Tonight was, in a word, fun. As a group we were laughing, walking (overall about 15 miles today for most people), eating and enjoying an amazing city, with good weather, and without the crowds that burden Rome in the summer. We were saying our goodbyes to Rome; as such we were less focused on learning, and more on having fun and experiencing the city.
We started off at the Pantheon, still one of my favorite places in Rome. It is an awesome dome, and one that gave Brunelleschi the inspiration to figure out how to make his dome for the Florence cathedral. Origially a pagan temple for all the Roman Gods, it is now a Christian church (I once observed a mass there — pretty strong imagery, a mass in this old Roman temple), and Raphael is buried there. The very center of the dome is open air, meaning that when it rains, water falls onto the Pantheon’s floor. An amazing structure.
From there we headed towards the Campo di Fiori and down to the Jewish ghetto. The Campo is a neat little square (Campo means field; it was a field originally, not a piazza) with music, food and an active night life. I love walking through Rome as the sun sets. The sun glistens off old majestic buildings, Roman ruins, and modern shops. Meanwhile Vespas are weaving in and out of traffic and around pedestrians as the city is alive with people out and about, enjoying their city. It has an energy and a sense of community American cities lack. Ours are just business districts, and people hang out at shopping malls where consumption is key. Here it’s being in the city, having a coffee, a drink, or just window shoping with friends. It’s literally joyful to walk through Rome.
The students could tell too — I was making jokes all night, laughing, and we were having fun. We were disappointed that the church with the Bucca de Verite was closed, but then crossed to Trastevere where we went to two of my favorite churches: St. Cecilia, and Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest Christian churches. St. Cecilia is a small, elegant, equisitely beautiful church dedicated to the patron saint of music and song. Serene in its beauty, it isn’t one all the tourists flock too, but it has a very peaceful, spritual sense. Santa Maria in Trastevere has a golden sort of look, with beautiful mosaics. We couldn’t go inside tonight because they were holding mass, but it’s situated on a great little piazza in one of the more interesting districts in Rome. In summer this place is swarmed by tourists, but in winter it’s pleasant.
By then people were tired, but after eating ready to head out for gelato. Gelato is, to be blunt, the best tasting ice cream on the planet. And we went back to Giolotti’s, the best gelateria in Rome. Last year Ashley Crosby did research on gelato when she took the trip, and found out that it has only about 6% air content while our industrially produced ice cream has 30%. This means ours has to be kept colder in order not to collapse on itself (and when you melt it get is a fraction of its original size). Gelato is served warmer, yet is thick and rich. It has less fat content than our ice cream, however. Perhaps the best way to describe it is that it combines the best of soft serve with the best of hard serve. The flavors are intense (they always are in Italy) and rich, whether the fruit gelati or the various other flavors. I had the flavors Tiramisu and White Chocolate tonight, superb!
From there it was on to the Trevi fountain. I am always struck by the beauty of this fountain, still fed by an acquaduct, with the tradition that if you throw coins in the fountain, you will return to Rome. I keep throwing coins in and I keep coming back, so it must work. The students had their cameras out, taking pictures of each other throwing coins, etc., and it was a fun time. One street vendor bothered a student and tried to pick pocket her, but he failed.
Then laughing and joking around we headed back to our hotel near Republicca, walking by the four fountain intersection atop a hill, then back down to via Venezia where our hotel is located. Tomorrow it’s on to Florence. One thing that is so wonderful about these trips is how much faculty bond with students, and students with each other. We tease each other, play jokes on each other and laugh, and students talk about their goals and plans and ask questions. I feel like my most productive time as a teacher is when I’m on these trips; students’ lives are being changed, they are learning to see the world (and their own culture) through new eyes, and growing tremendously. I know because that’s what happened to me when I first traveled. That’s why even though tonight wasn’t as focused on sites or experiences directed at expanding knowledge as the last few days, it was still just as important. We have to have fun together. We have to really enjoy being in Rome, and partaking of the beauty and life of the city. That’s what the Romans do, and you know the saying, “when in Rome…”
So tomorrow it’s on to Firenze (Florence), the city of Dante, Machiavelli, Galileo, etc. Ciao, Roma!!