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February 27th 2017

Art and Religious Studies Rome Trip

After a cold and drizzly start outside Blackheath High School at 5am on Saturday morning, we arrived to glorious sunshine in Rome. Once we had arrived, we headed straight to the top of the Vittorio Emmanuelle memorial where we took in a stunning 360 degree view of the city. Some of the Year 10 girls took advantage of the Risorgimento museum, where they found out that Garibaldi was more than just a biscuit! The girls were amazed by the nearby Time Elevator - an interactive history of Rome, from its mythical founding by Romulus and Remus to the modern day, complete with a roller coaster experience. It was a long day of traveling, so after pizza at a nearby restaurant we head back to the hotel to get some much-needed rest for the next day.

We had an early start on the Sunday ready for a jam-packed day. We walked from the hotel to a place of both religious and artistic significance - San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in Chains). This church is perhaps best known for housing Michelangelo's Moses as part of the tomb of Pope Julius II, but it also contains a relic of St. Peter – the chains by which he was held prisoner in Jerusalem. From here it was a short walk to the Colosseum. The huge Roman amphitheatre offered an excellent opportunity for art students to get some sketches of the ruins. After a quick lunch in the surrounding area we had a guided tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, where Fabio (not the hunky 80s model) thrilled the girls with tales of the Roman Empire.

After a short sojourn at the hotel, we headed out for food. You know the saying, when in Rome... go for hamburgers at the Hard Rock Cafe! At least I think that's how it goes. After we had sufficiently refuelled, we made our way to Trevi fountain. The fountain is renowned for being romantic, so much so that some of the Year 11 girls witnessed a marriage proposal; she said 'Yes'!

It was a long day of walking, totalling nearly 16km. However, the girls remained in good spirits; a rendition of 'We are the girls of Blackheath High' buoyed them on the final walk back to the hotel.

To start our third day in Rome we decided to go a little off the beaten track to the tiny but fascinating Museum of Souls in Purgatory (imagine Catholicism meets the X Files). Housed in a small gothic church - not the typical style for Rome - the museum claims to offer proof of the afterlife through its display of several items that show the finger prints of ghosts. Many of our girls remained unconvinced.

We walked to the Vatican along the edge of the Tiber (which appeared to be foaming with algae rather than blood). We met our guide Richard who gave us an incredibly detailed tour of the art collections; the Raphael rooms were a particular highlight. Perhaps one of the most anticipated parts of the trip was when we entered the Sistine chapel, where the girls braved stiff necks to admire the ceiling painted by Michelangelo. After exploring St. Peter's Basilica, students were able to do some more sketching by the river and head over to the Pantheon before dinner.

Our final day began early. We had two key visits we wanted to make before catching our afternoon flight. We started with a brisk walk to the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins). Underneath this church lies the Capuchin crypts, where skulls and bones have been arranged to provide ornate decoration… and a grim reminder of our own mortality. No photography is allowed inside the crypts, so the art students came prepared with their trusty sketchbooks to ensure they had a memento. From here, we hurried to MACRO – the Museum of Contemporary Arts. We were lucky to visit when there was an exhibition by Anish Kapoor being displayed, which contained sculptures that were both alluring and grotesque.

After four days of walking and activities it was time to say Arrivederci Roma. The girls were very well behaved and showed great interest in the many cultural activities in which they took part. The Eternal City has forever captured the hearts of our students, and who knows… maybe Blackheath High School will return one day.

Mr S. Barnett

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