Scarlet Ladies Tour: Powerful Mistresses & Courtesans of Rome

What was it like, being an Independent Woman in Renaissance Rome?

This Tour is about the History of Renaissance Rome through Historical Women’s Eyes

In some ways, this just might be one of the best-conceived and most truly unique tours we have ever taken (comments by customers)


No questions will go unanswered

No mysteries will remain unsolved

History is not only a series of dates and facts, that is only the boring part. History is men and women who loved, who fought… and many times made compromises too.
This is a 3 hour walking tour and is the first in Italy of its genre. It tells the riveting tales of Italian Renaissance women, some who fought to support their families, desperately struggling to make living and sacrificing their bodies to do so, and on the other side, there were the powerful, successful and beautiful women who influenced politics and history. Today we can discover their stories in some of the world’s most renowned works of art. Great Italian Artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael and Pinturicchio, captured their beauty and struggles forever.
In Renaissance Rome the Catholic Church forbade wives to read and write. It was considered indecent for a wife to have a proper conversation with her own husband. For women unwilling to accept this narrow lot in life, the alternative was a considerable compromise…. To Become a Courtesan.
In Renaissance times, courtesans were highly educated: great singers, poets and dancers. They could be financially independent, own their own homes, and they could walk down the streets and look men in the eyes.
The lovers of Popes, Cardinals and Princes from the Borgia, Farnese and Orsini families come to life during this highly entertaining unique Storytelling Tour. Come and see the beautiful 600-year-old houses where they once lived, the outstanding churches where courtesans are buried and be amazed by the stories of their lives.
This is a side of history not found in a textbook – the scandalous one.
For many, the life of a courtesan could be intriguing and fascinating.
come and get to know the Roman Courtesans.


Stories are more Engaging, if they are History…

Sites visited:

  • Piazza Venezia
  • Galleria Doria Pamphilj (from outside)
  • Saint Augustine’s Church
  • Piazza Fiammetta
  • The House of Cesare & Lucrezia Borgia’s Mother (from outside)
  • Campo de’ Fiori
  • Piazza Farnese (end of the tour)


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98 thoughts on “Scarlet Ladies Tour: Powerful Mistresses & Courtesans of Rome

  1. This was a social history tour and therefore a very engaging way to see the city! Massimo was an amazing guide, we were hanging on his every word in the courtesan tour because he really brought these people to life! Unique content too, not an area often explored. Especially in the era of #metoo and women’s movements, this tour gives credence to powerful women in history who influenced major areas of political and church life during Renaissance Rome.

  2. Really loved the Story Telling Rome and Scarlet Ladies tour with Massimo! Will definitely take more tours when we visit again. The method of his tours is so effective! It’s like you’re taken back in time re-living history. My husband and I really enjoyed these tours.

  3. I have lived in Rome on and off for years. Massimo enables you to discover new things about this place, regardless of how well you think you know it!
    I signed up for the Scarlet Ladies/Courtesans tour of Rome because my friend raved about her experience with Massimo, saying she’d happily do the tour again. Well, I went with her, and now I will be taking the tour again in future!
    16th/17th century Rome is a huge unknown for me– I had no real concept of what life was like for people in the time of Caravaggio–especially not working-class women. Massimo’s extensive research is evident as he tells you about the power structure of Rome during this time, and how women of varying social classes fit into it. Okay does that sound boring? Well, you’ll be able to imagine yourself in the shoes (or clogs) of women and men back in the day, thanks to Massimo’s visceral stories about love, lust, and power struggles. Dark stuff, so it’s not for kids! Absolutely captivating and at times dismaying, all while he leads you through the center of town, looking at art, churches, and houses. This is NOT a typical tour of Rome: this is real life, in the past, hinted at by physical remains that are in plain view, if you know what you’re looking at. I am an archaeologist and I hate it when tour guides present misinformation as gospel. Massimo is LEGIT, guys: he is engaging, funny, and FACTUAL.

