Many people studying abroad in Rome travel on the weekends. It isn’t an uncommon occurrence to hear people talking about their upcoming weekend trips to Paris, Milan or Spain. Two of my weekends throughout the month of March I also had weekend trips planned, except these were trips that I would be taking with classes. I was not entirely sure what to expect of these class trips because nobody that I normally traveled with was going on them with me, and I did not recognize all of the places that my professors were taking me. Despite my apprehension, I knew that they would, at the least, be good educational experiences.
The first trip that I went on was with my Roman History class. The professor of this class, the hardest professor of all of my classes at Temple Rome, thoroughly warned us before going on the trip that this was not supposed to be a ‘vacation’: no shopping, no going out at night, and no fun… well, he was joking about the last part – we hoped. We would be taking notes until our fingers bled and walking until we could not take another step: seemed like a good time.
After scaring the living daylights out of us, we started our trek down the western coast of Italy. Along the way we visited Terracina, Minturnae, Cuma, Boscoreale, Pompeii, Paestum, and Santa Maria Capua Vetere. That may have sounded like a lot of places to visit in just three days, and it was, but we accomplished this feat by always being on the move. From 7:30 in the morning until 8 o’clock at night, we were either on a bus to our destination or running through the site and learning as much as we could about it in the allotted amount of time that we had scheduled to be there. I was able to see a multitude of ancient ruins, artifacts and even an old farmhouse with a reconstructed vineyard. If I were to tell you the number of pages of notes that I took throughout this weekend, it might scare you off, but it was worth every last page. Being lectured to for an entire weekend on ancient society was intellectually and physically exhausting (I swear my professor was in better physical condition than every single 20-something year old there), but I learned more in that weekend than I ever thought possible. Needless to say, once we arrived back in Rome, I took a very nice nap.
The next trip that I went on was with my sociology class to cities in northern Italy called Torgiano, Modena, Maranello, Parma, Riccione and Fabriano. The main point of this trip was to see how Italians made their money. While equally as educational, this trip was the polar opposite of the weekend with my Roman history class. I expected the same strict time schedules, pages of notes and constant lecturing, just like my first class trip, but I could not have been more wrong. From the very beginning of this excursion, we were on Italian time. I do not understand how we did it, but we left late for everything and still ended up being on time in the end. I also only had one worksheet that I needed to fill out – for the whole weekend. While I was still learning, this trip felt like more of a vacation. My professor wanted the class to get the true experience of the cities we were in. He gave us time to explore practically every place we went to, and showed us the restaurants, museums (of the cheese, wine, and paper variety), or clubs that they were best known for.
While both trips were completely different, they each were able to teach me so much about Italian culture, both past and present. Out of the places both of my trips took me, the only place that I ever heard of before was Pompeii, so these experiences gave me the opportunity to see places in Italy that I would have never otherwise visited! Also, instead of being with the same people that I normally hang out with, I got to bond with new people over the constant note taking for Roman History and that one crazy Saturday night in Riccone. These class trips gave me weekends that I will definitely never forget.