with the very essence of humanity. A must see never to be forgotten.

A Life Less Ordinary

 The long history of Rome has been chequered by characters full of controversy and brilliance, and no-one has encapsulated this confounding mix of the high and the low more than Caravaggio, one of the most famous painters in the story of Italian art. Extraordinarily prolific, despite his tragically early death at 39 and his long flight from the law, Caravaggio's startlingly original work changed the landscape of art forever. Join us on this Rome group tour, as we uncover his dramatic life of violence and intrigue through the prism of the artistic legacy that he left to the Eternal City. We will retrace his steps through taverns and brothels, palaces and churches, and discover how the troubled life and art of this great genius have remained inextricably linked in the popular imagination of the city. 

A Dark and Dangerous world of Conversions and Crucifixions

The ancient church of Santa Maria del Popolo hides two of Caravaggio's greatest masterpieces, The Conversion of Saul and The Crucifixion of St. Peter. In these stark expressions of Caravaggio's unique brilliance, guileless figures loom out of the darkness at us, disconcertingly close and unexpectedly large. These are no idealised paragons of classical beauty, but men with dirty feet and faces marked by their wearisome work. In The Conversion of Paul, Caravaggio undoes at a stroke centuries of conventional wisdom concerning composition and symmetry, his canvas dominated not by the moment of divine reveleation but instead by the huge and inelegant flank of a draft horse. The contrast with the classical serenity of Annibale Caracci's altarpiece could hardly be more obvious, as two visions of representation vie for the ascendancy in the space of this tiny chapel. It was the vision of Caravaggio that would win the day. These rough and unadorned canvasses of real people thrust into the world of biblical narrative constituted nothing less than a revolution in religious art, and painting would never be the same again. 

Blood and Lust in Baroque Rome

The magnificent Palazzo Barberini houses some of Caravaggio's finest works, from his Narcissus eternally lost in the reflection of his own unmatched beauty to the sensational Judith Beheading Holofernes, a heady cocktail of sex and violence that shocked contemporary viewers and than you will admire on our walking tour of Rome. Its graphic violence remains nothing short of hypnotic, and it seems almost impossible not to be transfixed by the livid streams of blood that spurt from the Assyrian general's neck and across the canvas. Caravaggio also courted controversy in his representation of Judith. In her features, contemporaries recognised not an ancient Israeli widow but a local prostitute, and in the withered crone accompanying her not a faithful maidservant but rather a deadly procuress.

Between the Sacred and the Profane

Caravaggio's disturbing tendency to mix the sacred and the profane surfaced once again in the church of Sant'Agostino, not far from Piazza Navona. The Madonna of Loreto that he painted for the Cavaletti Chapel is a wonderful work of introspection and quiet devotion, but the pilgrims' dirty feet, the Virgin Mary's barefooted apparition and the general urban decay in which the scene is set worryingly brought the impoverished and lowly streets of Rome into the rarefied air of the church. Was this the apt reflection of a new religious inclusionism, or wildly inappropriate irreverance? Caravaggio's idiosyncratic approach to sacred imagery divided the art scene of the 17th century city.

The Watcher in the Shadows

In the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, we will be confronted with one of the painter's most famous evocations of violence, the electrically tense Martyrdom of Saint Matthew. A scantily clad youth apparently awaiting baptism has risen up from the crowd of the faithful, sword in hand, and is poised to dispatch the unsuspecting saint. An altar-boy flees in panic as a motley crowd looks grimly on, powerless to intervene. Amongst the whirling vortex of confused figures, a bearded man in the shadows catches our eye. It is none other than Caravaggio himself, at once repulsed and yet beguiled by the terrible power of violence, violence of his own creation.

Life imitates art

 In 1606, when Caravaggio was at the height of his fame after so many transcendent successes, the artist's volcanic temper finally brought about his downfall. During a duel on one of the city's many tennis courts, Caravaggio fatally stabbed his rival, the otherwise obscure Ranuccio Tomassoni. The details remain shrouded in mystery – perhaps the argument arose over unpaid gambling debts, or competing affections for a young woman, but whatever the cause, at a stroke Caravaggio became an exiled fugitive. The moody violence that seemed to grow more forceful in every passing work that he painted had erupted from the world of pictorial fantasy and into reality. In that instant of transformation from observer to perpetrator, Caravaggio lost everything. From the most famous painter in Rome, a man feted by cardinals and aristocrats, Caravaggio was reduced to an exiled fugitive, fleeing justice and pursued by unknown assassins out for revenge.

The Spectre of Death

 Caravaggio would never again return to Rome. The sins of his past never left him in peace, and the great artist was destined to die feverish and alone on the beach of Porto Ercole in the blinding light of an Italian morning. Fashioning works of sublime beauty from the inky blackness of his imagination, Caravaggio had invented a new language of pictorial drama that was all his own, a chilling world of executions, assassinations and martyrdoms. Those dark fantasies overtook him, and with a tragic inevitability became his own reality. Obsessed with his own work, he had become a part of it. To find Caravaggio, we must seek him in his images. 

  • Maximum group size of 8 people.
  • Ticket and reservation fees with preferential access so you don't wait in line.
  • Expert, fluent English-speaking guides who know and love the works of Caravaggio.
  • Headsets for groups of six or more people, so you can always hear your guide.

Classic sights included in our itinerary:

  • Judith Beheading Holofernes
  • The Calling of St. Matthew in San Luigi dei Francesi
  • The Martyrdom of Saint Peter in Santa Maria del Popolo

Overlooked sights included in our itinerary:

  • The Conversion of Saul
  • The Madonna di Loreto
  • A hidden self-portrait

Near the entrance to the first site, in the centre of Rome. You will receive full details, including a map and photo, upon booking.

This is a walking tour through various areas of Rome with some steps and uneven walkways

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Our strengths

Our guides are fluent in English and have a contagious passion for Rome's inspiring cultural heritage. Experts in their fields, they will immerse you in the hidden histories and intriguing lives of history's great protagonists. So much to see, so easy to miss out: with the help of our guides, visit the most absorbing sites and uncover the stories that have changed the world. Don't miss this fascinating journey!

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