Tonight was our closing dinner: a chance to say "thanks" and to celebrate a life-changing month together in the remarkable country of Italy. Pictures cannot fully express the way these students have made the most of their time together. Getting to know these students has been one of the highlights of my teaching career, and watching them bond has a privilege.
Chaotic by day, Rome is inviting by night. So on Friday, May 29, we had an optional night walk for students. We started at 9 p.m. with about 60 (too big for a group photo at night; sorry, parents!). Groups peeled off as the night wore on, and we ended with 18 of us finishing the six-mile trip at 2 a.m. (yawn!).
We saw the Colosseum, the Forum, Piazza del Campidoglio (designed by Michelangelo), the Victor Emmanuel Monument, Largo di Torre Argentina (where Julius Caesar was assassinated) Campo de' Fiori (a popular nightspot), Piazza Navona (home of the Three Rivers fountain), the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain (sadly under repairs) and the Spanish Steps.
And of course, we had gelato at the famed, family-owned Giolitti, which offered a chance to grab some snapshots. Click on each photo to enlarge or treat as a gallery.
After traveling by three buses (to hold all our luggage!) from Florence to Rome, we split our group into thirds and listened to experienced guides explain the Colosseum and the Forum. These iconic sites, along with Pompeii we saw earlier in the month, exposed students to incredible insight into ancient Rome.
Though tired from a busy month, students were incredibly attentive and asked great questions of our guides. Parents, be proud!
Click on each image to enlarge or treat as a gallery.
To mark our last night in Florence, Dr. Weigold invited students to a happy hour at a bar that serves his favorite beer, overlooking the Duomo. It offered a nice way to bid ciao to Florence. Tomorrow, Rome!
Here are a few snaps of some of the students, along with our AIFS coordinator extraordinaire, Ged McAteer and his beautiful family. Click on each image to enlarge or treat as a gallery.
While half of the students explored two Tuscan wineries, the half to which I was assigned toured the postcard-perfect towns of Siena and San Gimignano (trading places from the May 12 tours).
Siena is home to the world's oldest bank, Saint Catherine, a magnificent duomo (cathedral) and the Palio, a one-of-a-kind horse race that has been run for 370 years (and which served in the opening scene to the James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace").
On the way home, we stopped in San Gimignano for some world-famous gelato and pretty views of Tuscany. Aside from a few raindrops, it was a glorious day!
Click on each picture to enlarge or treat as a gallery.
St. Francis of Assisi is among history's more impressive saints: a man of means who took a vow of poverty and treated all of God's creatures equally, whether pontiff, pauper or pigeon. Seeing his hometown helped root the man in his locale: a beautiful hill town in Umbria. Pilgrims from all over visit the church where he first heard his heavenly calling as a reformer and the basilica where frescoes tell his life's story. Assisi's well preserved charm does more than draw tourists. It refreshes them, too.
Click on a photo below to enlarge or treat as a gallery.
Cinque Terre defines “scenic.” The five cities carved into cliffs along the Mediterranean Sea daily attracts thousands of tourists from around the world who marvel at the natural beauty.
No wonder that on Saturday, May 23, a number of our students trekked to the Cinque Terre on a free day. They were on a different tour company than the one I chose, Walkabout Florence — which, ironically, drew one of our students, Zoe Brown, who was joined by her parents.
Not even pictures can do the place justice, but you’ll get the idea from these. Click on each one to enlarge or treat as a gallery.
In addition to art, Florence is distinctive in its architecture. Its artists learned from designers to create three-dimensional space on two-dimensional paintings. And its builders took pride in artistic buildings.
Consider San Gaetano, a 400-year-old church off the beaten path that opened its sanctuary to visitors and where a priest sat ready to hear confession. The building was designed to magnify God. It looks much different than modern churches that more closely resemble movie theaters.
That devotion to design continued in public buildings, too. The Palazzo Vecchio (translation: old palace) was the first residence of the Medici clan until a more sumptuous abode was built across the river in the Pitti Palace -- so, OK, it has a palatial feel. But it was also the place where local government was based, and is today still the office for the mayor of Florence.
Today, at least in the U.S., public spaces are expected to be free of adornment and low in cost. In Florence, design matters still.
Click on each photo to enlarge or treat as a gallery.
This is our intensive class week: classes every day, papers due, video stories in high gear, group projects being finished, etc. So while there is a break in the action, here are some shots from around Florence from the past two days. Click on each photo to enlarge or play as a gallery.
We began our four-day trip to Sorrento with a tour of Pompeii, buried by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. We ended our weekend by inspecting the scene of the crime.
On Sunday, May 17, two buses took our group from Sorrento to the Naples train station by way of Mount Vesuvius. The buses got us most of the way up, with only a 25-minute hike on a gravel path to reach the top.
A blustery wind (painful for us contact wearers) and short time frame kept us from doing much more than taking a peek into the seemingly quiet volcano (it last erupted in 1944) and gaining a panoramic view of the Bay of Naples.
(Let us pause now to praise the bus driver. Taking a full-length, 56-passenger bus on an “autostrada” is tough enough. Driving that big bus up a mountain, honking to alert oncoming drivers (because, inexplicably, convex mirrors haven’t been installed at the turns), squeezing the vehicle around hairpin turns and sliding past buses going the opposite way on the straightaways with only an inch to spare — well, that surely qualifies one for sainthood. Hail, bus driver!)
Finally, I’ve posted a couple of sunset shots from Sorrento to give a sense of the area’s beauty. Click on each picture to enlarge or view as a gallery.