Day 8: Orvieto, Italy

Today (Sunday) we visited Orvieto, an ancient city about 90 minutes away from Rome. In Orvieto, we saw both the necropolis and acropolis. The necropolis, situated outside the city and separated by a cliff from the acropolis, had unique features. Every tomb in Crocifisso del Tufo had a name, of which very few had writing that read from left to right, as most inscriptions went from right to left. One of the tombs was circular, making it distinct from its rectangular counterparts. This tomb was said to belong to an aristocratic woman, and was built so as to connect with other members of the family. The necropolis dates back to 7th century BCE. Within the city walls was the acropolis which hosted a variety of historic spots. One of these spots was the archaeological site of Professor David George who has worked as an archeologist for decades. In his site we got to explore a pyramidal sanctuary home to Kelu, a wolf-like deity. This sanctuary was said to date back to 460 BCE. In addition to the sanctuary, there was also a Columbaria, a pigeon farm. In the Columbaria we saw ancient pieces of common-ware. One of these inscriptions was “Gna” which later evolved into the famous praenomen “Gnaius”. This site is also home to the site with most inscriptions (400+ pieces). Orvieto, with its lofty defensible location, was a favored city of the popes. In 1290, wanting to build the most beautiful and largest cathedral, officials commissioned artists and architects to plan and build the Duomo di Orvieto. The Duomo is a work of art. Its columns and ceiling, built of basalt and travertine, were made to reflect the current fad—stripes. The frescoes in the inner cavities also contribute to the overall artistic power of the Duomo, for they depict different artistic movements and, as a whole, work as transitionary art pieces. For one, one fresco painted in 1504 depicts scenes of plague, war, and apocalypse. Using shadows, the art comes to life and adds depth and perspective. Another fresco painted in the fourteenth century adheres more to the style of “comic strips”. This transition between the arts adds another layer of beauty to the Duomo di Orvieto, in addition to its architecture and golden windows. – Cesar

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Day Seven

We started the day with a scenic trek to the Campus Martius, which included an opportunity to check out the architecture of the Jewish Ghettos. Mr. Unger explained to us how back in the republic, the Campus Martius was a field where armies mustered. He also told us how permanent theaters (of stone instead of wood) were banned, but Pompey got around it by building it as a temple in Summa Cavea. We had an opportunity to see the Theater of Pompey, shop, and take in an optical illusion in one of the state buildings. Then Mr. Unger reenacted the death of Julius Caesar as we visited the exact spot that he was stabbed to death. We saw several columns, including one with Marcus Aurelius which Dominique taught us about. We also saw the mausoleum of Augustus and the Altar of Peace, with another reenactment featuring Mr. Unger. We ended the day with an amazing gelato and shopping excursion near the Pantheon.
After that, I, Dominique, and Scott chose to visit churches with Mr. Langford. We had a fun time looking at the different architectures and styles. I admired the lit-up trees and paintings at the church of St. Ignatius.

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Day 6

Buongiorno! We started the morning with a walk past the Ludus Magnus (gladiatorial training grounds) down the hill to the Arch of Constantine, which Scott presented to us. Then we continued on to the Capitoline Museum where we were treated to presentations from Stella (on the reliefs and bust of her favorite emperor, Marcus Aurelius) and Hannah (on the sculpture of the Dying Gaul and the bronze Capitoline She-Wolf). Briskly ushered out of the museum due to an impromptu assembly, we visited the Forum of Julius Caesar and then on to the Markets of Trajan where Mr. Unger presented the reconstructed model of the Forum of Augustus. Stepping on to the balcony of the Trajan Markets, I gave my presentation on the Column of Trajan. We climbed down the stairs and strolled past the remains of the Forum of Augustus and then Nervan Forum. We finished the day with a visit to the Church of St. Peter in Chains which holds a Michelangelo masterpiece, the sculpture of horned Moses. Escaping the rain, we hurried back to our cozy convent at the end of the day. Ciao for now. – Ryan

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Day Five!!!