  4. Massimo’s Courtesans tour was the highlight of our trip to Rome. It was my fifth time visiting Rome and I thought I knew everything there was to know about the city, but my friend who had earlier been on the tour convinced me to try it. I’m so glad I did! It’s even worth doing in the heat (it was burning hot out the day of our tour). Massimo took us on a walk all throughout the city and showed us Rome in a completely new light.

    My boyfriend and I are both PhD students in the social sciences and were both really impressed by Massimo’s thorough research and attention to historical detail. He did a lot of work to accurately tell the stories he tells and it really shows.

    Aside from that, Massimo is perhaps the greatest storyteller you’ll come across. All of us on the tour were completely gripped by his stories. The stories of Lucrezia, Anna, and others will haunt me forever.

    Such an amazing day, so worth the money and even worth the sweat.

    Grazie mille Massimo! I can’t wait to go on your other tours next time I’m in Rome 😉

  5. My wife and I had the rare treat of taking the Scarlet Ladies Courtesan Tour on our first full day in Rome. It was outstanding. The content, research, knowledge, backing material, sights and presentation were all of the highest caliber. Massimo tells the tales of these women with a perfect blend of sensitivity combined with bawdy humor. It is amazing to be shown a picture of life that you may have not considered in such rich and poignant detail. I cannot recommend this highly enough. We also toured the Galleria Borghese with Massimo and recommend that as well.

  6. We were given this tour as a gift and thought it would be just another tour of
    Rome. Not true at all!!! We took the Courtesean tour and when we realized what it entailed we were a little surprised. Not only were we amazed at Massimo’s knowledge of Rome’s history but his storytelling ability was extraordinary. We truly enjoyed learning about the Courteseans and the impact they had upon the art, culture and nobels of Rome. Don’t think I will ever look at some of the artwork that he showed us the same ever again!

  7. We had the fortune of having a tour with Massimo that our travel agent booked for us on our first day in Rome. We loved it so much we booked 2 more while there! He is an amazing story teller and really brings history to life all while showing you the city. Not only was he fun and hilarious, we felt safe and taken care of which is important for two females traveling in a foreign country where we dont speak the language. I highly recommend these tours for anyone coming to Rome on holiday. I will be back one day and have kept Massimo’s card for future use! He was THAT good!

  8. I have lived in Rome for 10 years and never had a tour quite like Massimo’s Courtesans’ Tour. He paints a picture of a different era. He is well-informed and has the ability to create a gripping story that transports you back in time. An incredible experience!

  9. Massimo is a wonderful guide and story teller. We loved hearing the backstory about these 7 notorious women and the times they lived in. Visiting their haunts, seeing the world through their eyes, is an experience Massimo offers, rather than a only dry history of ” the facts”. Their rebellious lives in beautiful Rome were amazing.
    By the way, stopping for a coffee and a sit down was not a problem, which also sets this

  10. Not your typical tour, but that’s what I loved about it! Having done plenty of tours of the main attractions I was really excited about doing this one. It’s a particular tour and the stories are just great – and Massimo tells them in such a way that you can’t help but enjoy it! From the minute it starts until the very last second you are waiting to hear more!
    I would definitely recommend this to all!

  11. Absolutely brilliant, really brought lots of the history of Rome and the Ladies to life. Great guide, great humour, we would highly recommend this Tour and any others with Massimo. We will now always see some of the great works of art from the past and some churches in an entirely different light!! Worth every penny – thank you Massimo and we hope to see you again soon.

  12. In this tour we were introduced to the lives of seven different women who, in centuries before, were either courtiers or prostitutes. In tracing their footsteps, we were guided through a journey of churches, historical homes and art, all of which gave clues to the lives of these women. Our guide Massimo really brought these intriguing women alive! He is absolutely brillant, extremely knowledgable and a masterful story teller. I thoroughly recommend this tour!

