Best Bars for 6Nations Weekends

6 Nations season is rolling around again and that means only one thing: which away games are you going to? Well for Welsh and Irish fans of the game, they have the opportunity to head to Rome off-season to enjoy the match and maybe squeeze in a bit of culture.  With certain Irish airlines raising flight prices by 280% for the weekend of the 6 Nations games its important to know how to make the most of your time in Rome. Many of Romes museums are free for ticket holders (List of free museums here) and The Rogue Historians are offering a 25% discount on all tours over the two weekends. Apart from all the cultural gems of the city, come kick-off you will need to know the best rugby bars in Rome. So without further hesitation here are The Rogue Historian’s five favourite bars for 6 Nations weekends.   Abbey Theatre Located just around the corner from Piazza Navona, don’t be surprised if you find a Rogue Historian or two in the Abbey, this is our home bar after all. Our name was born here after a long night of drinking, and Natasha behind the bar designed our bearded logo that is still in use today. The front bar is the place to be but the restaurant out back is always bouncing on big weekends.  Mike on the main bar during the day is an institution in his own right, after running numerous pubs back in Dublin he can now be found propping up the wrong side of the bar most days and always creates a great atmosphere for a good day time session.   Scholars Lounge Owned by Declan Crean and Celestino Cucchiarelli, Scholars can hold claim to being the most famous pub in Italy. It was the winner of a Gold medal from the Irish Whiskey Awards in 2015 and in 2016 was voted Europe’s best Irish pub at a ceremony at the Mansion House in Dublin. Situated right next door to the Piazza Venezia and the Vittoriano monument, Scholars is probably the most centrally located bar in Rome. It is the largest Irish pub in Rome, spread over two rooms and two floors with multiple screens throughout. With the largest collection of whiskeys in Italy and a huge array of beers on tap there is bound to be something for everyone, and with Martin Castrogiovanni among the regulars, its rugby pedigree is hard to argue with.   Drunken ship  Located in the far corner of Campo Di Fiori, the Drunken Ship is a regular hangout of local rugby players thanks in no small part to the popularity of Irish barman and rugby player Dave Houston. Dave has played Rugby for over a decade in Italy now, and whichever bar he works in seems to become a mecca for the local players. Guaranteed to be a good atmosphere no matter what the result since the Italians are used to getting a good hammering anyway. With plenty of outdoor space and screens indoors and out The Drunken Ship could be the perfect spot if the February weather holds.   Finnegans Located a stones throw from the Roman Forum, Finnegans is always jammed with a mix of locals and foreigners. Finnegans is a popular haunt for many of the tour guides in the city due to its proximity to the Forum where so many of us finish our days in desperate search of the black stuff. Staff are always friendly and there is even a pool table in the back, a rare find in Rome these days. Probably the smallest of the bars we recommend so make sure to head there early for the games.   Shamrock Pub  This one’s a bit of a cheat as we are lumping two bars into one. Shamrock pub and Shamrock Irish pub are less than five minutes away from each other. One is located just south-east of the Colosseum and the other north-west of the Colosseum. Most of the year this pub wouldn’t make our list of top bars in Rome but during the 6 Nations this all changes and the Shamrock becomes one of our favourite places to hang out in the city, and who doesn’t want to stumble out of the bar at 2am to be greeted by the brightly illuminated site of the Colosseum?   Uno Due This one is a wild card as at the time of writing this pub has only been open 1 day. The pub is located in between the Abbey and Scholars creating a nice straight line of rugby-centric bars and is the brainchild of three well-known names from the Italian rugby world: Claudio Perruzza, Fabio Ongaro and Salvatore Perugini. Originally we were sad to hear of its opening as it is replacing The Perfect Bun one of our favourite burger joints in the city, but with an emphasis on craft beers, pub food, rugby and a  closing time we are fully behind this venture to be a huge success. Especially since opening 3 days before the start of the 6 Nations the entire Italian rugby team turned out for the grand opening.    Around the City Don’t forget that 6 Nations ticket holders get free entry into a whole host of the city’s museums, including the Capitoline and the Doria Pamphilji, so be sure to get some culture in between drinking sessions, or maybe even go the whole way and book a tour of the Vatican or Colosseum with the Rogue Historians.       

