Darkness & Light: Caravaggio's Drama Across Three Churches

3h English, Spanish, Italian

As a new century dawns, a wayward genius from Milan, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, makes a claim for glory in Europe’s artistic centre - Rome. We trace his progress through a sequence of remarkable paintings that astonished and scandalised his contemporaries. The darkness and daring of his work were mirrored in a life that scaled the heights of Roman society and plumbed the depths of its seedy and violent streetlife. After murdering a pimp in a duel in 1610, Caravaggio was forced to flee south, never to set eyes on Rome again. Through ancient squares and three beautiful churches we’ll follow the story of a driven man and his dramatic art.

What you'll discover

  • Explore the riches of Baroque Rome with an expert local guide
  • Relive the dramatic story of a great painter’s life marked by intrigue - violence - murder
  • See Caravaggio’s masterpieces in their original settings
  • Understand why his work was considered so provocative and original
  • Walk in the footsteps of cardinals - artists - pimps - courtesans - rogues!

Caravaggio was born in Milan in 1571, taking his name from a small town near the city, and found his fame in Rome, the very centre of the Catholic world. He was an ambitious and troubled young man, who had lost every male member of his family to the plague in 1577, and his mother in adolescence. He was also an outstanding genius who transformed religious painting into a theatre of arresting light and profound depths - an artist who used prostitutes and vagabonds as models, and revised his compositions at will on canvas. He made enemies both in art and in life. We’ll follow Caravaggio’s ascent through his celebrated paintings in three great churches. In San Luigi dei Francesi, we’ll view the Contarelli Chapel where he realised his first public works, The Calling of St Matthew and The Martyrdom of St Matthew, and created a public sensation. Yet even here his first version of St Matthew and the Angel was rejected on the grounds that he had made his saint look like an illiterate peasant. In Sant’Agostino, we’ll encounter his beautiful Madonna di Loreto altarpiece, and the worshipping pilgrims the artist depicted with dirty feet. And in Santa Maria del Popolo, we’ll see Caravaggio’s Conversion of St Paul on the Way to Damascus and the Crucifixion of St Peter on either side of Annibale Carracci’s Assumption of the Virgin, in one of the great face-offs of the Baroque era. On our way between the three churches we’ll trace Caravaggio’s tumultuous life through its escalating round of brawls, insults, and vendettas We’ll look at the circumstances surrounding his fatal stabbing of a pimp, Ranuccio Tomassoni, in a duel in 1610 and his resulting desperate flight from Rome with a bounty on his head. He was never to see the city alive again, yet his work continues to inspire painters, writers, and even filmmakers to this day. So take a walk on art’s wild side and discover where life, death and art meet in the footsteps of Caravaggio.

Meet here

The meeting point is in front of the Pantheon, your guide will be there waiting for you next to the fountain in the middle of Piazza della Rotonda square.

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Handpicked city experts for memorable adventures.

Meet your Stroller

Zenda Martinelli

My name is Zenda and I’m an enthusiastic and experienced guide working in Rome. I grew up here and have always loved this city. In fact, I studied archaeology at the Università degli Studi di Roma, ‘La Sapienza’, and took part in site excavations as part of my training. I’ll bring you back to the ancient city of the Emperors, and to the Medieval era when its streets were thronged with pilgrims, and to the Renaissance and Baroque eras, when artists from Raphael to Caravaggio endowed its palaces and churches with outstanding masterpieces. Do you feel excited? Great! Let’s discover the secrets of the Eternal City together.

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€43 per person (6 people)