If I were to ask you who is the most famous Roman of all time, I can pretty much guarantee you would answer Julius Caesar. And I think you would be right. He was the catalyst that moved the Republic to the Empire. His life story and achievements are incredible. He was a great politician, a great military man, and by all accounts a great man. He was a man of the people, he loved them and they loved him right back.

statue of julius caesar

Caesar’s Story (The Short Version…)

Julius Caesar was born in 100 B.C, into a family that was noble but broke. He grew up around middle class and poor people, and as such could identify more with the common man than the upper class.

His early years read like a wild adventure, hiding from the bad guys who were out to kill him, living a life on the run. At one point he was captured by pirates and ransomed, and then once freed he turned around, attacked those same pirates, got the ransom money back and then crucified them all!

Caesar was an accomplished military man and he fought for the poor and the landless against the members of his own class, which endeared him to the citizens of Rome. After years of fighting and civil wars he eventually became the leader of Rome

Unlike his predecessors he wasn’t about bloody purges and savagery, instead was a really good leader. He brought about peace, pardoned enemies instead of crushing them, and always, always maintained a fantastic relationship with the people of Rome. They loved him.

But the Senate didn’t. He was blowing their game on enriching themselves at the expense of the poor, and he held far too much power. So they decided to assassinate him.

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The Ides of March

It nearly didn’t happen.

On the 15th of March 44 B.C he was to attend a meeting of the senate. His friends had warned him not to go, a psychic warned him he would die on the Ides of March, his wife Calpurnia had a nightmare that he would be killed, and on top of all of these he woke up having one of his dizzy spells. So he sent a message that he wouldn’t be coming.

He was due to head out on a military mission the next day and the senate worried he would come back an even bigger hero than he already was, so in desperation they decided to send someone he trusted to get him, Decimus Brutus. Caesar loved Decimus like a son, so away they went together, arm in arm.

Julius caesar quotes

Murder In The Curia

The Senate house had been damaged by fire so the meeting was held in the Curia (a senate meeting room) in the Teatro Pompeo.

the assassination of Julius Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini

The meeting began and suddenly dozens of senators pulled daggers from their togas and set upon Julius Caesar in a stabbing frenzy. When it was done everyone fled, leaving him to bleed to death alone on the cold marble floor.

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Riots In The Streets Of Rome

The senators thought they had liberated the republic. They saw themselves as heroes. The people saw otherwise. Enraged that their beloved leader had been taken from them they took to the streets and rioted. The conspirators who killed Caesar locked themselves inside their homes or fled.

It got worse too. Julius Caesar’s funeral took place in the Forum and the masses came to pay homage. Remember the people of Rome loved him. Their fury at his murder was at boiling point when Marc Antony took advantage of an incredible opportunity.

marlon brando as marc antony
Friends, Romans, Countrymen… Marlon Brando as Mark Antony

He got up in front of the people and spoke of all the great things beloved Caesar had done for them. A politician to the core he got them whipped into hysteria . Then he held up Caesar’s blood stained toga and pointed out all the stab wounds.

Caesar’s Will

To top it all off, right when the powder keg that was the crowd was about to explode, Marc Antony read them Julius Caesar’s will.

Caesar the great had bequeathed his estates, his gardens, his art collections (which were pretty sizable) and a huge sum of money, to the people of Rome. His people. The people he loved more than anything. For their benefit and for their enrichment. What could possibly show the people of Rome more clearly that he wasn’t the oppressor the senate accused him of being?? This proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that his assassination had been a theft. They had been robbed of this great man. The crowd (literally) went wild.

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Fire In The Forum

The crowds raged through the Forum smashing everything they could and throwing anything that could be burned onto the funeral pyre. Fire tore through the Forum and the mob went wild.

Temple of Caesar
The remains of Julius Caesar’s Temple in the Roman Forum

So the Senators plan back fired. Instead of strengthening the Republic, this destroyed it. Caesar had named Octavian as his successor, and he went on to amass more power than anyone ever had before, created the Empire and renamed himself Augustus.

The Anniversary of Caesar’s Death

Every year on the anniversary of Julius Caesar’s death, March 15th, also known as the Ides of March, there are celebrations in Rome. There is a marathon in his name, cultural events happen across the city, there is a re-enactment of his death at the Teatro Pompeo, and flowers are laid at the Temple of Caesar at the remains of his funeral pyre.

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Italy’s Festivals In March

One of the things I love to do when I’m in Italy is check out any festivals happening nearby. There are multiple festivals that take place in Italy every March. If you are on the Private Members List you will have a list of my favorites in your inbox. If you are not on the Private Members List and would like to get all the extra information to help you plan your trip to Italy you can join it HERE.

My New Book

I have a new book coming soon! Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome takes you through (more than) 101 different things to see and do in Rome that are not on the regular tourist radar. I don’t talk about the Colosseum, the Vatican, The Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps, because A) you already know about them and B) they are always full of tourists.

