How Holy Cross Made My Maymester

While going on a vacation to Rome is an amazing trip, going with Holy Cross on Maymester has provided opportunities I would have never gotten any other time. 

 I am one to have major FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and our professors made sure we covered everything from ancient sites to museums to traveling exhibits. At the end of the trip I felt I had done everything Rome offered, and the program was able to take away the stress of figuring out tickets and timing. 

More than just covering everything, I felt each site we visited was explored in depth. We learned about the site a little in class and would read about it, but Professor Seider and Professor Martin would take us in small groups through the site and teach us right there. Having Roman history taught right at the place where it happened gave our lessons a greater impact and helped me to understand why each site was important. I feel that I could not have learned this way back in a classroom, and that the best way to truly learn Roman history is being in Rome.

Me, Cassandra, Bridget, Smarika in Venice

Beyond just a history class we also learned a little bit of conversational Italian, and by the end of the first week we could order gelato in Italian. Our Italian teacher also had us at her house for an Italian cooking class. Learning on Maymester is more than just academics, it’s about having engaging experiences. Holy Cross makes sure that each student gets to have this, and also gives free time to go out on our own too.

On our visit to Hadrian’s Villa we were greeted by a Holy Cross alum who was working there as an archaeologist. She was so proud to have other Holy Cross students visit, so she took us to an active archaeology site where we watched as other archaeologists worked to uncover never before seen rooms. It was incredible to watch them work, and she explained the work they did there, what they were currently discovering, and how she got to the job she is in today.

My roommates and I (Trishala, Minke, Bridget, Me, Smarika, Cassandra)

Before going on this trip I knew no one else, but my five roommates and I were all in the same position. All coming from Holy Cross made getting to know each other easy, and we would often talk about our favorite classes, the best dorms, or shared experiences there. We got so close to each other in such a short time, having backpacked across Italy and explored Rome together. The small community of Holy Cross made this possible, and I am so happy I will see them again in the fall.

Finally, Professor Martin and Professor Seider were the perfect leaders for this trip. Together, their extensive knowledge on the sites we visited and Rome combined with their understandable explanatory style in class made learning Roman history easy. We felt comfortable to ask them any questions about the sites we visited and they answered right away or got back to us after investigating the answer. They spent the time to really get to know each of us and cared about how we were doing, and gave great suggestions on other places to visit. Professor Martin was quick to point out interesting facts that expanded upon what we were seeing, and Professor Seider led us on side trips if we were up for the extra adventure. They were an amazing duo we all were privileged to get to know and have taught us this course, and I would definitely recommend taking Maymester with them.

This has been a life changing trip, and my education and worldview has been completely transformed. If you ever have the opportunity to go on Maymester to Rome– go for it! I promise it will be one of the best experiences at Holy Cross.


Saint Peter’s Basilica at sunset
Villa d’Este


Church of Gesu Ceiling
All of us Maymester students at dinner (Photo creds to Tolu)

Fantastic Eats and Where to Find Them

(title credits to Smarika Suwal)

Italy is known for having some of the best food in the world- and in Rome you can’t really go wrong with good dishes anywhere. But through some exploration on our own we have found some good places to eat every kind of meal throughout Rome…


Giolitti– the oldest Gelato place in Rome and honestly the best. You can get a small cone that is heaped with gelato and the fresh whipped cream (for free! Just ask for “panna”). The flavors are so rich and creamy it is definitely worth making the trek from the Colosseum over for a late afternoon treat. 

Millenium– this might be our favorite place because a). its so cheap b). its right down the street c). it is soooo good. This place has the amazing authentic gelato, and my favorite is the Mousse Profiterole that tastes like Nutella but is so creamy.

Traveling tip: We learned that the real gelato is the kind that doesn’t catch your eye. A lot of places has it puffed up in the tins and with vibrant colors, but this means that they pumped air into it and has artificial flavoring. So go for the real gelato that they whip up by hand.

To go pasta

Pastifico– Right by the Spanish steps, this take out pasta place opens at 1pm and there will be a full line of people waiting for its doors to open to reveal the two pasta types they are serving for that day. It is that good. And for only 4 euro you can get a huge meal of pasta. It is a must if you are in the area.