After a late start (thank you Magna Mater) the group went down to the Campus Martius. The “tawny” Tiber flowed past as we examined the pseudopteripteral, Ionic columns of the Temple of Portunus, the earliest standing temple in Rome, and the circular Temple of Hercules Victor, a patron of trade. Keeping with the theme of trade, we headed to the Forum Boarium, or cattle market, where we saw Mr. Unger’s favorite and least favorite arches! The inscription (on the better arch) commemorates Septimius Severus, his wife Julia, and their two sons. Next, we went to a Greek Orthodox Church where we saw spoliae of the Temple of Hercules and an unusual inscription on a cross: INBI. After Caesar’s presentation on the Theater of Marcellus, we headed to the Spanish steps for some quick shopping and the Trevi to throw in a coin! Then off to the Villa Borghese for works by Caravaggio, Titian, and Bernini. Another wonderful Travertine and cappuccino filled day in Rome. Caio for now!!! -Caroline

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Day Four: Ostia Antica

Hello readers, “Jacobus Magnus” aka Jacob Pressman here. This Wednesday our travels took us on the metro and away from Rome to visit the old port town, Ostia Antica (“ancient Ostia”). Starting as a salt mining colony of Rome around the 6 century B.C., Ostia became garrisoned by the government around 300 B.C. to protect from potential pirates sailing in on the Tiber River.

Later, the colony became largely just a commercial port, the most important of Italy at the time, which traded (among other things) wine, slaves, gold & silver, marble, and grain.

Exploring within the city walls, we observed ancient apartment complexes, a theater, a bathhouse, a public latrine (picture below), a flower mill (pictured below), and a marketplace .

Fun Facts: Starting with the first Roman emperor Augustus around the last years B.C. and early years A.D., firemen/watchmen brigades were created as the first ever Roman town police forces and fire fighters/marshals. Also, Romans did, in fact, have a form of toilet paper which manifested itself as a group of sticks near the toilets, of which you would grab one, skewer a sponge with it, clean yourself, and throw the sponge in the flowing water, river-like sewage system after use. Ciao!

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Tombs. Tons of Tombs.

We started off our morning with a nice drive down to the ancient Etruscan town of Tarquinia. We set off to see ancient Etruscan tombs. The tombs of the Etruscans are very important to the study of Etruria because the tombs had a layout that mimicked their houses and items that would be found in the household. These artifacts give great insight to the Etruscan way of life that would otherwise be unknown. Thanks to our lovely tour guide, we were able to see Etruscan tombs that are normally not open to the public. The first was the Tomb of Panthers from the seventh century BC.

As the name suggests, there are two panthers depicted on the back wall of the tomb. The two large blocks on either side mimicked beds for the dead and were actually where the deceased were placed. Though this tomb has a simple layout of one room, many of the other tombs had more complex structures. I’ll talk about those later. The tomb showed the status of the deceased. Prior to death, they would select both the artist and the subject matter to be presented in their tomb.
After we visited a couple of tombs with our guide, we wandered through a field nearby which had many tombs strewn across it. My personal favorite tomb was called “Tomba 5636” and is dated to the third century BC.
The reason that I enjoyed it so much was the painting along the side of the tomb. Depicted is two (deceased) family members (on the left) accepting two newly deceased members from their family into the underworld. Although it has sad implications, I like the idea of the deceased (the child and the parent) traveling to their next life together.
After a little bit of bus trouble, we moved on to the Mediterranean’s largest necropolis located in the modern town of Cerveteri. This site is extremely well preserved and we were able to see the original structure of the tombs, called tomula.
They were placed next to each other on roads in the necropolis. Just as in real life, the larger the tomb, the richer the person. While some had tombs the size of above, with extensive floor plans, others were much simpler and even held multiple bodies, unlike the larger ones.
The different bodies would be placed in the different slots pictured below. After we made our way back to the hotel, we had a little bit of free time before dinner which I used to get a cappuccino at a bakery called Panella. It was awesome.