Most people don’t realize that Rome is full to bursting with hundreds of really amazing things to see, most of which are only a couple of minutes walk from the big attractions. Each of these come with stories that range from intriguing to hilarious, and give you an entirely different perspective on what you’re looking at.

This book not only tells you about some of these places, but also tells you what’s nearby, so you can see where to slot some of them into your existing Rome itinerary.

From Ancient Rome to Underground Rome, amazing churches to the best markets, from where to watch the sunset over the Eternal City to where to find the Caravaggios, from street foods you have to try to where to find the ghosts of Rome, the book is packed with fantastic information designed to turn your visit into the trip of a lifetime, and make you fall in love with Rome the way I have.

Join the list for news about the book release and discounted pricing HERE

There are many fabulous day trips you can take from Rome. I had been wanting to check out Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana) and Villa d’Este for ages, and this past summer I finally made my way there.

Villa d’Este is a story of extreme wealth, corruption, and the Catholic Church, three fabulously suited bedfellows. The more you research the various Popes and Cardinals the more you wonder where all this chastity and celibacy and saying Hail Mary’s for bad deeds comes from. They certainly weren’t living it!

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The Villa

Villa d’Este is a 16th century villa built by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, one of the wealthiest cardinals of them all. During this time when the church ruled everything and there was no free press to report the goings on, Popes and Cardinals were marrying and having mistresses and orgies and generally getting up to no good. D’Este had a wife and 4 sons, which I find endlessly entertaining.

view of the gardens of Villa d'Este in Tivoli
The view from one of the balconies at Villa d’Este in Tivoli

He took an enormous amount of land from the locals to build his spectacular villa, and robbed no end of marble and travertine from Hadrian’s place down the hill. At one point he had 12 lawsuits against him, but he didn’t care, he was building his palace anyway.

Frescoed ceilings inside Villa d'Este in Tivoli, outside Rome

The villa would be quite sensational on its own, with its frescoes and mosaics and glorious views. On a clear day from the terrace you can see all the way to St Peter’s Dome.

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The Gardens At Villa d’Este

The most famous part of Villa d’Este are the gardens and their fountains. D’Este diverted the Aniene river to provide water to one of the most spectacular series of fountains and water exhibits you will ever see.

It all happens on several levels, working their way steeply down the hill to the bottom of the garden.

steep pathways work their way down into the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
Steep pathways work their way down into the gardens at Villa d’Este

All the fountains and water exhibits are powered by water. It is completely brilliant, especially when you factor in the sheer size of the gardens – they are enormous. You will notice too as you move through the garden that all the fountains that line the way have water flowing at the same speed. You don’t see any gushing while others drip, it is all synchronized and balanced.

musical clock in the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
This is a water powered musical clock that plays Renaissance music at various times during the day.

One highlight is a huge fountain that plays Renaissance music several times per day.

Make sure you find out what time the musical fountain is scheduled to play and time your visit to be in front of it when it does. It is quite incredible!

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As you are walking down to the musical fountain the walls are lined with gargoyle-like sculptures with water flowing out of their mouths.

walkways lined with gargoyle fountains in the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
Walkways lined with gargoyle fountains in the gardens at Villa d’este
Villa d'Este Tivoli gargoyle fountain close up
Close up of a gargoyle lining the walkway in the gardens at Villa d’Este in Tivoli

Part way down you see two fountains the man of the cloth had made for the pleasure of his sons.

Fountains spraying water from breasts in the gardens of Villa d'Este in Tivoli
The fountain of the boobies in the gardens of Villa d’Este, Tivoli. There are two identical fountains facing one another.

A pair of female creatures with giant boobs from which water arcs out. I wonder if he gave himself a round of Hail Mary’s to make up for it?

Fountain in the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli

You can spend a really lovely afternoon wandering the gardens at Villa d’Este.

Fountain in the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli

They really are a work of art, and are visually astounding from every angle, wherever you are on the property.

Stairway to the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
Stairway to the gardens at Villa d’Este in Tivoli

The gardens are quite steep. You can take an elevator back up from close to the halfway mark, but you still need to be able to walk well to get to that point. As such I don’t recommend it for anyone with bad knees or hips, or for anyone who has trouble walking.

Villa d’Este is in Tivoli, only 15 miles from Rome.

Day tours combine Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa) in the morning and then Villa d’Este in the afternoon.


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When I was at Villa d’Este Rome was having a very hot spell, so it was nice to take a day outside the city and enjoy the shade as well as the break from the heat.

If you are traveling to Rome any time soon you will love my new book, Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome. It will be available exclusively on Amazon.com by late March or early April 2019. Everyone on my Private Members List will get early notification of the book’s release, as well as the chance to get special early-bird pricing. You can join the list here.

