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.
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.
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.
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.
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.