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Upper School Students Discover Rome

In mid-June, just after the school year wrapped up, nineteen Class 10 and 11 students experienced an enriching, ten-day adventure to Rome, where they learned about this ancient city’s powerful history and magnificent culture. 

“The idea behind the trip was to acquaint students with major museums and sights, which teach us about the classical world,” explained Dr. Christopher Barnes, who teaches Upper School Latin. Dr. Barnes and Spanish teacher Debora Lee, both members of the World Languages department, served as chaperones.

After leaving from Newark Airport on June 13 for the 4,287-mile, nine-hour voyage to Italy, the students were eager to embark on the thoughtfully designed itinerary, which featured extensive sightseeing with plenty of breaks to sample Roman delicacies like pizza, pasta and gelato. 

Under warm, sunny skies, the group visited the Colosseum, the legendary stone amphitheater; the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the world’s holiest Catholic shrines; and the Domus Aurea, a landscaped palace built by the emperor Nero and known as the “golden house.” With the help of virtual reality headsets, the students were able to go back in time to view the palace in all of its original brilliance. 

Other highlights included the Forum, also known by its Latin name “Forum Romanum,” and the Palatine Hill, which has been called “the first nucleus of the Roman Empire.” The students toured the Domus Transitoria, one of Nero’s earlier palaces, which featured a virtual reality experience, as well as the Capitoline Museums, the Galleria Borghese Museum, and Circus Maximus, an ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium and entertainment venue. 

More historic landmarks on the agenda included the Protestant Cemetery, where the poet John Keats is buried, among other luminaries; Monte Testaccio, a hill created from discarded pots that transported Spanish olive oil to Rome between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D.; and the Spanish Steps (all 135 of them!), located along a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna and the Piazza Trinità dei Monti.

Toward the end of the trip, the group boarded a bus to the old city of Tarquinia, about ninety minutes north of Rome, where they viewed Etruscan tombs, famous for their frescoes, and a local museum. In the evening, they took part in the Ara Pacis virtual reality tour, a reconstruction and colorization of the Augustan Altar, which is dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace.

On June 23, after completing their journey through Rome’s spectacular attractions and exquisite culinary offerings, the Chapin students and their chaperones flew back to New York, bursting with fascinating knowledge and unforgettable experiences that will undoubtedly deepen their academic studies and personal perspectives.

Asked to comment on the trip, several participants shared the following reflections:

•    “One particular highlight for me was getting to see the Colosseum. After seeing it on postcards, magazines, textbooks and other forms of media, it was a dream come true to visit and explore in person.”

•    “I feel the Rome trip enhanced my studies in Spanish. Over the trip, I learned a lot of Italian from the locals and Dr. Barnes. Because Spanish and Italian have similar word pronunciations, and spellings, I’m confident my new Italian skills will help me enhance my Spanish-speaking skills through new vocabulary.”  

•    “I would recommend this trip to other students because it was an amazing way to learn more about Roman culture. I was also able to grow closer to a lot of my classmates.” 

•    “The highlights for me were going into the underground archeological sites, being able to explore Rome with my friends and peers, and gelato!”

•    “The Rome trip helped me to understand what life was like when people spoke Latin.”

•    “I would recommend this trip to other students because it was a great opportunity to spend time with my peers, deepen my knowledge about Rome and Roman culture, and eat great food!”