14 November 2016
Scholars' Trip to Rome
Over the last four days of half term, a group of Lower Sixth scholars, accompanied by classical historian Mrs Cashmore and head of English and tour manager Mr Smith, went on a trip to Rome.
Our first evening was the chance for a stroll to the atmospheric Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps for an excellent, if pricey, ice-cream. Staying centrally, we were able to walk to many of the sites: in the footsteps of King Alfred, we went inside the Byzantine-era Santa Maria Maggiore, with its fragment of the crib of Jesus; we also saw the chains of St Peter and Michelangelo’s tomb for Julius II in St Pietro, and made the first of two descents into the underworld to see the Mithraic temple under the church of St Clemente. Then after our first confusion with Italian security we were allowed into the awesome Colosseum, and Mrs Cashmore guided us round the monuments of the Palatine and the Forum, Lorcan Cudlip-Cook delivering Mark Antony’s funeral oration from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, on the spot where Caesar was cremated. We rounded off a long day with an evening tour of the masterpieces of the Villa Borghese – Bernini, Titian, Canova among others.
The second day began with a tour of the Vatican museums, Raphael and Michelangelo’s breath-taking Sistine Chapel ceiling. After lunch we got to see the Baths of Caracalla and to smell the dampest church in Rome, before taking the bus out along the Appian Way to the Catacombs, 2nd Century Christian burial places in a dimly lit subterranean maze, decorated with symbols and 1500-year-old frescoes, before returning, via the Papal church of St Giovanni, to our very welcoming restaurant host, Springsteen fan, and father of nine, the self-proclaimed Super Mario. The final day was one for domes: the jaw-dropping St Peter’s Basilica, over twice the size of St Paul’s in London, and the Roman Pantheon, still the world’s largest unstressed concrete dome roof 2000 years on. In between, we went around the Palatine museums, to see the 2000-year-old bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, Romulus and Remus, and more. Some found time to visit a third burial site, the Capuchin ossuary, while others ascended the Victor Emmanuel II monument for a final view of the city. Overall, it was tiring, but great fun, and a glimpse into the achievements of past civilisations as well as the Italy of today.