More Beautiful Than Any Photo: A Jan Term Doing as the Romans Do

By Leah Foster

Copy Editor, ’15, Mathematics

ThBernini, Apollo and Daphne (Galleria Borghese)ree classes led by Dr. Dottie Joiner, John Lawrence, and Dr. John Cook explored the history and beauty of Rome. We began our journey right after we cleared the airport, led through the city by two Italian tour guides. The days of this unforgettable trip seem to blur together because we witnessed so much history and art. The memories, though, are alive and well, and they flood my thoughts daily.

All three classes stayed together while following our tour guides and admiring the many statues, paintings, and buildings of Rome. On one of the first days, we visited the Borghese Museum, which contains paintings and sculptures that many only see in history books. My favorites were two sculptures by Bernini: the intricate representation of the mythological story of Apollo and Daphne and the striking and powerful David.

Soon, we found ourselves standing in front of the iconic Coliseum. It is just as beautiful as depicted in photos, but much more extravagant. When we went inside, I saw a cross and was fascinated that the very place where thousands of Christians were once slaughtered has come to bear the Christian symbol.coliseum

On the fourth day of our trip, we went to that tiny little country in the middle of Rome: the Vatican. Thanks to our tour guide, we gladly skipped the long line and headed into the Vatican Museum and to St. Peter’s Basilica. Thousands of incredible paintings and sculptures populate the Museum, including the famous “Philosophy” painting, which depicts many famous philosophers mixed in a crowd of people discussing and studying theology.

However, the most magnificent part had to be the Sistine ceiling. Michelangelo’s great work represents many stories and people from the Bible and Roman history. Around the edges of the ceiling are paintings of the Biblical Josiah, Daniel, and Jeremiah. Down the main section of the ceiling, he painted many stories from the Old Testament spanning the Creation to Noah. Words fall short of the beauty that Michelangelo created in the Sistine Chapel.

A few days later, we stumbled across another emblematic Roman gem, the Pantheon.  It is a huge and impressive structure that emanates history. It didn’t seem real; it was like we were in a movie, and yet, there it was. Many from our group and I made a point to come back a few times before we left.


Above all, however, my favorite day was our free day, when had the rare opportunity to see the Pope. We had to get to the Vatican hours before his appearance to make sure we got seats. Soon enough, the guards became alert and the crowd began to cheer. The Pope emerged in his little white “Pope-mobile” and headed for the people. He blessed and kissed the heads of babies and the elderly, and tried to acknowledge everyone he saw in some way.

About twenty or thirty minutes later, he went up to the front to deliver his address in Italian. Thankfully, after the address, the service provided summaries in many different languages, including English. The Pope blessed everyone. The service took two hours, though it felt like five minutes, for his humble, God-praising words fell easily and effectively on the ears of his enthralled listeners.

On our final day in Italy, we took a day trip to Pompeii. This city, now in ruins, once contained utilities and residences not unlike those that make up our own cities. A few homes still had the remnants of paintings and mosaics on the walls and floor. As we toured, I learned archaeologists had also found pottery, cookware, and art among the ruins, and I was amazed that it all had been uncovered under thousands of years of ash and dust.


And it wasn’t just the sights that made this trip so incredible. The food was simply heavenly. All the food we ate was fresh and carefully prepared. My favorites were the Carbonara and the pizza. The crust was light and crispy. The ingredients were fresh. One pizza is a serving per person. Perfect cappuccinos and gelato in many flavors rounded the meal off.

Rome, as seen on this trip, is a city rich with history and culture that is tantalizing to all of the senses. What I’ve described is but a brief glimpse of the awesome scope of the Roman experience. From the historic and monumental sights to the impeccably delicious food, Rome made for an amazing trip this past Jan Term.

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