“How was your break? What’d you do?” Such begins conversations all around the Circle during the first few days of spring term. Popular replies include nice, good, relaxing, sleeping, eating, and/or seeing family and old friends, but for a group of eighteen Groton students, the first part of spring break consisted of a journey to the timelessly beautiful and culturally abundant city of Rome.
When asked about his inspiration for this trip, Mr. McDougal said that he had wanted to organize a trip like this since the very first year he joined the Groton community.
“I thought it’d be perfect because we have so many students in Groton taking Latin, and we have such an immersive Classics department,” he says.
Contrary to popular belief, he says that “in Rome, Latin isn’t a dead language. It’s not the language of conversation on the streets, but you see it everywhere in the city. On buildings—it’s on everywhere you look, and you can hear it in the conversations of Italians… you can hear the remnants of Latin.” This is the first trip to Rome in a few years.
The faculty trip leaders were Mr. Giampetruzzi, Mr. McDougal, and Ms. Kayali (whose birthday was celebrated on the fourth day). The group stayed on campus after the rest of the student population left for break on Saturday; on Sunday night, they boarded the plane and arrived at Rome six hours later, where it turned out to be morning.
That first day, they hit the ground running with little sleep. They explored the city, visiting and walking through places like the Roman Fora, the beautiful Colosseum, and the Trevi Fountain, and they got their first taste of Roman cuisine, eating things like gelato and Italian pizza and lots of pasta.
The group focused on the more local parts of Rome the next day, spending a few hours inside the Capitoline Museums and crossing the Tiber River into the small neighborhood of Trastevere. They strolled through the cobblestoned Piazza di Santa Maria, making their way through Vespa-filled streets, and people-watched as “the hours began to slip by,” writes Rose Lovy in the daily blog update.
They set out for Ostia the next day, which is a well-preserved port city that is prominent in Ancient Roman history. “Ostia was my favorite,” Cynthia Cheng recalls. The students were amazed at getting to see what an actual Ancient Roman city looked like, from the stores and gardens to the living areas and amphitheaters.
The other sites visited include the Basilica of San Clemente, the Borghese Gallery, of which Nala Boden says, “The artwork was stunning and everywhere you looked, there were so many more paintings. It was so beautiful that you wished you could be that good of a painter.”
They walked down the Via Appa, one of Rome’s oldest roads, and took in the lush and lovely Roman countryside. They explored the Catacombs of Callixtus and saw wonderful mosaics and paintings at the National Museum of Rome. They visited the very famous Pantheon and marveled at many of Rome’s architectural wonders.
During their final day in the city, the group visited the Vatican and were, in the words of Kasumi Quinlan, “completely dazzled” by St. Peter’s Basilica.
The group partook in what Mr. McDougal calls, “at least daily gelato expeditions,” and he enjoyed getting to see everyone order the many different flavors. On one occasion, Cynthia Cheng made a gelato sandwich, pressing it into a Panini press for a few seconds and then taking it out, leaving the fluffy bread warm, but the gelato completely untouched. She describes it as “scrumptious” and that “the gelato was amazing.”
Ade Osinubi enjoyed the almost three-hour long dinners every night because “you got to know everyone else on the trip so much better.” Also, to incorporate some Latin curriculum, the students read passages from different Roman authors corresponding to the places they visited, and demonstrated their prowess by sight-reading the abundance of Latin found in various areas all over the city.
During the final two days, the group took a bus to Pompeii, where they received a lovely tour from a very humorous and lively Italian man. They saw displays of the plaster casts of all who suffered from the ashes of Mount Vesuvius. Particularly memorable was a cast of a young slave boy’s contorted body, whose mouth was open mid-scream.
On the final day of the trip, the group visited the Naples museum and the caves at Cumae. For their final destination, they walked up a hill overlooking beautiful Italian greenery and the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea, a wonderful way to end an extraordinary journey.