  13. Massimo is a truly gifted storyteller, and his depth of knowledge regarding who was shagging who in the 16th century is astounding. The great thing about this tour is how illuminating it is. Renaissance Italy unfolded like a serial drama, and everyone with a passing familiarity with this material knows how entertaining it can be. Massimo not only delivers the juicy stories about Rodrigo Borgia’s mistresses and Caravaggio’s models in a fun, engaging way, but places them in the political context of their time, thus bringing the entire era to light. All in all, I never thought I’d learn so much about sex in church.

  14. It was not our first “off beaten path” tour with a guide. We took some before in Florence and Paris. The two tours guided by Massimo were by far the most interesting once in terms of real historical facts connected to the real places and real people who lived in Rome. The narrative was very interesting and, though, there were some “adult” facts, our 14.5 year old sun did not feel awkward hearing with his parents present. Massimo is very flexible and accommodating. He replied to our e-mails right away and we regret, that due to our and his schedule conflicts, we could not take another tour with him.

  15. This Tour is not only a walking tour embedded in the magnificent Rome, but also a full immersion in how life was in Renaissance Rome. With a mix of sociology, culture, art and gossip, this Tour gives you the flavor of social classes and gender differences of the time, not always obvious and with some interesting hidden stories.
    Massimo is a great speaker and not a single question or curiosity remained un-answered. I strongly recommend the visit not only to tourists but also to the local People born in Rome.. I’m sure you will discover a lot of new juicy things, hidden corners or stories you were not aware of.

  16. Massimo has created some fascinating tours which make the city of Rome come alive.
    We did both the Emperors tour and the Courtesans tour which were simply amazing.
    Massimo has a gift for storytelling and enthusiastically gives life to Rome’s historical figures (making it easy for even the history novice to understand and relate to).
    The great reviews speak for themselves – these tours offer a unique insight from an engaging and considerate tour guide and are a must do for visitors looking for a little more depth in their tours of Rome.

  17. I went on the Roman Emperors Tour and also the Courtesans Tour! They were both wonderful & great value for the money! Massimo was very enthusiastic & passionate about the tours. You can tell that he put a LOT of research into developing the story telling tours! You do also see some sights of course, but they are related to the stories of the particular tours. The pace is good- he moves quickly but does give you enough time for photos. I personally do not prefer the tours that are 2.5-3 hr long & then give you 20 min or so break in the middle- with Massimo this was optional if you wanted it which was a nice touch. of course, at the end of the tour, he is very helpful in getting you back to the nearest metro or bus line. I would also like to add that there were MANY tours that i researched prior to the trip & Massimo had by far the best prices. Even if you go on the ‘free tours’ you should be ‘tipping’ 20 euro anyway. & then to receive such great tours on top of the great price: Excellent!! Well done! Thank you Massimo, Patty from New Orleans

  18. My husband and I spent a fabulous afternoon being informed and entertained by Massimo on his Courtesan Tour of Rome. It was the last thing we did during our visit to Rome and was close to the best thing we did! Beyond just seeing significant buildings and places related to the specific women we heard about, it was a glimpse into the lives, predicaments and choices that women faced in 16th Century Rome.

    I recommend this tour to anyone who wants to experience Roman history brought to life!

    The only reason this wasn’t the best thing we did in Rome was because we did 3 tours with Massimo and I can’t choose between them which I enjoyed more!!

    I highly recommend the Courtesan tour but then again I highly recommend any tour that Massimo takes!

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Tour Logistics

€ 35,00 per person
Groups are no larger than 18 people
Tuesday Afternoon at 2:00
(from November 1st to April 30th)
Tuesday Afternoon at 3:30
(from May 1st to October 31st)

Private Tours are available every day, in the morning and in the afternoon
Price List for Private Tours:

Private for 1 person: 80 euros
Private for 2 people: 95 euros
Private for 3 people: 120 euros
Private for 4 people: 150 euros
Private for 5 people: 180 euros
Private for 6 people: 210 euros
Central Rome. Details provided after booking
English-speaking tour guide
Expert story teller of Rome's historical city center