Day 7: Discovering the Wonders of Florence

Student Reflection by Adrian Vasquez, Gr. 12
Today our group traveled by train to Florence. We saw the Duomo, went to an outdoor market and visited the Uffizi Museum. The Duomo gave us access to the most stunning sights of the city with a 360-degree view. On the way up we saw a stunning painting on the inside of the dome depicting the last judgement in vivid detail. Following the Duomo, we walked through an outdoor market to a sprawling indoor food market. It was complete with delis, fish marts and restaurants serving everything from artisan vegetarian burgers to sushi. Walking around outside at lunch gave me a full sense of the city of Florence, a large town with a vibrant culture that still manages to feel small and collected. The city was celebrating carnival while we were there, which only added to the vibrancy and life in the city.

The last place we went was the Uffizi Museum, home to some of the most stunning artwork in the world. We saw examples of feudalistic artwork with incredibly intricate gold leaf patterns on them. This surprised me because the skill required to make something so detailed was equivalent to that of the best Renaissance artists, and I had always believed feudalistic art to be inferior. The museum continued through the Renaissance and Baroque periods of art. Although I had to stop for at least a minute on every painting and sculpture I saw, two specifically stood out to me. The first was Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, which fully lived up to my expectations. The second was Godfried Schalcken’s The Fame, which depicts a woman in a dark room with a single flame being held behind her. This was the first painting in an entire room of similar ones that create a deeply intense contrast of shadow and light by placing the source of light at the center of the image. Going to Florence put me face to face with some of the most stunning scenes of my life.

View more photos from Day 7 here.

Day 6: Visiting Another Country

Today we traveled to a new country … Vatican City. After spending the morning exploring the Vatican Museums, we visited St. Peter’s Basilica. The students were able to see the artworks that they learned about in their classroom experiences and past research to broaden their understanding of ancient cultures. 

Student Reflection by Jake Falconer, Gr. 11
Today we went to Vatican City to see the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the tomb of Hadrian. My favorite artwork of the day was the “Creating Adam” piece on the Sistine Chapel ceiling done by Michaelangelo because of its immense fame. The piece is so famous that I have seen it countless times since I was young as the symbol of Renaissance art. The artwork is one of only a few that people know instantly without taking a single art class. Although I admired the painting’s beauty from images, seeing the painting in the context of the rest of the ceiling made the painting more beautiful. I felt a great sense of connection when looking at the painting everyone in the world knows in the middle of a crowd of people who were as amazed as me. I also enjoyed St. Peter’s Basilica. Among other things, the size of the church confused and amazed me the more I looked. As I looked at different parts of the church, I was perplexed by the gold-covered massive mosaics that represented years of manpower. Overall, the day showed me some of the greatest wonders of Italy and the world and revealed important history from before Christianity to the modern era.

View more photos from Day 6 here.

Day 5: ‘Walking Through the Museum was Like a Dream’

The group visited a beautifully ornate church with gold and marble from floor to ceiling, a church with three levels of history (ancient Roman buildings and streets, a medieval church and a church that is still in use today), the Circus Maximus, which was used for chariot races, and the Baths of Caracalla. In the afternoon, they visited the Villa Borghese to admire the works of art.

Student Reflection by Gabby Vulakh, Gr. 12
Yesterday we visited the Musei Borghese. I have never seen more exquisite works of art in my entire life. Each room was more breathtaking than the last, filled floor to ceiling with extraordinary sculptures and paintings. Walking into the exhibit rooms was an exhilarating experience. I was immediately struck by the paintings on the ceilings which were extraordinary. I had to circle back to the same rooms at least three times to fully absorb all of the artwork. One time, though, was with my neck leaning back and head looking upwards to take in the majestic ceiling paintings. Walking through the museum was like a dream. In addition to the vibrant paintings, my favorite part of the museum were the hyper realistic sculptures. The marble seemed to melt into itself, shining smooth and pearly white. Where flesh touched flesh, the marble appeared to bend and come alive. The sculptures truly looked like they were real people frozen in time. I know I will definitely return to see all of the incredible pieces again.

View more photos from Day 5 here.

Day 4: Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius Up Close

Students visited the ancient ruins of Pompeii today. They explored the ruins throughout the city, sang in Latin and viewed the preserved frescos. 

Student Reflection by Sean Mendiola, Gr. 12
I was amazed to see the frescos in the Pompeii villas. Seeing the frescos pop proved to me how advanced their lifestyle was. I was really impressed because Pompeiians took the time to show off their culture through art. Seeing the frescos and their beautiful colors reminded me that the story of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius was real, and it gives me a foundation to appreciate antiquity.

View more photos from Day 4 here.

Day 3: Students Learn from Each Other

It was another day of walking over 25,000 steps (just under 10 miles!). The students enjoyed exploring the Musei Capitolini and Campus Martius. While at these locations, students presented site reports on a specific object. They each became an expert on their topic and described it to the group. Each site report provided insightful information that you might not find on a regular tour. Bryan Maruyama’s site report on the Statue of Cupid and Psyche was so well told that it drew a small crowd outside of our Latin group.

View more photos of Day 3 here.

Day 2: Exploring Ancient Rome

Today we visited the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. While walking on the roads that witnessed the likes of Virgil, Ovid and Cicero, the students explored the historic sites through Latin texts. 

Visiting the Colosseum at sunset was one of the highlights of the day for many. It set the scene for some truly beautiful photographs. 

“… in aliqua historia vestigium ponimus”
Translation: “… wherever we go we step into history”

De Finibus Bonorumet Malorum, V.1-2 by Cicero

Student Reflection by Anto Clarke, Gr. 11
Seeing all the ancient buildings and statues that we read about in class in person really contextualized a lot of what we all know about Roman life. 

View more photos of Day 2 here.

Hello from Rome!

The group traveled from San Francisco to Zurich for a layover where we enjoyed some Swiss chocolate, then it was on to Rome! It was a long day of travel, but the students were still ready for an Italian dinner. We ate at Clavdia Ristorante Pizzeria italiana where the students enjoyed many dishes of antipasto and options from a large menu, including spaghetti carbonara, cacio e pepe, ravioli ripieno di spigola, linguine frutti di mare and more. The students are excited for an early morning tomorrow, starting with a tour of the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.