IES Abroad Rome Classroom Redefined

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Victoria Bruick
January 8, 2018

Who wants to read about a city’s history and culture when you can experience it right outside your door while studying abroad?

For our IES Abroad Rome students, Rome is their classroom. Whether it’s a day trip to Ostia Antica to see the spectacular remains of Ostia, the ancient port of Rome, or a private tour of the Vatican Museums and Saint Peter’s Basilica, students receive VIP access to Rome’s historic landmarks and museums, learning about its rich history firsthand from academic, historical, and cultural experts.

Read on to find out what our IES Abroad Rome Fall 2017 students experienced during their semester abroad, and how their classroom was redefined.

Vatican Museums Tour

Pier Paolo Racioppi, art history professor at IES Abroad Rome, led a tour to the Vatican Museums and Saint Peter’s Basilica. This tour allowed students to discover the most famous artistic treasures of the Vatican and analyze them within their social, historical, and religious contexts.

With reserved entry tickets, the group skipped long lines and went straight to the first hall of the Vatican Museums.

Professor Racioppi introduced students to the history of the Vatican over the centuries. The tour included the rooms of the ancient statuary collection created by Pope Julius II, the founder of the Vatican Museums; the Gallery of Maps in the old Papal Palace, where students admired the fresco of the School of Athens; the Sistine Chapel including the altar wall where The Last Judgment is featured, both of which were frescoed by Michelangelo; and finally Saint Peter’s Basilica where the group admired Michelangelo’s Pietà, and the impressive bronze Baldacchino designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

students observe statue at the Vatican museum in Rome

Daytrip to the Appian Way Catacombs

Students visited the Catacombs of San Callixtus and Massentius Villa, which includes the circus and Mausoleum of Romulus, where they were guided through the Appian Way, one of the earliest, strategic roads of ancient Roman times, by archaeologist Caterina Ruscio.

The students learned about the network of public Roman roads and how they became significant for the expansion of the Roman Empire, and the Catacombs of Callixtus, which contains tombs of several popes from the 2nd to the 4th centuries.

Students view examples of art along the Appian Way while studying abroad in Rome

Caravaggio and Bernini Tour

Pier Paolo Racioppi, IES Abroad Rome art history professor, led students on a Baroque Walk through churches of Rome to view masterpieces of artist Caravaggio and sculptor Bernini.

The tour included the Renaissance church of Santa Maria del Popolo, where two canvases painted by Caravaggio hang – the Martyrdom of Saint Peter and the Conversion of Saint Paul; the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, where three more canvases painted by Caravaggio hang inside the Contarelli Chapel – The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, and Saint Matthew and the Angel. The tour concluded at the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, where the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa statues stands – which is of one of the most famous statues by Bernini.

Academic Daytrip to Ostia Antica

As part of the activities included in the Forma Urbis: the Archaeology of Ancient Rome course, students visited the remains of Ostia, the ancient port of Rome.

Professor Nocera, who teaches the class, guided the students through the town in an interactive tour where students learned about the ancient town’s cultural, political, commercial, and religious life.

The preservation of Ostia allows for an exceptional glimpse into Roman building techniques and architectural design. By walking around the streets of Ostia the students saw the scale and dimension of space and understood aspects of everyday life in an ancient Roman town.

In many cases Professor Nocera would let the students identify a place or building by giving them just a few hints. Students were most surprised that such an ancient town featured things such as the Thermopolium, equivalent to a modern-day diner, and a bakery that featured a well preserved stone mills and a brick oven.

Student stands pointing at the Ostia Antica

Secrets of Castel Sant’ Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo, situated just in front of the IES Abroad Rome Center, is a mixture of military and culture. Initially built as a mausoleum for the Roman emperor Hadrian, over the centuries Castel Sant'Angelo was used as a papal fortress and a prison before becoming a state museum. Castel Sant’Angelo is also known as the final location of Professor Langdon’s Path of Illumination in Dan Brown’s novel Angels & Demons.

Students had the unique opportunity of walking along the secret Passetto di Borgo, the fortified passage that connected the Papal apartments in the Vatican to the Castle fortress. Students were led into the mysterious underground prisons in the Castle and listened to an expert historian explain the prison’s structure, and how the upper levels of the Castle were used as lavishly decorated papal apartments in the 1500s.

An IES Abroad student said, “The visit to the castle was very special for me because I had the chance to see a restricted area of the castle that I would not have seen otherwise."

Visit to Guru Nanak Darva Gurdwara

On a warm and sunny October Sunday, students taking the Valuing Diversity? Italian Contemporary Immigration and Integration Policies course visited the Guru Nanak Darva Gurdwara, a Sikh temple in the southern outskirts of Rome.

With over 25 million adherents worldwide, Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world. In Italy there is a large community of Sikh immigrants who come from India and Pakistan, many of which live and work in the Lazio Region, not far from Rome.

IES Abroad students had an opportunity to engage with the Sikh community at the Guru Nanak Darva Gurdwara. Each Sunday, the Sikh families donate the Daswand (a tenth part – referring to donating ten percent of one's income for the benefit of the entire community) so that the temple can host large communities for the religious service, as well as lunch.

The only common language between all guests on the day were smiles. Delicious food and warm bread were hand-made by a group of Sikh women with the help of IES Abroad students, and shared amongst visitors.

An IES Abroad Rome student shares their experience: “My overall take away from this [course-related trip] was the opportunity to experience a new culture and ultimately learn a lesson. How we interact with people when they first come into our community matters. I was met with smiles, not skepticism and that made all the difference in my experience. I believe this can speak to the larger picture of how we treat immigrants. If the integration process was as welcoming, warm and helpful as they were to us, I think that the integration of immigrants into society would be a much easier process. When we meet people with skepticism they are less receptive, when we welcome them, they are willing to learn.”

Students make bread with Sikh women

Be sure to check out more information on studying abroad in Rome. Check out these IES Abroad Blogs from our students to learn more about Rome, studying abroad, and how we redefine the classroom:  

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Victoria Bruick

IES Abroad News

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