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. In March 2016 I saw the COURTESAN TOUR for the THIRD time and will undoubtedly do it again!! The story is captivating, the women highlighted are fascinating, the experiences told of are exciting and thought-provoking and the guide who pulls it all together (Massimo) is knowledgable, engaging and just plain fabulous! I think this tour is EXCELLENT for all adults, however, I think that it’s particularly of interest to WOMEN. By delving into the time period we find out about the struggles and successes of women when women had no voice. I find the tour incredibly empowering which is why I continue to go back and encourage women to do the same.
    I also had the pleasure of seeing the DARK TOUR and recommend that as well!!! Great way to pass an afternoon with friends!!

  2. I have taken a number of tours over the years and Massimo’s Courtesan Tour of Rome is nothing like I have ever experienced before! Massimo has expertly crafted a tour of Rome around famous Roman courtesans in history that leads the group around Rome’s historical center. And it was AMAZING. Usually I find my mind wandering and counting down the minutes until the tour’s end, but this was definitely not the case with Massimo. I was intrigued from start to finish. I think going on a tour that follows a historical story adds a degree of relate-ability and fascination that standard city tours following general history simply do not offer. Massimo’s stories were engaging and you could tell that Massimo himself is deeply interested and passionate about the stories he recounts. His enthusiasm for the material shines through and is contagious. I HIGHLY recommend Massimo’s Courtesan Tour of Rome, especially to those who want something more than the tired old generic tours you usually find. The Courtesan Tour is unique, extremely interesting, and very special. I am anxious to try the other storytelling tours he offers!

  3. Massimo offers a brilliant and meticulously researched history of the lives of Courtesans in 16th Century Rome. The tour highlights the religious, political and social structures of the time and the “choices” some women had to elevate themselves from poverty, or to have a voice in this age. The tour offers a brilliant roller coaster of emotion that had me laughing, wincing and very moved at its conclusion.
    Thankyou Massimo for a great tour.

  4. The Courtesans walking tour easily makes it into my top three best walking tours of all time (and believe you me, I’ve been on alot of walking tours). The concept is very novel, the facts shocking and fascinating, and the stories riveting. Add to that a knowledgeable, fun, and just over all lovely guide– Massimo– and you’ve got the perfect package.

    Massimo will guide you through the city, showcasing various remnants of Rome’s courtesans (courtesans houses, a grave, a statue, and etc). Throughout the tour, he tells the stories of 7 courtesans/prostitutes in detail, and provides a plethora of interesting information about Rome’s sex business of the past.

    Without a doubt, this was one of my absolute best uses of time and money in Rome. If you’re searching for something unique and memorable to do in the Eternal City (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) then this is the tour for you!

  5. This Tour is truly a highlight of Rome. Massimo has put together a wonderfully unique experience that captures another side to the city. This has to be a MUST do when visiting Rome as Massimo recounts these womens’ stories brilliantly.

  6. I had an absolutely fantastic tour with Massimo and his courtesans tour. Not only was it a completely new side of Rome but Massimo made it fun, exciting and literally had us on the edge of our seats. This tour was well beyond what I ever expected and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Massimo gets an A plus plus for his excellent and extensive knowledge! Loved it

  7. I took this tour because the concept was very interesting. Learning about the less glamorous side of the Eternal City but I was not expecting too much. Maybe some fun facts. I couldn’t be more wrong. Massimo’s tour was so mind blowing and fascinating I felt those three hours fly by. His passion for history and storytelling really shows. The stories of these forgotten women, their relationships with the nobility, the artists and with the common people were so powerful I felt that Massimo was honouring these women who without him I would never have known. This tour is suitable for anyone in my opinion. Whether you are very familiar with Rome’s history or not remotely familiar, you will definitely enjoy this tour. Thank you Massimo for the best tour I have ever followed!!!

  8. I was blown away by this tour! Massimo is a brilliant story-teller who focuses on the social side of history. Not only was it a fascinating insight into the glamour and squalor of the lives of courtesans and prostitutes in Renaissance Rome, but he linked it to broader themes around feminism, art history and politics, and he took us down some of the lesser-known alleyways of Rome, giving rich stories to statues and monuments you may easily walk past. If you’re looking for a less-than-conventional tour, I would recommend this to anyone (who doesn’t mind hearing the word ‘sex’ at least a couple of times)!

  9. Having serendipetously come across Massimo’s English Courtesan’s Tour and then his English Emperors Tour, I have to say I am very impressed.

    He was able to communicate his well-researched stories to the group well to all of us.

    His Rome tours included highlighted spots, homes and buildings of important people, and translated inscriptions, along with some well placed and sometimes ingriguing photographs.

    The stories really brought out in the Courtesans Tour highlights give the courtesans meaning in their time period.

    The Emperors of Rome tour gave far more depth to not only the stories we surely have all heard before, but shines light also on some lesser-known, if equally notorious heads of the Roman Empire.

    These are highly recommended rome tours in english or italian – and he may have other languages I don’t know about!

  10. I had the pleasure of taking two tours with Massimo over a two day period: Courtesans and the Roman Emperors. In both cases, Massimo’s attention to detail and research into the social and historical backgrounds of the women and men he was speaking about was evident. It was exciting to be told these stories and his style made me feel as though I were there in the moment seeing and hearing the events take place in front of me.

    Fantastic and meaty tours that really delve into the backstreets and little known stories of Rome and its inhabitants – I would recommend for the seasoned history-lover as much as for someone who is new to these topics.

