On to Rome! Today we took a break from our formal seminars because getting the students acquainted with Rome is a job in and of itself. Moreover, it was a bit wild getting settled here.
After an uneventful train ride we headed to the hotel, with the students dragging suitcases up six flights of stairs. Then we were told to stop and go down, we had been moved to another hotel. The students then went down, crossed over to another hotel, and took their suitcases up one flight of stairs. They checked in, and five of us (including myself) were set up in the original hotel. Tired and hungry the students got food and then we met at 3:00 for our walking tour.
The air was cool and a slight rain fell as we made our way from Termini (the rail station) to our first stop, the Spanish steps. No one complained about the rain, given how hot and sticky we had been. After the Spanish steps it stopped, and soon the sun came back out. From there we headed down to the Trevi fountain, a popular tourist attraction.
From Trevi it was over the Pantheon, perhaps my favorite spot in Rome. The students were excited to see this because they had already heard that it helped inspire the solution for Brunelleschi’s dome. The Pantheon is impressive outside:
From there we went to Piazza Navona, famous for its Bernini sculptures and fountains. We let students loose to get food and then met back at the Pantheon at 7:30 for the final leg of the excursion. We headed towards the Forum and Colosseum, with the night lighting just turning on as we got there. Students were awed by both sights. One student has wanted to see the Colosseum since she was eight years old, and she was had tears in her eyes when it finally came into view. All students had put aside the irritation of the hotel check in problems and were amazed by Rome, a city no one can truly be prepared for. The ancient alongside the modern, grand buildings, wild traffic and superb food combine to make this a gem. A few students avoided attempted pick pockets, and one got scammed out of five Euros. But they know to be diligent!
We got back to the hotel after 10:00. Students were tired, but buzzing about the city. Tomorrow it’s back to seminars and excursions, and trying to get the most out of our four days left in Italy — hoping to tie up the themes of the course and convince students that being tourists is not what they want to do. They don’t want to schlepp from sight to sight with a guide book telling them all they know about what they are visiting. They want to understand the history, feel the presence of the past in what they are seeing, and understand the importance and relevance of what Rome or any place one might visit represents. As I noted in my 2009 Itay trip blog, we want students to be travelers, not tourists.