Minnesota EO chapter at Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara. Photo courtesy of Matt Haney.

I spent the last 4 days in February unravelling Rome’s complex history, archaeology and culture for 8 Minnesota businessmen as part of their Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) retreat. Members of this networking and support group for business owners are organized into chapters based on geographical location, each of which is required to go on a retreat annually. This year, the Minnesota chapter traveled to Rome for several days of customized touring. Their primary interest was in creating OILs (once in a lifetime experiences) meant to forge strong bonds between group members. To achieve this, we went off the beaten track, visiting many sites that are typically closed to the public like the Jewish Catacombs of the Vigna Rondanini near the Appian Way. Since there is no electrical system, we explored the corridors of Rome’s best preserved catacomb complex armed with flashlights to illuminate the marble epitaphs and elaborate frescoes. We also visited two important underground sites back in town: the Mithraeum under the Circus Maximus and the Excubitorium della VII Coorte (fire brigade barracks). Both second century structures were buried for hundreds of years beneath buildings and silt deposited by Tiber River floods, only to be discovered in the 19th and 20th centuries.

We dedicated two evenings to food and wine. The first, at L’Angolo Divino near Campo de’ Fiori, was more casual and was aimed at orienting the group to Rome’s food and wine scene. The second was a lavish dinner party at Casa Bleve where we savored fine wines from Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli paired with cured meats, cheeses, and other delicacies. I also arranged several meals for the group when they were on their own. Above, they are at Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara, a Roman institution specializing in filetti di baccala’ (fried cod). Their last night, I sent them to Taverna dei Fori Imperiali where they feasted on abundant antipasti, homemade pasta, decadent desserts. A fitting end to their Roman sojourn.