The History of Valentine's Day

ROMA-AMOR Paris might be known as the ‘City of Love’, but Rome spelled backward is love, or more appropriately to use an old Latin pun, Roma spelled backward is Amor - or love. So where better than to celebrate Valentine’s day than in the city where it all began; where we can trace this holiday all the way back to its Pagan roots almost 3000 years ago? Hint - it involves naked Romans, whips and lots of partying. Valentine’s today might be a saccharine and commercialised Hallmark holiday that has you reaching for the nearest sick-bag, but if you look back to ancient Rome it was actually a pretty wild festival. The holiday's origins lie in the pagan festival of ‘Lupercalia’, celebrated on the ides of February (so 15th rather than 14th, but don’t try and use that as an excuse if you forget). The exact origins and practices of this holiday are obscure, but what we do know is that it was a fertility festival to herald in the coming of springtime. The name ‘Lupercalia’ come from the Latin ‘Lupa’ or wolf, and so links to the wolf who suckled the twins Romulus and Remus. But enough of the origin story because this holiday had some pretty raunchy rituals. Pagan Origins The ceremony started at the Lupercal cave in the area around the Roman Forum and Palatine hill, where there was an animal sacrifice. Then the two ‘Luperci’ (young men), were anointed with blood and milk. An elaborate feast followed, after which the Luperci would make whips from the sacrificed animal skin and run through the city naked (or near-naked) slapping the backsides of young women (who would line up to make sure they were struck). But why? Well, we aren’t quite sure, but most historians think it had something to do with fertility (If archaeologists think something was for ceremonial purposes, it’s actually a secret code for “we don’t understand”). Either way, this holiday sounds like more fun than a bunch of roses and a box of chocolates. Christianisation  Amazingly this loopy Lupercalia festival continued even after the legalisation of Christianity and was only abolished in the 5th Century CE. Just goes to show how much the Romans love a bit of slap ’n’ tickle. In the 5th Century, the Pope replaced Lupercalia with the feast of St. Valentine on February 14th. There are several legends surrounding the saint and it is likely there was more than one St. Valentine, but the most common story goes as follows: In the 3rd Century CE, Emperor Claudius Gothicus forbade his soldiers from marrying, believing that they would fight better if they didn’t have a family to think about. According to legend, the soldiers would come to Valentine who would marry them in secret. As with any good martyrdom story, Valentine is discovered and imprisoned for his crimes. He was martyred (by beheading) on the 14th February (not exactly lucky in love) and then buried in the Christian catacombs on Via Flaminia, near the Ponte Milvio. Over the centuries, the saint's relics have hopped and skipped their way around a few different Roman churches, and are now found in Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Well, his head is anyway, the rest of him was sent to Dublin (the things we will do for a sip of the black stuff). Today St. Valentine is known as the patron saint of engaged couples, love, and marriages. It seems that some of our modern symbols of Valentine's day are associated with its ancient past as well. Some have suggested that the use of red and white are actually a nod to the racy traditions of the Lupercalia, symbolising the red blood and white milk that was used during the ceremony. And what of the traditional Valentine's day card, often signed mysteriously “from your Valentine”? Well according to one tradition St. Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter.  He converted her to Christianity and miraculously cured her blindness. As he was being sent to his execution he handed her a farewell letter signed “from your Valentine”. Oh and the roses? Well, they are the traditional flower associated with St. Valentine, the red symbolising the blood he shed for the Church. Things to do in Rome -Valentines edition If you are celebrating Valentine’s day in Rome you can go ahead and check out our ‘Top things to do in Rome for Valentine’s Day’ by clicking the blue link. Alternatively, you can sign up to our Best of Rome tour or our any of our Colosseum tours, where you can hear this story and more from your very own Rogue Historian. 