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Days one and two


Day 1: 3/6/2016
Today was a day of orientation, walking around and passing by places including the colosseum, temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, basilica s coma e damianio church, and capitolini museum where Mr. Unger observed auguries by spotting an eagle. After the orientation, we came back to the convent and had ravioli with spinach, chicken, ham and cheese pastry, green beans and fruits.

Day 2: 3/7/2016

As a group, we first visited the Foro Romano Palatino, the Roman forum. This was where Cicero had given his oration against Catiline. Although most of it remains in a ruined state today, we were able to get a close view of many of the main structures. We toured through the forum looking for the house of Sydnus(Sydney) and she picked a structure on the palatine hill in the end. Temple of Vesta was a round temple which during the ancient times, had a palanium that Aeneas brought to Rome inside and permanent fire on top. Pooja gave her first oral presentation at the Arch of Septimius Severus. Temple of divine Julius Caesar was one end of the four sides that enclosed Caesar’s family buildings (temples of his grandsons enclosing the sides and his sons’ across). We stopped by the spring of Juturnia, temple of Apollo, and the arch of Titus(Olivia’s oral presentation). The Arch of Titus was the first monument that had menorah carved on the side and was racist against Jewish people in the early days. Within the Roman Forum, we entered Museo Palatino where we watched short clips about the forum and observed various marble statues of gods, and goddesses.
After struggling a little trying to find the exit, we left the forum to make the 3:15pm appointment time for entering the colosseum. One of the things we learned about it was that the favorite animals that Romans liked to use in the colosseum were tigers, lions and cheetah which killed things violently.
As a group we took a break by going to get gelato and coffee from Antica Gelateria De Matteis.
As our last places-to-visit of the day, we walked to Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano where there were excavations of first and fourth century churches preserved underground. On floor -1, we looked at the mithraeum shrine which in the ancient times was used for feasts only for men. We looked at the different designs of tiles including a zig-zag shaped spiccatum which was applied in rooms for practical uses, and a diamond fish-net shaped reticulatum which was made for fancy rooms as part of the decoration.

We had free time after to walk around the town nearby our convent and I had the chance to look around the Conad supermarket and a pastry store.
We ended the day by having corn risotto, thin sliced steak, steamed green beans and fruit bowls for dinner at 7:30pm.
Mrs. Morris was proud of us for being the first Exonian group trip ever to do an all day walking (10 hours) ever without any help of transportation!

It was a tiring but fun, unforgettable day ^_^!


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Benvenuti to the 2016 Rome Study Tour!

Welcome to the Rome Study Tour Blog, 2016 Edition!  Magistra Campbell here.  We arrived in Rome yesterday after a long journey from Boston, via Zurich.  After checking into our lodgings, we walked off our jet-lag with a quick walk past the Colosseum to the Capitoline Hill, where our Pontifex Maximus, Mr. Unger, took the omens for our trip.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset


After our first of many delicious multi-course meals that we will enjoy on this trip, everyone settled in early for a good night’s sleep in anticipation of a full day on Monday.

For those of you following along at home, we will be updating this page daily with recaps, reflections, and photos from a different student each day.  Stay tuned for Monday’s post from Stella!

Ciao for now!

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Sunny with chance of eruption

Today we awoke with the heavy thought that today would be our last day in Italy. We tried to forget this as we boarded the bus to Pompeii, and some managed to doze off for the hour-long ride. The ones who kept awake saw the beautiful coast that has started to become familiar. We stopped at Lake Avernus for a photo op, which recalled memories of book six of the Aenead and Aeneas’ journey to the underworld for some.

We reached Pompeii and found our way first to the larger theater. We were sent on a mission, an “Unger Games” challenge, to scour the theater and figure out a few things about it. First, who the most important man in Pompeii was and where he sat in the theater, second, what the cooling system was, and third, how the seats were numbered. Putting our heads together, we succeeded in observing and inferring to answer all these questions.