  11. Massimo’s Courtesans tour absolutely blew my mind! It was one of the most utterly captivating experiences of my life.
    Massimo is the outstanding guide for it. He had spent a year researching and putting the tour together – and it really showed. He is clearly absolutely passionate about it, and the research was unbelievably thorough. More than anything it was the incredibly engaging way in which Massimo shared these stories of 7 courtesans and prostitutes (there is a difference between a courtesan and a street prostitute). Some were cool “Cinderella” stories of outstanding gumption, courage and the desire for emancipation (says a lot about the misogyny of the day that a woman’s route to education and emancipation was by whoring herself to high paying men) and some were genuinely heart wrenching stories of women who had been horrifically treated – and appear in some of the most outstanding art of Caravaggio! I was almost in tears listening to one story and having her story explained through art and in some of the most beautiful and hardly ever visited churches of Rome. It is a fantastic social history of women during the Renaissance – really eye opening. I learned so much – and I honestly thought I knew a lot!
    Massimo had me totally mesmerised. On top of that, Massimo’s tour is a walking tour and it really takes you off the beaten track into side streets and piazzas, even the courtyard of a palazzo, some stunning churches, and to three of the courtesans’ houses – including the brothel where the Borgia pope first met the mother of his children!!!! Honestly I cannot rate this tour highly enough. Thank you so much Massimo for sharing your stories, passion, knowledge and amazing sense of humour. An experience to cherish!

  12. Massimo gave an absolutely WONDERFUL and unique tour in Rome that highlights the life of seven women during the Renaissance era who used their position as courtesans and prostitutes to shape both the art and the politics of Rome. It is a wonderfully fascinating tour that gives you insight to a part of history that is largely overlooked and its so entertaining as well! It is so fascinating to learn the struggles and obstacles women had to endure and also how powerful they could be behind scenes.

    Seriously, this is such a unique tour and will show you a side of Rome that has always been there but was just hiding beneath the surface!

  13. Great tour through the remarkable history of the courtesans. Massimo is an excellent guide, capable of sharing his ample knowledge in an enternaining and surprising manner. This is definitely not of those standard rome tours, ticking off the usual highlights but unveils a part of the city’s history which is truly insightful and sometimes astonishing. Highly recommended!

  14. A wonderful, interesting walking tour that puts you back in time. The Courtesan Tour was spectacular and took us to very interesting places and educated us about life on the streets and in the castles. Massimo is passionate about the topic and very engaging. I highly recommend this tour. Have fun in Rome while learning about life there and some of the more well known painter’s models. I won’t spoil it by giving too much away and I could never tell it like Massimo does. Time very well spend! Go on this tour.

  15. This was a great tour and a perfect finish to our three day family visit to Rome.
    Massimo is an excellent communicator, good at storytelling, and passionate about his subject. He kept us thoroughly entertained and informed throughout the three hours of the tour.
    His careful research, anecdotes and humour enriched incredible stories of these memorable women. It was so refreshing to hear it from a female perspective – all too rare unfortunately – and to hear of a few who were in charge of their own lives.
    Massimo’s sympathy and engagement with his subjects was very evident, and these personal, touching stories were a welcome contrast to the usual narratives of a guided tour. Thoroughly recommended – thank you Massimo!

  16. This is historical story telling at its finest! Massimo was a brilliant host – so engaging and passionate about this wonderful city and its many treasures. He cleverly combines biographical, historical, political and religious research and entwines it with a walking tour of the most beautiful architecture and classical artwork in Rome. This tour was, without a doubt, the highlight of my trip to Rome and I would thoroughly recommend it.

  17. I took Massimo’s walking tour about the Courtesans of Rome and it was fascinating. Massimo did lots of research putting this tour together, and it shows. The tour lives up to its name of “storytelling,” because he tells the tales of seven different women in Rome who lived in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, from common streetwalkers to sought-after courtesans who could earn up to $20,000/day. He covers Giulia Farnese, who some Americans may know about from the Showtime show The Borgias, and he talks about women who modeled for the artist Caravaggio, who were also prostitutes. It’s a three-hour walk around Rome but Massimo was very solicitous in finding us places to sit and rest while he told us about all kinds of details of the lives of these women. It’s a fascinating tour and I highly recommend it! I even blogged about it afterward at

  18. This tour of the Courtesans of Rome was one of the best tours I have ever been on. Massimo weaves a wonderful story of the Courtesans and prostitutes of the Renaissance with Art, architecture, religion, laws and customs of the day. The relaxed three hour walk just flew by. I can’t wait to return home and read more about the women who made history as Courtesans. And I will certainly join Massimo on any tour he gives. He is truly a very gifted storyteller who has done hours of research to thoroughly educate and entertain his audience. Bravo!

  19. This tour is an exciting way to get in touch with history in Rome. Massimo is a gifted and knowledgeable story teller who draws you into sordid and wild moments in the Renaissance. He has done deep research of his characters and makes it real by taking you to their churches, homes and the famous paintings that documented them. This is a fantastic 3 hours to spend in Rome. Highly recommended!

  20. I cannot recommend this tour enough. The tour guide is delightful and humourous while giving a very detailed and well-researched look into the lives of some of the most interesting characters in Roman history from popes to artists revealing dark secrets and bringing you on the doorstep of characters too good for a novel as some of their homes still exist today. Prepare yourself for three hours of enthralling stories and new insight into the lives of colourful women from the past.

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Tour Logistics

€ 30,00 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)
Thursday Morning at 9:00 am
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