An afternoon excursion with Context Travel’s Hilary Bockham covers the history of the Grand Tour and the English Romantic Poets who were forever changed by the eternal city: it’s everything you could want from a walking tour in Rome!
Did you know that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in a horror story competition? That John Keats died of tuberculosis (and a broken heart) in a room overlooking the Spanish Steps? That Lord Byron’s sexual escapades were so scandalous that his memoires were burned? Or that Percy Shelley died in a boating accident with a book of Keat’s poems in his pocket?
Over the course of an exceptionally informative three hour walk, Context Tour docent Hilary Bockham led a small group of us from the gravestones of the Non-Catholic Cemetery by Piramide to Villa Borghese and Piazza del Popolo and the Keats-Shelley house by the Spanish Steps, weaving together the history, poetry, and life stories of the English Romantic Poets who lived in Rome.
During the 19th century, wealthy young men from England would finish off their education by undertaking the “Grand Tour,” supposedly to expose themselves to the country’s culture and history but most often to party in Rome away from the watchful eyes of their parents and strict British morals (sound familiar, study abroad students?)
Some of these men were remarkable poets who nonetheless led scandalous lives. Drugs, incest, adultury and even true love came up as Ms. Bockham, (using lively anecdotes, well researched information, and quotes from the poets themselves) sketched in the personalities of these men and women who were shaped by their experiences in Rome and who in turn changed the course of literary history.
The Romantic Poets walk is new to Context Travel which offers over 50 seminars in disciplines from Archaeology to Art and Cuisine as an alternative to your average guided tour. The docents are Ph.D. or MA-level scholars and the group size is small so you get a very personal and comprehensive view of the city from professionals who clearly love their work. Check out their website here to book a tour about Popes and Power, the backstreets with Caravaggio, or wines of Italy (just to name a few!) and have a truly unique and rewarding experience.
Clockwise from top left: Sunlight over the more than 5,000 graves in Rome’s Non-Catholic cemetery, a stunning view over Piazza del Popolo from the Borghese Gallery, Docent Hilary Bockham reads Keats, the Keats-Shelley house by the Spanish Steps.