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About Stuardt-Mikhail Clarke

Stuardt-Mikhail ClarkeI really never thought people would want to know more about me. After all, my web site isn’t a personal web site, per se, but about my favorite city – Rome (which includes Vatican City). However, for a number of years now, many have asked that I add a bit about myself, so I have decided to do so.

I am a native Californian and have resided in the San Francisco Bay Area almost all of my life, except for five or six years. Since my mid-20s, I have had an avid interest in Rome but never thought I would ever be able to actually go for a visit. In 1988, I finally went, I saw, and fell in love with Rome in person! I have tried to return on an annual basis ever since, as my situation would allow at the time. I can’t go as much as I used to or would like to but I go as often as I can.

My actual vocation has never been in the travel industry, though I must admit that if I could, I would move to Rome in a heartbeat and do just that. In my younger years, I was in the communications industry and, since the mid-70s, I have been in office management / administration in the field of urban economics and socioeconomics. Up until the mid-90s, in my spare time I was also a local sci-fi / fantasy artist and a D.J.

Even though Rome and Vatican City are not my vocation, I sure wish they were. My web site was created out of pure love and fascination I have for Rome, its history, its art, and its people. Some have referred to me as sort of an “expert” on Rome and Vatican City, but I disagree. Rick Steves is an amazing expert in every sense of the word. There is no way one could compare my knowledge, experience, or expertise to his. So, while I know quite a bit about Rome, Vatican City, and to a much lesser extent Florence, I do not consider myself an “expert” by any means.

If I had to sum up my qualifications in this area, I guess I would classify myself as a learned travel consultant on Rome and a Historian on Rome’s churches, with an emphasis on the Basilica of St. Peter. I have conducted special lectures and slide presentations here in California for various groups, both religious and non-religious, on Passing Through St. Peters: The History and Splendor of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, as an introduction to those who were interested in knowing more about this magnificent structure and it’s importance to the world – from an architectural, art, historical, and religious perspective. I have also served as an English-speaking guide for several groups visiting St. Peter’s Basilica when I was in Rome on holiday.

I have immersed myself in Rome’s mystique, grandeur, charm, history – literally everything I could and can get my hands on connected with Rome and Vatican City since my first visit many years ago. Over the years, I have collected quite a personal library of books on Rome, the majority of which I purchased during various trips there – on its structures and palazzi, oddities, history, culture, churches, ancient ruins, and travel as a world-class destination. I have taken many hundreds of photos over the years as well. Some of my photos around Rome have been published in numerous publications and books, and I have been mentioned on many web sites worldwide.

Rome became my favorite city in the world instantly upon my first visit. There is always something new to discover in this ancient city and I always look forward to returning whenever I can. There are also hundreds and hundreds of magnificent churches in Rome and over the years since I have been going, I have visited almost all of them (except for the ones that either no longer exist or are no longer open to the public for whatever reason).

I have dined at many of Rome’s fun restaurants (and have my very own list of favorites I never tire of), explored the majority of its old districts, met many fascinating people (some of whom have become lifelong friends), visited its breathtaking museums, art galleries, and palazzos, enjoy strolling through Rome’s narrow streets and piazzas with their beautiful fountains, and walked among many of its ancient ruins.

Through the kindness of one of my Rome friends for being able to set it up, I have had the pleasure of enjoying a private tour of Palazzo Madama (off limits to the public), which houses the Senate of the Italian Republic. I have also had the opportunity to stand on the floor of the Senate Chamber during my tour of the palazzo. Of course, the Senate was not in session on the day that I visited.

One unique thing about my 35+-year love affair with this fascinating city is during my first visit, I walked half-way across the city to go to St. Peter’s Basilica on a daily basis. Off I would go at 7 a.m. and return to my hotel sometimes at 5 or 6 p.m. at night. I did this for 13 days in a row and never tired of its beauty as the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church. The concierge at my hotel remarked that she was 33 years old, had lived in Rome all of her life, and had never been to St. Peter’s. I found that astounding.

I have also had the opportunity of sitting on the Pope’s platform of distinguished guests and dignitaries in St. Peter’s Square during one of John Paul II’s General Audiences, as well as sitting with special guests and dignitaries at a Papal Audience held in Nervi Hall, also with John Paul II. And, until recent years, I wasn’t even Catholic. But no matter what your religious affiliation is, you cannot help but be in awe of the splendor that is in Rome’s hundreds of churches, let alone everything else Rome has to offer its visitors.

In 1997, I decided I wanted to share my love for the Eternal City and launched this web site, All Roads Lead To Roma, never thinking it would blossom into an award-winning and very popular, comprehensive travel guide that it has become. I just wanted a forum with which to share my experiences and knowledge gained and to help people who either wanted to travel to Rome or just to know more about it, and to be able to enjoy a bit of what I have been blessed to have been able to do all these years. I have also received over 50 web awards since creating All Roads Lead To Roma, for which I am so grateful for the recognition.

As I mentioned earlier, I try to return on an annual basis to explore new things, renew old acquaintances, and do “as the Romans do”, if only for a little while, as well as to keep my web site as up-to-date as possible. The older I get, the more difficult it becomes, but I will continue to do so for as long as my feet will take me to Rome!

In 2005, I converted to Catholicism and returned in September of that year as a Roman Catholic. It has even more meaning for me now, as I revisit its churches.

I do hope that you enjoy your stay on my web site and that you will return and explore its vast information database often!

Acknowledgments

First of all, I could not have been this successful without every visitor who has clicked on my web site over the years. For this, I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you!

And to very special people in Rome, including:

Andrea Pollett, a Rome native who is a dear friend of mine and has also given of his time during every visit to take me around on special little tours to out-of-the-way places and districts most tourists wouldn’t know about or even think of seeing. I cherish his friendship immensely.

Cristina, Domenico, and Helga Pignataro, owners of Planet 29 Accommodation, via Gaeta 29, for their generosity and deep friendship over the years and for regarding me as part of their family, which means a great deal to me.

To Dino and Tony, co-owners of Dino & Tony Hostaria-Pizzeria, via Leone IV 60, not far from the Vatican Museums, for their friendship and for always treating me like family as well whenever I visit their wonderful restaurant. Everyone who dines at this wonderful restaurant is treated like family, which is very special.

To Paola, owner of a wonderful little souvenir shop called the Vatican Emporium, via del Mascherino 42, just a block outside St. Peter’s Square, again, for her wonderful friendship over the years.

Also, to my good friend Archbishop Joseph S. Marino, and many others whom I have become acquainted with over the years.

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