After this first theater, which was used for larger productions, we went into a smaller theater, which was used for smaller recitations and music performances. Then, through a lively display of a scene from a play perfomed by Mr. Unger and Mr. Hartnett, we learned about theater productions and the common genres of the day.

From the theaters we traveled along the raised walkways to the forum of Pompeii. As we all gathered in the middle of the forum, we were given another “Unger Games” challenge and split up into groups to use our knowledge of forums to figure out where religious and government buildings were. After gathering our information and presenting it to the group while touring the forum, we heard one of the final presentations from Christina. She told us about the building of Eumachia in the forum, and the mysteries surrounding it. We don’t know to this day what the building was used for, but there were a few guesses, the favorite being a place for slave auction.

After touring the forum, we took a quick break for lunch and continued on to the House of the Faun, where Ify gave her presentation and quizzed us on the layout of Roman houses. This house was the biggest in Pompeii, stretching as far as an entire city block. We then left this magnificent house and headed to one of the most well-preserved and excavated buildings in Pompeii, the brothel. We were given a quick description and toured through the first floor, following a large number of other people in tour groups.

We made our way to our last stop in Pompeii, the amphitheater. Mr. Hartnett, after helping us translate some first inscriptions, such as the ones used in political graffiti, let us loose on the final inscription, describing the building of the amphitheater. We then were seated in the lowest point in the building, the arena where games would take place, and told the history of the gladiatorial games in Pompeii and how gladiator rankings worked.

After leaving Pompeii, we headed to our very last stop in our tour of ancient Italy. We came to Oplontis and the Villa of Poppea, one of the most well preserved villas we have. We also were able to see the structure of a lavish house in the most realistic and original state so far.

Mrs. Morris explains Roman wall painting styles

Mrs. Morris explains Roman wall painting styles

Our final stop before heading back to Villa Vergiliana was the much-coveted trip to the Gelateria. With the sweet treat we were reminded with heavy hearts that we would not spend another day in Italy, but return back to Boston and then Exeter. Bella Ciao!

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Magna Graecia and the Intensive Track to Hades

In the morning, we woke up for our first breakfast at the Villa Virgiliana, and then we headed out for the archeological site of Paestum, a city that was founded by Greeks but eventually allied with the Romans.
True to its multicultural history, Paestum sported two side-by-side Grecian temples, in addition to the forum, basilica, amphitheater and other traditional accoutrements of a Roman city. We examined these two temples and discovered which was older by noting differences in style.
To our surprise, both temples, each within a stone’s throw of the other, were dedicated to the same deity, Hera. Apparently, the townspeople identified this goddess with so many domains– ranging from childbirth to the protection of horses– that she merited two places of worship.
While at the temple, we also practiced our Ancient Greek pronunciation by holding a faux ceremonial “sacrifice” at the front of one of the temples. Kudos to Will for courageously playing the victim!
After roaming the ruins for a little while longer, our group headed over to Paestum’s museum to see a variety of artifacts found at the site. My favorite relic, an image from an ancient casket, depicted a man diving headlong from the top of a temple. According to our teachers, the picture symbolized a human’s bold confrontation of the Underworld.
Once we had finished exploring the museum, we traveled to the ruins of Baiae. Mr. Langford gave a presentation on the town’s history, describing first its famous healing springs and then its other, less wholesome attractions– think Las Vegas. Next, we toured the remnants of this great resort city, imagining a theater for water-shows in its former glory and marveling at still-visible mosaics. The highlight, though, was our visit to a building with a massive domed roof.
“Echo,” one student said, and the sound echoed several times.
“Narcissus!” I shouted in reply.
After one more stop for a group picture, we headed back to the Villa Vergiliana for some adrenaline-pumping ping-pong and a delicious dinner. Then there was the talent show; let’s just say our teachers “came, saw and conquered.”
– Oishi

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