FFE Freshman Seminar Excursion:
Friday November 15th-Sunday November 17th
This semester Marist Italy offered the students of its FFE program a unique First Year Seminar excursion to Rome. The trip was centered on Professor Richard Lewis’ first year seminar course “Young Michelangelo’s Florence” and was designed to provide students with insight into the post-Florence experiences of Michelangelo as well as his influences on future artists. In addition to expanding on course material, students would also experience an ancient and cultural Italian history that is unique the nation’s capital. Accompanying the group of students was Professor Richard Lewis, Dean of International Programs Dr. John Peters, Marist Italy Director Vanessa Nichol-Peters, Assistant Coordinator Jennifer McLain, Resident Director Julianne Homola, and five Graduate Assistants from the M.A. in Museum Studies program.
The group departed early Friday morning and arrived in Rome around noon. From the moment they exited the bus, students were introduced the grandeur of Rome. A walk through Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spanga on the way to a group lunch presented students with works of artists influenced by Michelangelo, such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fontana della Baraccia at the base of the renowned Spanish Steps. After lunch, a bus tour led by Titiana, a member of LdM’s Rome campus staff, provided students with an overview of the city and its various neighborhoods. A group dinner later in the evening was followed by G.A. led “piazza hopping,” where students were able to experience and photograph the beauty of sites such as Campo de’Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain at night.
Day two of the trip offered students perhaps the most unique experience of the trip. An extensive group tour of the Vatican City led by Professor Lewis, Romina Cometti and former Marist Italy Masters student and Vatican Museum intern Brendan Small included visits to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. The visits provided students with exposure to the art and architecture of Michelangelo, enabling them to draw connections between the legendary artist and contemporaries such as Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino. After the tour, G.A.s and their groups were free to grab lunch at various spots in the neighborhood outside the walls of the city. A post-lunch walk to the Pantheon offered views of Il Passetto, Castel Sant’Angelo, Ponte Sant’Angelo, the Corte Suprema di Cassazione, and Piazza Navona. The walk provided students with more insight into the influence of Michelangelo on the city, including Bernini’s statues of angels on the Ponte Sant’Angelo and Fountain of Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. The final stop at the Pantheon was accompanied by a brief presentation from Professor Lewis as well as walk through the legendary structure. The remainder of the afternoon allowed students to escape the bombardment of group tours and explore the city on their own (I can only hope they made use of the “Top Ten Things to do in Rome List” they were given, which included eateries, churches, parks, and shopping!)
Sunday marked the day of departure, but did not in any way diminish the experience. The day began with a morning visit to the San Pietro in Vincoli church, where Professor Lewis provided commentary on the chains that bound St. Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem as well as Michelangelo’s Moses. The visit was followed by a short walk to the Roman Forum and Colosseum, where students experienced the vast and well-preserved ruins of Ancient Rome. The site visits concluded with a walk to the Capitoline Hill and appropriately a final descent down the stairs designed by Michelangelo. A final group lunch in the local neighborhood of Trastevere concluded the weekend before the return trip to Florence.
I found this trip to be as fulfilling and informative as it was demanding and exhausting. The weekend included a great deal of visits and walking in a limited span of time and I was incredibly impressed with how the students handled it. Not only were there no problems amongst our various daily travels, but students were eager to learn during the various site visits and walks. I think the liveliness of the students translated well for the G.A. led walks, as we were able to make use of the pages of information we prepared for various sites that we encountered along the way. It was also extremely beneficial that myself and several other G.A.s and staff members had either studied and/or visited Rome in the past, which made walking from site to site a smooth and less chaotic experience.
The trip also included a solid balance of professional tours, G.A. led tours, and free time. I think too much of any one of these components would have either overwhelmed the students or left them wishing they had experienced more. The content and presentation of the tours and visits were great in that students were presented with information both relevant to the course material, as well as new information that helped shape their perceptions of the city. Ultimately I found the trip was a great success. The hard work and time put in by the G.A.s and staff members both prior to and during the trip certainly paid off and I firmly believe the students gained an experience that have positively affected them both academically and culturally.
Graduate Assistant in Experiential Activities
M.A. in Museum Studies Class of 2014