Have you read my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy (Secrets To Glamorous Travel On A Not So Glamorous Budget yet? It has become an international best seller and is available worldwide, exclusively on Amazon.com Get your copy HERE


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Have you been to Carnival in Venice? If you had to choose the quintessential Venetian experience it wouldn’t be a gondola ride or a glass blowing demonstration, it would be Carnevale.

In the 17th and 18th centuries Venice was at its greatest. It was the merchant trade capital of the world and as such was dripping in money, grandeur and excess. What better way to show that off than with a weeks and sometimes months long fancy dress party?

Venice Carnival actually dates back to as early as 1162, but it was during the Baroque period in the 17th century that it really took off as a hedonistic expression of wealth and frivolity. Everyone would get dressed up, rich and poor (or maybe rich and non-rich is more correct) alike, don masks and be a part of the never-ending party.

Carnevale gave people the chance to live excessively until Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) after which the 40 days of Lent (and deprivation) began.

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In an interesting play on numbers the church snuffed out the celebrations in 1797, and they all but disappeared until 1979 when the government decided to use carnival to help bring back interest in the history and culture of Venice. During the interim the church forbade the use of masks. In the 19th century the carnival started reappearing, but only for short periods and for private events.

Now Venice’s carnival has become a huge international festival drawing people from all over the world.

Several years ago when I was teaching a pro makeup artistry program I had a student who had been to Carnival in Venice. She loved it so much that she decided to learn how to do makeup and go back each year, paying her way by doing makeup for carnival. She ended up doing it for years! She would work for book days on end getting ladies ready for the parties and balls.

I was always so proud of her but also a little envious (although in a nice way). I wished I could do it too, but I had a young child at home and at that time in my life it wouldn’t have worked.

5 Reasons why (at least once in your life) you should go to carnival in Venice

1. It’s The Original

This is the original carnival and nobody does it quite like Venice. With the backdrop of this exquisitely beautiful city, the baroque architecture, the canals, the little bridges everywhere and the midnight mist rolling in off the lagoon there is no place better in the world to celebrate carnival, and in full costume no less!

Mist rolling in at Venice carnival. Costumes at venice carnival
The mist rolling in at Venice Carnival

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2. You get To Wear A Mask

man in mask at Venice carnival at night on the grand canal
Mystery man behind the mask.

Not only do you get to wear a mask, but everyone else does too! You can be anyone you want to be when you have a mask hiding your identity. Not many cities have traditions so glamorous and alluring. Although it is quite possibly just Bob from accounting, behind that mask the man you are dancing with in the street or at a ball could be a prince. A little mystery adds no end of spice to life!

3. You get To Wear A Costume

costumes at Venice's Carnival

The costumes are spectacular. We don’t have anything like this at home. Not only do you get to  dress up in costume but everybody else does too. The streets (calle) and bridges and campos are full of people in baroque costumes, gondolas glide across the canals carrying elaborated gowned and masked women, men in capes and hats with masks hiding their faces. Night after night this goes on and it is incredible.

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4. It’s The Biggest Party Of The Year

If you are going to visit Venice, why not come when Venetians are celebrating the biggest party of the year? You will never, ever forget the experience. The amount of time, effort and money that venetians put into their costumes make this so much more than just a fancy dress party.

5. See Venice As It Used To Be

Venice carnival costumes at a masquerade ball
Costumes at a masquerade ball at Venice carnival

If you have been to Venice during the high tourist summer months then you have no doubt witnessed the horror of the endless cruise ships. They not only block the view as they go by, but vomit off thousands of people at a time. Cruise passengers choke up the walkways, making the bridges so congested they are hard to pass over. They take up all the space and use up all the oxygen. Unless you know where to go to escape them you lose sight of Venice itself. Try walking through St Mark’s Square or across the Rialto Bridge when a cruise ship is in and you will know what I mean.

Between 470 and 529 cruise ships come to Venice each year, each carrying thousands of passengers. When multiple ships are docked the volume of tourists is just overwhelming.

But during Carnival they are fewer and further between. Not only do you get to really see Venice and be able to walk around freely, but everyone is in costume! It is magnificent.

Venice Carnival courtesy of RAI

Venice is the most unique city on earth. Why not visit during its most unique celebration?

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Bonus Information

Although the most famous, Venice is not the only place in Italy to celebrate Carnevale. Across the country there are several festivals leading up to the 40 days of Lent, each special in its own way. I have made a PDF of my top 5 Festivals In February. It not only tells you about each one but also gives you the dates they happen.

If you are on my newsletter list this information will be on its way to your inbox, so you don’t need to download it here. If you are not on my private member newsletter list you can get your copy of the PDF here.

If you would like to get all the secret sauce info sent to you as I publish it, you can join the private member newsletter here.

This year the Venice Carnival runs from Saturday February 16th to Tuesday March 5th