Roman History. It starts with Caesar and skips over to Mussolini, right? Not much happened in the middle, right? WRONG! Rome in the 1600s was a den of iniquity, crawling with corruption, and seething with scandal and syphilis. A few families had wealth and treasure beyond imagination; everyone else lived in filth and died young.
Women had three options. Marry as soon as you could get pregnant to someone who could feed you, become a nun, or become a prostitute. For those who chose the latter, or fell into it because of circumstance, the best case scenario was to become a courtesan. It meant education, exposure to art, and a whole lotta money.
The history of 17th-century prostitutes and courtesans in Rome isn’t something I didn’t know anything about, until I found out about the Courtesans Tour of Rome. It’s a storytelling tour, meaning you won’t hear about who sculpted what fountain in what year (unless you want to know, then just ask). Instead you walk around Rome’s most beautiful, central squares while your host, Massimo (adorable), tells stories of some of the most infamous women to have walked these cobblestone streets. I’m telling you, if you were sitting down you’d be on the edge of your seat!
Find out why the modern Italian word for “slut” is zoccola (“clog”). Find out what 17th-century women used for contraceptives, which I don’t recommend trying at home. Find out why so many of the beauties in Caravaggio’s paintings look like the same woman (hint: it was the same woman). It’s a series of stories so juicy and tragic that the three-hour tour flies by. Each story is told “on location,” including at several of the women’s actual homes – palazzi I have walked by several times and never imagined whom they once belonged to.
Friends, if you’re coming to Rome (or you’re already here), book this tour. It is unbelievably cheap – 20 euros for three hours – probably the cheapest tour I’ve ever taken in Rome, no kidding. Oh, in case you are wondering, men enjoy this tour, too.
TO BOOK THE COURTESANS TOUR: Click HERE.
I am one hundred million percent obsessed with having insanely fun travel experiences – in Italy and everywhere. Oh, you too? Consider liking my Facebook page for DAILY pics, jokes, and travel ideas! I’d love to hear yours as well. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter. And why not get this blog in your email? Use the handy link below.