Trip report by Mr Oracz
“Upon the Romans I impose no limits of time or place. I have given them an empire that will know no end.”
When Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods, foretold the future greatness of Rome, he was not talking about how popular Italian cuisine would become, nor about how passionate its people might be in their support of their national football team. He was providing us with an insight into the eternal glory of the city of Rome and its people, and their importance upon history for the rest of time. Walking through the streets of Rome, one observes a wonderful blend of ancient wonder and modern romanticism, a bustling city of great beauty with an undercurrent of passion. It is this magnificence that our Latin and Classics students were fortunate to embrace for themselves during their recent visit to the heart of Italy.
Despite an early rise, the students were in high excitement as they departed for Rome at the start of their Easter vacation. Upon arrival, adorning their custom t-shirts with appropriate classical names on their backs, they set out from their hotel and made their first stop at Rome’s greatest time-capsule - the Colosseum. Students were amazed by the size of Rome’s largest amphitheatre and asked pertinent questions as Mr Oracz began his role as tour guide, detailing the dark history and architectural genius of the arena.
Next stop was ancient Rome’s most important location, the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. In ancient Rome, these sites were deemed the centre of the world, home to Rome’s most famous names, Julius Caesar, Romulus, Augustus. Despite the decay of the sites over time, students were still able to grasp the former glory of the place and walk in the footsteps of Rome’s leading names.
With the warmth of the setting sun on their backs, the students made their way for their evening meal at one of Rome’s gourmet hot-spots, exhausted from the activities of the day, but each commenting on the wonders they had beheld at the start of their trip.
Due to the timing of the trip coinciding with Holy Week, we had an early start the following morning so that we could beat the crowds at Vatican City. Despite not sighting the pope himself, we were fortunate enough to witness the Vatican in all its glory, with students being moved by the artistic genius on display. Students were led through the various rooms of the Vatican Museums, allowing them to see beautiful works of art and architecture, including the famous ‘School of Athens’ by Raphael, the importance of which Mrs Oracz detailed to the group as they stood in awe.
Other noted highlights included the ‘Belvedere Torso’, famous for its influence upon Michelangelo, the ‘Laocoon’ statue, which was a favourite of the Upper Sixth Classics students, and, of course, the indescribable majesty of the Sistine Chapel.
Following our tour of the museums, the students were next blown away by the interior of Saint Peter’s Basilica and - much to Mr Oracz’s delight that every student volunteered to make the optional journey – the long, winding journey up the 551 steps to the height of the dome of the basilica, where students were treated to a stunning panorama of Rome.
After a busy morning, students enjoyed a relaxing lunch surrounding the Vatican before embarking on a more leisurely stroll through some of the cities sites. Walking along the banks of the River Tiber, students passed by the ancient mausoleum of the emperor Hadrian (now known as Castel Sant’Angelo), took selfies inside Piazza Navona, home to the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini, finally visiting the Pantheon, the largest freestanding dome in the world, an ancient temple that defines architectural genius and stands out literally as a shining example of why Rome is so popular. Mr and Mrs Lewis were particularly excited about visiting the Pantheon, such is their appreciation for the amazing architecture, something they passed on to the students as we all marvelled at its wonder.
The walk wouldn’t have been complete without a stop at what Mr Oracz describes as “the greatest ice-cream shop in the world”, where students took great care choosing which of the hundreds of flavours they wished to sample.
Following their evening meal and a rest at the hotel, the evening was filled with a leisurely stroll to the Spanish Steps and an opportunity to take in the atmosphere at one of Rome’s most famous tourist attractions.
The following morning began with a whistle-stop tour of the final ancient sites, including the Circus Maximus, Temple of Hercules, Theatre of Marcellus and Capitol Hill, before students being given time to indulge in souvenir shopping on and around the famous Via del Corso.
A more relaxed day allowed students to refresh themselves and prepare for the afternoon’s energetic activity – a visit to the Roman Gladiator School. Mr Oracz teaches about Gladiatorial combat to Year 9 and GCSE students, but even he was not prepared for the intensity displayed by the students when faced with the real thing, albeit with highly padded swords. The atmosphere was electric as students duelled one-on-one in their attempts to be crowned champion. High commendation must be given to the finalists of Max Benedetto and Jay Fletcher for the boys, and Kira Pennington and Chloe Pritchard for the girls. However, following these bouts, the male and female champions, Jay and Chloe, squared off in a battle for the ages to try and win the trophy. The match was tense and full of drama, but it was Chloe who claimed the win, emerging victorious as the very first Westholme Gladiator Champion.
The final evening led to a lovely meal together outside the Pantheon, followed by a second trip to the famous gelati shop and time spent enjoying the radiance of the Trevi Fountain. Students took photos and threw in their coins, wishing that one day they might return to the city. Only time will tell, but as Jupiter said, time has ‘no limits’ when it comes to this wonderful city, so I am confident that each student will be retracing their steps in the future, such was the enjoyment had by all on the trip.
Mr Oracz would like to thank Mr and Mrs Lewis and Mrs Oracz for helping to make the trip such a success, whilst also thanking the students for their impeccable behaviour, remarking how they were a credit to the school and to themselves. He hopes that they enjoyed the trip as much as the staff enjoyed leading them, and that they each gained an enriched outlook and appreciation for the classical world and its influence upon so much of our lives today.