Monday, May 23, 2011

Italia - by Hannah

My entire life, I have wanted to visit Italy.  Something about it just drew me.  The beauty, culture, history, language… everything just drew me in.  Well, my fellow seniors and I worked all year, fundraising and fundraising and fundraising, to raise enough money to go to Rome, Italy.  Thanks to help financially from parents, to the chaperones for helping out, and to the hard work of the seniors, we actually got to go to Rome.  It was a dream come true.  We left for Rome on the 2nd of May (Monday) and stayed until early on the 9th (Monday).  It was a blast. 
The Seniors: (left to right) Christian, Abena, Setor, me, Samantha.  David took the picture. 
Pictures do not do justice to the Colosseum.  Huge and breathtaking.
On the first day in Rome, we saw the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.  Upon seeing the Colosseum, I fell in love with it.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  There are so many stories, so much history, and so many years in the Colosseum, as well as its size.  It is enormous.  On day two, we walked a lot, all over Rome.  We saw the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.  Walking up the Spanish steps, you get an incredible view of Rome.  Seeing the Trevi Fountain was again breathtaking.  To imagine that people carved this marble by hand and with no instruction manual and it came out looking so huge and so realistic was awe-inspiring.  The legend goes, if you toss one coin in to the Fountain you will come back to Italy, if you toss another in you will find love, and if you toss a third in you will get married.  My plan was to toss only one in, but then Mr. Crosby (the Director of AIS and a chaperone on the trip) didn’t get a picture and had me throw another in.  I’m not looking for love, not even a little, but now I guess I’m going to find it :-).  

The Trevi Fountain.  Huge.  And very beautiful.
 On Saturday, we visited Vatican City, went on a tour of the Museum, saw the Sistine Chapel, and visited St. Peter’s Basilica.  The Sistine Chapel was beautiful and the Museum was filled with sculptures and paintings with fascinating stories behind them.  For example, in the middle of the famous square of the Vatican, where crowds gather to see the Pope, there stands a huge monument, a tower.  This tower is hundreds of years old.  When discovered, the Pope had it brought to the square.  Since the tower is made of solid stone, it took hundreds of men with ropes to lift it to a standing position.  The Pope ordered absolute silence in the audience for fear that if the men got distracted, this relic would come crashing down and be destroyed.  The penalty for speaking was death.  As the men began lifting the tower, the ropes begin breaking because it was so very heavy.  A fisherman in the back of the crowd realizes the problem and has the solution, so he risks his life, breaks the speaking ban, and yells “Wet the ropes!” knowing that this would reduce friction and allow the ropes to hold together.  This saves the statue.  After the tower is safely in place, the Pope approaches the man who spoke.  Believing that now he would surely be punished, he prepares to accept whatever punishment the Pope has for him.  However, the Pope thanks him for the advice that saved the monument.  The Pope tells the man that whatever he wanted would be his.  The fisherman’s response? (I’m paraphrasing of course)  “I live in a small town with an abundance of palm trees.  It would greatly honor my village if, this year, the palm branches for Palm Sunday be cut from my village.”  And his request was honored.  As a matter of fact, it is honored to this day.  Every year since, palm branches for the celebration have been used from that fisherman’s village.  This was just one of many fascinating stories of the origins and backgrounds of different statues and monuments throughout the Vatican.  
St. Peter's Basilica.  The tall tower on the right with a cross is from the legend of the fisherman.
 On our trip, we also saw the Mouth of Truth (another fascinating legend, but for sake of space, you should probably look it up yourself) and many other buildings, fountains, and structures that are very old and very beautiful.

Cleaning up after the first day at the soup kitchen.
Also, to go on the trip, we had to incorporate a service project into the week.  So for two days, us 6 seniors and the two chaperones volunteered at a soup kitchen.  We worked by signing people in, handing out food, cleaning tables and serving those who came through.  I worked cleaning tables and refilling water jugs and, when the patrons could speak English, conversing with many of the hundreds who came through.  It was hard work, but also nice to see a different part of Rome, to hear Italian (a language I love and hope to learn fluently at some point in my life) and speak to many different people from different walks of life. 
 If you ask me my favorite part, I quickly respond “The Colosseum or the gelato”.  Gelato is Italian ice cream.  It is incredible.  As a group, we had some every single day, often more than once a day.  The food was amazing.  The trip was everything that I have hoped about Italy.  Experiencing it with the awesome people in my class was so much fun.  I am so incredibly thankful for that opportunity, and it will be something I never will forget.
Abena, Miss Kershner (one of the chaperones), and I with gelato!!
Inside the Colosseum.  The sandy colored flooring shows what the floor would have looked like back when it was a center of entertainment for many Romans.  
Isn't this carving beautiful?  Only one problem though.  It's not a carving. This is actually a completely flat painting on the ceiling of a room in the Vatican.  The artists used light and dark paint to create the illusion of depth.  They were quite skilled, don't you think?
These "Roman soldiers" are found in various tourist locations throughout Rome.  This one is proposing to Abena, saying they should run away together.  Next to Abena is Setor, who the soldier threatened to beat up, mistaking him for Abena's boyfriend.  It was highly amusing for the rest of us.

Me, with my hand in the Mouth of Truth.  The legend is that the mouth used to close on the hand of anyone who told a lie while their hand was in the Mouth.  The story goes with it is long, but very interesting.  So, I recommend you look it up when you get a chance. 
We didn't spend much time here, but this is the Pantheon.  It was HUGE.  Each pillar weighs 60 tons.  It was enormous and very beautiful.  Very old as well.
From left to right:  Abena, Samantha, and Mr. Crosby.  We were on the metro, the Roman subway, which we took to the city every day since our hostel was about 45 minutes by car outside of the city.
Inside the Vatican. This statue, though lacking a head, arms, and missing most of its legs, so inspired Michelangelo that he took it and kept it in his office for two years, studying it.
My good friend, David and I.