Crema e cioccolato- Literally one door down from our residence, it was the best place to go when we just wanted some take out pasta to sit up on the rooftop terrace of our apartment. They make it right here while you wait, and it comes out delicious every time. For relatively cheap you get a lot of food and a good meal.

Traveling tip: check the menu of the restaurant before you go in someplace. Often with the smaller restaurants they can only have a few dishes, or even just one for the day, and if you go in you have to eat there even if you are not a fan of that one dish. Trust us by experience.

UpScale Dinner

La Zanzara– This place is right near St. Peter’s Square, so about a 10 minute walk from the residence. We got a lot of recommendations to go there, and they were all right. A little bit pricier but totally worth the cost they had excellent pasta dishes and an extensive menu. Their drinks are also fantastic, so if you are feeling a nice night out with your roommates this is the place to go.


Good eats for cheap

Il Bersagliere– Another one of our favorites, it is only two blocks from the Residence (you can tell you don’t have to walk far for good eats). They have a lot of authentic Italian food for relatively a cheap price, and if you are not feeling getting a full meal you can get appitizers that are delicious– I would recommend trying their proscuitto and melon. For under 10 euros you can get wine, bread, and a whole meal.

Alice Pizza– This one we tried for lunch one day right after class as it was on the way to the train station. And we are so glad we did! It has amazing pizza, folded in the Roman style of course and you order it to go so it is perfect to take to the Piazza de Popolo and eat with a view. It has giant slices for under 3 euro, so if you are looking to go someplace cheap and fun with delicious slices that also have the unusual toppings of Rome this is the place to go.

Travel tip: Pizza in rome you pay for by weight so ask for a smaller slice and you will still get a lot to eat but for a better price.

These are our favorite places for a relatively better price so if you are looking to go on Maymester next year please check these out! Ciao!

Top 5 Favorite Site Visits

There are so many sites that we loved on this trip, but these were our favorites…

The Roman Forum

I had always wanted to go to the Roman Forum, ever since learning about it in middle school. It was the center of ancient Rome where common people, religious leaders, and emperors alike would be bustling about in the area. There are so many ancient ruins built next to each other there, it’s packed with history and is amazing to see the photos from textbooks come to life before us. It was one of my favorite sites, and there is no real comparison to having the lives of ancient Romans displayed right before us in one area. 

Domus Aurea

When we had to put on hard hats to visit this site I was skeptical at first, but it was one of the coolest places we were allowed to go down into as it was an active archaeological site. We followed a long tunnel down into what used to be Nero’s palace (the emperor notorious for spending lavishly) that was buried to try to erase his memory. It was so much larger than we expected and the part that remains takes up a whole hill! We went through dark caves to see the remnants of frescoes from the first century, but the best part was wearing virtual reality goggles to see where we were and what it would have looked like in its prime.


Ostia is an ancient roman port city that is abandoned so all the houses and buildings from the old city remain. It was like a huge playground where we could go all over this huge ancient city and climb up old staircases, walk across house foundations, and together we investigated what used to be an ancient restaurant. It was the most fun I have had exploring, and it was easy to get lost among a whole city of ruins. But around each corner was a hidden gem that clued into the lives of the people once lived there.

St. Peter’s Basilica

The largest Basilica in the world and the main center of Catholicism, St. Peter’s is adorned with decorations and paintings and statues all around. It is amazing that every inch is decorated. From an art perspective it is beautiful and from a religious one it is so powerful to be there. Since we are part of a group too we got to go underneath the Basilica to the old roman roads that hold mausoleums preserved underneath that had the body of St. Peter. After visiting the Basilica be sure to spend the time and euros to climb up to the top of the dome. While the passage is tiny and slants sideways, all the steps are totally worth the view of the whole of Rome from the top.

Vatican Museum

This was one of the world’s best scavenger hunts that we had. The museum is so big and houses art from all the ages from ruins pulled form sites we visited up to Renaissance maps painted right on the walls. The galleries themselves are a work of art, and of course the pinnacle of it all is the Sistine chapel. It is impossible to see it all in the short time we have, so our professors gave us a “scavenger hunt” type list of the best and most famous pieces that you could chose to see some of them if you would like. My roommates and I felt adventurous so we saw all of them, and it was totally worth navigating the many halls to see these masterpieces.

