Hello, Kelli here!
The rest of week one took Dan, Becca, Anna, and I to Rome. We were lucky enough on our first night to meet up with Steven, another member of the Nottingham group. We made dinner at our Airbnb and enjoyed talking with Steven about his trip so far.
Dan, Becca, Anna, and I spent our first full day visiting the Vatican where we were able to see the Papal Audience. This was especially exciting for Anna, Dan, and Becca because of their Catholic backgrounds. My favorite part was when the Pope greeted congregation members from each country in attendance. It was very interesting to see how far people had travelled to visit the Vatican and hear the Pope speak. It was obviously a very important moment of faith for many of the people in attendance.
We spent the rest of our day visiting the Vatican museums. The artwork in every room was amazing, but we were all sad to see how many people rushed by the majority of the art to get to the Sistine Chapel. There were countless frescoes, sculptures, and paintings to admire. I was struck by the huge size and detail of Raphael’s School of Athens I could have spent hours in every room and not noticed every detail.
The Sistine Chapel was our last stop in the Vatican. We studied Michaelangelo’s work on the ceiling frescoes and The Last Judgement during first-year Paideia course. At that time, I never imagined I would see the works in person. The Last Judgement, located behind the altar, was painted between 1535 and 1541. It depicts the second coming of Christ and Michaelangelo included his own likeness in the form of a flayed skin being pulled up to Heaven. Cracks in the frescoes and the architecture are visible, and we spent time debating the logistics and ethics of preserving the famous artwork.
On day two we visited the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum. The Trevi Fountain depicts the sea god Oceanus, tritons, and horses taming the waters. I threw one coin in the fountain to ensure, as the legends say, that I would someday return to Rome. At the Colosseum I learned that originally the amphitheater could be flooded for reenactments of naval battles! That night we went out for a nice dinner to enjoy our last night together before Becca left.
The next day Dan, Anna, and I spent some time just wandering and exploring the streets around the Colosseum. We looked at the Roman Forum from the outside before climbing the Altar of the Fatherland. There was a really interesting exhibit inside on historical and folklore art by modern Russian artists. The artists were inspired by the classical style of art common in the famous Italian Renaissance works, and I enjoyed comparing these works to what we had seen in the Vatican. It was easy to see how the Russian artists were inspired by the Renaissance artists but also how they included their own unique touches.
Our last stops in Rome were the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps. I learned that the hole in the roof of the Pantheon actually makes the domed ceiling less likely to collapse because the very top is the weakest point. I thoroughly enjoyed travelling in Italy, and I’m so grateful to have had this experience with my friends.