Perfect day tour from Rome. Two very interesting but very different sites, well worth seeing, and free of the mid-July crowds that are pervasive in Rome. Our guide Rebecca did a terrific job: she was very well prepared, enthusiastic, and an excellent speaker. Since Hadrian's villa consists primarily of structural ruins (the marble veneers, mosaics, paintings and statues are gone), it is tricky imagining how it must have looked in its time, but Rebecca brought along a number of useful illustrations to help us visualize it.
A better experience than the Vatican Museum! How can that be, you ask, since the Vatican Museum is much much larger and has many more masterpieces. Well, in mid July, the Vatican Museum is extremely crowded, even if you use a "skip-the-line" semi-private tour that gets entrance to the Vatican Museum "before the public" (we did, and it was still very crowded, like viewing art in a subway car at rush hour -- NOT an exaggeration, believe me!). Because the Borghese Gallery is small, they impose very strict limits on the number of people inside at any one time. Visitors can get up close to the paintings and sculptures in a way that few museums allow anymore. And what a collection: the Bernini sculptures alone are worth the price of admission several times over. Our tour guide Stephanie really knew her way around the Museum and did a good job of concentrating on the most important works. Borghese Gallery: the perfect antidote to a bad experience at the Vatican Museum.
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