Rome Trip 2023
During the February half-term break, 32 students from Classics & Art-History visited Rome and Ostia to complement their academic studies. The trip was a great success and our itinerary jam-packed – we squeezed a lot in during the four days we were there! Below are a sample of student perspectives for some of the many sites and places we visited. At the end, there is a review from our very own official trip mascot, Bacchus the Bear.
Karolina & Enya:
First and foremost, we would like to give a huge thank you to Louis for organising this trip for us, as well as the chaperones (Marc, Celia, and Christine) for accompanying us, and ensuring we had an enjoyable time!
On the first evening of our trip, we made a visit to the Palazzo Massimo. Here we saw a wide variety of Roman wonderful art, including mosaics, frescoes, and sculptures. It was so nice and peaceful, and a great way to mark the beginning of our trip. The most impressive part for us were the frescos from the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta - a beautifully illustrated room filled with vibrant colours depicting a garden with an abundance of trees and birds, a symbol of order and prosperity during Augustus’ reign.
The third day of our trip consisted of going to the Colosseum. It is a very impressive work of architecture that gives an insight into Roman entertainment, the epitome of ‘panem et circences’ (‘bread and games’). Although it was quite busy, the weather was on our side and so we were fortunate enough to get really good and clear views of it all and the tourists didn’t ruin the experience. It was particularly fascinating for the History of Art students, as it is a well-loved piece of architecture that they study. A couple of us returned to the Colosseum later that night to see it lit up - certainly a highlight of the trip and we 10/10 recommend it!
Later, we went to the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill. There was a lot to cover, and so unfortunately, we were unable to see it all, but what we did see was really interesting. It was closely linked with the Classics course, and so we were glad to see the sites we covered in class and truly immerse ourselves in the world of Ancient Rome. The picturesque setting and the brilliant views from the top made for a lovely Sunday afternoon.
One of the last things we saw, and possibly the best, was the Ara Pacis Augustae. It is extremely well-preserved, and we could see all the intricate details of the reliefs. We could see all the captivating depictions of the history of Ancient Rome and its myths. This was overall an insightful monument and a significant piece of propaganda for Augustan Rome and a sign of Pax Romana, brought about by Augustus himself. Once again, it was extremely helpful for Classics students as we were able to see one of our prescribed sources in real life, likewise for History of Art students.
Sophie & Millie:
During the February half term, we were able to go to Rome with the Classics department and visit some amazing archaeological sites. One that stood out most particularly to me was the trip to Ostia, an ancient Roman port. Entering the city, we walked past the graves that lined the roads surrounding the walls- a key Roman tradition. When in the city there were old roman bars, bakeries and townhouses. Being able to actually walk through meant we could visually experience the lives of the Romans, even being able to sit in a theatre. The most fascinating part to me was the location of the Cult of Mithras, the secrecy surrounding them made this especially interesting as it was an insight into the possible location of such religious activities that are hard to acquire information on. Additionally, the fallen columns around the site and the statues and shrines gave the site a uniquely numinous feel as we got to understand and visualise the ideals of the Romans and their daily values.
Whilst wandering around the ancient city, we were able to see their forms of entertainment that are still used today, for example the theatre. The structure provoked particular interest. Extraordinarily, it fit 2500 romans and by the 2nd century was improved to capacitate 4,000. This really put the scale just how large the city had been.
Being able to see the masks they used, in statue form, were interesting as we could see the earliest forms of costume and compare them to modern costumes that are partially similar.
Aside from the ancient history our trip was centred around, we were able to experience real Italian cuisine first hand every day. With each region of Italy boasting unique staple dishes and culinary traditions, Roman food was particularly rich and inviting. Centred around fresh, rudimentary ingredients from the Roman countryside, the city’s cuisine is famous for its simplicity yet exceedingly satisfactory flavours - an expectation that was met a thousand times over in the food we tried during our trip. Pasta alla Carbonara + Cacio e Pepe are two of Rome’s most renowned dishes and it's safe to say their reputation is extremely well deserved. So well deserved in-fact, that we went back to the same restaurant two nights in a row for these two dishes. It wouldn’t be a successful trip to Italy without having some gelato - regardless of the fact it was mid-February. The gelateria outside the Trevi Fountain had a wide variety of artisan flavours ranging from Nutella, pistachio, and stracciatella gelato to strawberry, lemon, and mango sorbet - all of which were a refreshing treat after a long day of sightseeing. One of our final food stops was Italy’s first ever McDonald’s - located in the Spanish Piazza and offering a hugely different menu to the UK, including: cheesy bacon fries, pizza bites, and an entire bakery with brioche, cheesecakes, and so on. Overall, the cuisine this trip allowed us to experience was definitely an unforgettable highlight of our time in Rome.
On the evening of the second day, we visited Trajan’s column, as the sun was setting; it created a lovely backdrop behind the immense column we saw before us, adding to its aestheticism and our fascination, making it a popular site to take pictures of. Additionally, the intricate detailing on the friezes paired with the enormous size of the column, resulted in an overwhelming yet amazing feeling. The scenes of the Dacian wars curve the full length of Trajan’s column, which indicates the time and effort this building project required, allowing us to fully appreciate this monument that towers over all of its surrounding buildings. It was a chance for many of us to see up close, an example of the one of the famous Roman victory monuments that we so often learn about during our study of Imperial Image in Classical Civilisation.
After this, we then walked to the Pantheon. The fact that two of these impressive buildings were within walking distance of each other, highlights just how immersive and culturally rich the city of Rome is and calls attention to the way ancient city intertwines with the modern life. As Louis was explaining the Pantheon, there was a busker playing the violin. The street music created a vibrant atmosphere and was a lovely addition as we were huddled around looking up at this colossal building.
Lastly, on the morning of the last day, we visited the Vatican Museum. Collectively, both Classics and Ancient History students believed the best part of the Vatican trip to be when we saw the statue of Laocoon and his sons. We were enamoured by the gorgeous reductive technique of the marble. There was also a huge wow-factor as it was sculpted in the 1st century BC and it was still intact! We viewed the magnificent paintings of Michelangelo in the Sistine Ceiling, where we had very enlightening discussions, and had the chance to experience a nice and quiet atmosphere, despite the many tourists, which brought about a peaceful end to our trip.
With thanks to: Louis Leeves (Head of Classics); Marc Gibson (Teacher of English); Celia Coleman (Teacher of Psychology) & Christine Hirsch-Wilton (Personal Tutor). Oh, and of course Daniel our resident linguist extraordinaire and honorary staff member!
Review of Bacchus the Bear:
Finally, we brought Bacchus the Bear (St Dom's mascot) with us, and he made Bacchus Ratings of his own of everything we saw! (Karolina & Enya)
- Palazzo Massimo 3.8/5
- Ostia Antica 4.2/5
- Trajan's Column 4/5
- Trevi Fountain 3.6/5
- Pantheon 4.8/5
- Spanish Steps 2.8/5
- Colosseum 3.8/5
- Palatine Hill/Forum 5/5
- Ara Pacis 9/5
- Mausoleum 2.6/5
- Obelisk viewpoint 3.8/5
- Colosseum (at night) 12/5
- Vatican and Sistine Chapel 3.6/5
- Total sights 4.8/5
- Trip overall 100/5