Having landed in Rome on Friday evening, and been driven, Italian style, at warp speed 9 to our hotel, the oldest in Rome, (near to the Campo dei Fiori), we started the trip off by wandering to the supposed spot of Julius Caesar’s assassination, gawped at the stupendous Four Rivers Fountain in the Piazza Navona and then marvelled at the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world, before calming down with a small glass of prosecco in a salubrious bar facing the mighty Pantheon. Many of the students are studying History of Art and were seeing several of the case studies that they will be required to write about in their summer exams, for the first time. I took this moment to remind them that this was not a holiday, but a study trip! Ice cream count: 1.
The following day we focused on Classical sculpture and architecture at the Capitoline Museums, Forum, and Colosseum, lunched informally in the antique flower market and in the afternoon we saw breathtaking sculpture by Gianlorenzo Bernini and the realistic painting of Caravaggio at the Galleria Borghese. Supper was in a fast and furious pizzeria where conversation fizzed. Ice cream count: 2.
A day dedicated to Baroque art and architecture beckoned and saw the group undertake a magnificent church crawl from the top of the Quirinal hill down to the Piazza del Popolo and then back to Centro Storico. Ice cream count: 3 & 4. A final visit to the very plush Galleria Borghese brought us face to face with Pope Innocent X (by Velazquez), as close to this brooding prince as one might wish to get. Perhaps more excitingly, supper in a cheap and cheerful Roman trattoria brought the students face to face with a proper carbonara and the waiters helped them to refine their pronunciation of “bruschetta”. Ice cream count: 5.
Our final full day was spent gazing at the mammoth works in the Basilica of Saint Peter, gasping as we ascended the cupola for spectacular views over the Caput Mundi and then much glaring, as we did battle with a local tour guide at the queue for the Vatican Museum. By the time we left the Sistine Chapel, we’d earned a special final meal, and took the bus up the via Nazionale for grilled smoked scamorza, pear and Parmesan salads and inexpensive house red. On the way home we saw the Trevi fountain by night, fought off the rose sellers and threw spare change in the waters, then walked back to the Pantheon where we stumbled across an ice cream shop with over 100 flavours. Ice cream count: 6 & 7.
On the final morning, we laughed at the Renaissance innuendos at Villa Farnesina, and heard the magical story of the love of Cupid and Psyche, found a couple of hours for some shopping and then headed back to the airport, this time at warp speed 10. Overall, Rome was stupendous, the students brilliantly behaved and very culturally aware. It was a pleasure to lead and a super start to the Easter holidays.
By Mr Daniel Evans, History of Art