This morning we said “Yassas!” to Greece and “Salve!” to Italy as we boarded the plane and set off for Rome. Known as both the “Eternal City” and the “City of Fountains,” Rome has been a fixture and highlight of European travel for centuries. Any feelings of sadness leaving Athens were immediately remedied once we got off the bus. Rome is truly a wonderful place.
After settling into our hotel near the Campo di Fiori (Field of Flowers), we left posthaste for the Piazza della Rotonda to see the famed Pantheon before it closed for the day. The Pantheon is a temple that was commissioned in Ancient Roman times in dedication to all of their deities, hence the name (Pan = all, theon = gods). Its signature feature is the large dome, or rotunda, that dominates the outside of the building and provides those on the inside with an amazing view that culminates in a large cutout in the center towards the sky. Known as the oculus, it provides the Pantheon with its main source of natural light. The Pantheon is one of Rome’s best-preserved structures and it operates today as both a museum and a Roman Catholic church.
We next struggled past mobs of tourists and vendors to see Rome’s most famous of fountains, the Trevi. Located in the Trevi district of Rome and designed by Bernini in the 16th century, it is one of the largest Baroque fountains in the world and is arguably the most famous piece of Rome’s iconography and identity. If you do not recognize the name, then surely you recognize the legend surrounding it. For the uninformed, the legend states that visitors who throw a coin into the fountain are ensured a return trip to Rome. We happily added another 21 coins to the Trevi’s pool.
After a delightful pasta dinner (how else to start one’s stay in Italy?), we wrapped up our first night in Bella Roma with the first half of the students’ “Socratic Symposiums.” This was where they presented their self-designed exhibits based on our visit to the National Archaeological Museum back in Athens. They all did a tremendous job and once again demonstrated a clear grasp and excitement for the places we’ve visited. We will finish up the second half of the group presentations tomorrow, but not before a visit to Naples and Rome.