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.
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.
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.