Honestly, some of the best trips besides this were the ones we decided to explore on our own. While the program of Maymester covers a lot, thankfully we have a lot of time off. We would take suggestions from the professors and they would direct us to some extra sites. These would always be amazing and feel like it is a bonus trip because we took the initiative to go adventure on our own.

(left to right) Trishala, Minke, Bridget, Me, Smarika, Cassandra

A Day in the Life of a Rome Maymester Student

Greetings from Rome! It’s been an amazing two weeks so far and I can’t believe we’re halfway through! We’ve done so much so far but still have so much to look forward to! I am just getting back from a weekend trip to Florence so comment if you want to hear about our adventure there and the kinds of trips you can take outside of your host city.


Thankfully, Italian class doesn’t start until 10:30 so we get to sleep in a bit and then me and my five roommates walk across Rome and the bridge over the Tiber River to reach the University of Temple Rome where we have our classes.

We first have an hour of crash course Italian with a wonderful local teacher who gives us the basics like learning how to order something or how to introduce yourself. Then either Professor Martin or Professor Seider comes in for the next hour and teaches our ancient history course in Rome. We usually have to do a little homework such as reading a passage and looking up the location of the site visits in a guide, but it is never stressful to complete.

The professors really go in depth to how we view the leaders of ancient Rome and how this affected later time periods like the Renaissance. While we focus on ancient Rome in class, when we go on site visits it’s locations of all ages from 753 BC to today which just goes to show the layers of history city has.

Seeing Rome

After class we are given a couple of hours to do what we want to, as long as we all meet at the site visit afterwards. My roommates and I usually head to our favorite spot: a pizza shop near the Piazza del Popolo and we sit on the steps overlooking the fountains and beautiful domes.

We then walk through the narrow but picturesque streets that are lined with shops and overhear Italian as we make our way to the site visits. While at first we needed maps to get us to places, we are already quite familiar with the city as we walk everywhere and know a general idea of how to go from place to place.

ruins in the Roman Forum

A large part of how we study these sites is not only to look at what is in front of us, but to see what they would have been like back when they were built and why they are important. While we may be looking at ruins, their structure we see today can clue into what kind of life the ancients Romans lived and what they valued most.

The Roman Forum was the best place to see this; the Romans packed so much into this central space like markets, temples, a palace, and the Senate house. We spent a whole afternoon there getting a tour by our Professors, then we broke into groups and learned about and presented on a specific ruin.

Sometimes we have multiple site visits, and maybe an activity at each one. One day we went to a monument to Augustus, Augustus’ Mausoleum, the Pantheon, and the Church of Gesú. It was a lot of walking, but we had different classwork at each like sketching and presenting on an aspect of the monument to Augustus, reflecting on the class reading at the mausoleum, sketching at the church and presenting on it, and just having a chance to admire the Pantheon.

The Pantheon
Outside of the Church of Gesú
Ceiling of Church of Gesú


Minke and I showing off our sketches in a Roman bath










While classwork is light, we learn so much from just being present at the site. Getting to see every detail in person and seeing the size and structure for ourselves speaks a lot to the history of the lives of the Romans here. Reading about the Colosseum doesn’t do justice to its sheer size and towering arches nor do pictures of the Sistine Chapel capture the harmony Michelangelo created there.

To truly learn about the impact of the sites both in ancient times and today, one needs to be there in person, and that is why Maymester gives the perfect opportunity to experience this.

School of Athens painting by Raphael in Vatican Museums
View after climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Dome
















After Class

After the site visits we are tired so we go back to the apartment by subway (which we have mastered by now) and get an hour or two to relax before we rally to go to dinner together. We’ve tried all sorts of Italian restaurants around Rome, crossing off our food bucket list as we go. Italian dinners can take hours (and they start eating late) so we finish the night with gelato down the street and then hang out on the rooftop garden.

There is so much that we do in one day, and we do not waste any time going around for class or exploring on our own. By the end, we are all tired but are excited to continue on the next day.

Gelato with Bridget and Cassandra
Climbing an ancient staircase
St. Peter´s Basilica altar (left to right: Cassandra, Guy, Bridget, Smarika, Keyshawn, Minke, Me, Trishala)