Top Things to do in Rome - Valentine's day

Things to Do In Rome Valentine’s Day If you have taken the plunge and decided to splash out on a weekend in Rome this Valentine’s Day then this is The Rogue’s top list of things to do while here for your romantic getaway. Be warned: this is not your usual list, there are some slightly off-beat ‘romantic’ suggestions! The Lupercal Cave  Alas, you cannot wander right inside the Lupercal Cave today. It was only rediscovered in 2007, much to the excitement of archaeologists and is still buried deep beneath the Palatine Hill. You can, however, head down to the Roman Forum and imagine what the scene must have been like 2,000 years ago, as the Romans celebrated “Lupercalia”, the ancient precursor to our modern Valentine’s day.  It was definitely a more raunchy festival for the Romans; if you’d been passing by back then you’d have witnessed naked guys with whips dashing through the Forum slapping passing girls on their backsides! Just don’t be tempted to recreate the ancient festival yourself, as the local authorities probably aren’t as liberal as they were in the ancient world. If you’re struggling with your imagination then join our Private tours of the Colosseum and Roman Forum and our guides will bring it all to life for you by telling you this and even more riskué stories of what happened here in the heart of ancient Rome. Santa Maria in Cosmedin   If you want to stay true to the roots of Valentine’s Day then it’s worth heading over to the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, where the skull of St. Valentine rests today - okay it’s a bit of a macabre Valentine’s activity, but we are The Rogue Historians!  The church itself is worth a visit alone for its beautiful medieval religious architecture and stunning Cosmatesque marble floor. You can pay homage to St. Valentine in a small chapel on the left of the church, where his skull can be found wearing a floral crown sitting in a reliquary. Besides the more obvious Valentine’s connection there is the chance to check out the “Bocca della Verita”. This Medieval curiosity actually dates back to the ancient world and was likely to be a sewer cap cover of sorts, with his grotesque face representing a local river deity, Oceanus. It was later recycled by the Medieval Romans and used as a kind of honesty trial: those who told a lie with their hand in the mouth of the beast would have their hand snapped off! The legend may date to the Middle Ages, but was popularised in the modern imagination by the iconic film of the Dolce Vita era, “Roman Holiday”, when Gregory Peck’s character tricked Audrey Hepburn by using the ancient Roman legend. Little known fact: Gregory Peck went off script in this scene and Audrey Hepburn’s reaction of horror was 100% genuine! Alas, today this part of the church has become a bit of a tourist trap - with scores of tourists lining up eager to recreate their ‘Roman Holiday’ moment, a 2€ fee for the privilege, and a very strict one photo policy. This particular stop is a hard pass for us, but you can always peak at it through the railings on your way out of the church. But if its an absolute must we can happily accomodate your Roman holiday fancies on our 'Best of Rome Private Tour'. Ponte Milvio You may have heard of the tradition of lover’s attaching small padlocks to the railings of bridges or gates to symbolise the strength of their love. The more modern take on this tradition actually took off in Rome at Ponte Milvio in the early 2000s after the publication of the immensely popular Italian novel “I want you” ( Ho Voglia di Te) by Federico Moccia. It’s a well-chosen spot, given that it’s close to where St. Valentine was originally buried in the 3rd century CE. The Ponte Milvio might be a bit off the beaten track for some tourist itineraries - it’s located in the north of the city away from most of the more major tourist attractions but is worth trek if you want to check out the lesser visited sites of the Foro Italico Olympic complex and the fantastic MAXXI modern art museum designed by Zaha Hadid.   Gianicolo   This next spot is close to The Rogue Historians’ heart. The original ‘Rogues’ had their first date on this, the tallest of Rome’s hills and some of our friends have even popped the question here. Yes, it’s a bit of a cliche ‘romantic’ spot amongst the locals and it’s not exactly off the beaten track even for tourists, but it’s well known for a good reason: the view over the Eternal City is simply spectacular. During the day you can wander through the gardens on the hill and try to pick out the city’s most famous landmarks on the horizon, before checking out the daily firing of the cannon - which has been fired every day at midday since 1904, with a brief interruption during WWII. The Rogues can attest to the accuracy and power of the Gianicolo’s cannon: we used to live in the neighborhood directly below it and the windows of our apartment would rattle every day at 12:00! Flowers and Chocolates   If a trip to Rome isn’t enough of a Valentine’s gift and you still feel you’ve just got to splash out and do the whole flowers and chocolate thing, then the Rogues have you covered.  For flowers you should head to Campo dei Fiori - today it’s best known for being a fruit and vegetable market, but there are still a few kiosks at the end of the piazza selling seasonal bouquets that attest to the square’s original use as a ‘field of flowers’. If chocolates are more your thing then make a beeline to ‘Confetteria Moriondo e Gargilio’. These charming chocolatiers have been making chocolates and other sweet treats since the 19th century, and they were the official confectioners to the Royal House of Savoy back in the day. they moved to Rome from Turin after the reunification of Italy in the 19th century and set up a gorgeous little jewel of a shop that looks like a traditional tea room. But don’t take our word for it; the famous Roman poet Trilussa loved their sweet treats so much he felt compelled to immortalise it in verse! So there you go, a few suggestions from the Rogues. And if you find yourself alone then don't worry just join one of our group tours and you are sure to meet like-minded people, plus whats better than self-development through education anyway? Happy Valentine's day Rogues!