Most of my friends had a holiday in the sun over spring break, but I got to travel to Rome with my class called “Americans in Italy.” We spent the beginning of the semester exploring the influence of the popular Grand Tour of the 19th and 20th centuries on American art and literature. On March 3, it was our turn to experience the grand tour of Rome.

To be honest, I was skeptical of how much I was going to get out of this trip because I have been to Rome a few times before and have gone to all of the monuments. But this trip was more than I expected; it was absolutely incredible.

I was really nervous about leaving for my trip solely because I didn’t really know my classmates at all. however, after less than an hour at Dulles, waiting for our flight to la città eterna, we became great friends and discovered a shared love of the arts.

Once our plane landed in Rome, we were off and running. Our professor, Anna Celenza of the department of performing arts, began us with one of her famous “Celenza death marches.” We definitely walked off all the gelato, cappuccino and pizza we consumed. Throughout the week, we had many unique opportunities. The middle of March is the ideal time to tour Rome. There weren’t too many crowds and the weather was perfect.

On Monday night, we all decided to discover Rome on our own. We decided to take a midnight stroll to the Trevi Fountain. We heard the water rushing and turned the corner, only to find ourselves alone, face to face with the Baroque masterpiece. We were in awe. When will we ever be the only ones at the Trevi Fountain again? The chances are very slim that this experience will repeat itself.

On Wednesday, we came within 20 feet of the pope as he drove by in his popemobile. Here’s a short glimpse of the other amazing things we did: walked inside an aqueduct (yes, there was a bit of water); looked at St. John Lateran through a replica of Galileo’s telescope from the same spot where he tested his original one; went to S. Francesca Romana, open only once a year to visitors, and caught a glimpse of the most well-preserved Renaissance frescoes; visited the Capuchin crypt decorated with bones of past monks; had a picnic at the Circus Maxentius; went to an art opening at the Spanish Academy of Rome; and watched the Scharoun Ensemble of Berlin perform at the Villa Aurelia with well-respected guests, including the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See and the president of the American Academy in Rome, Adele Chatfield-Taylor.

We stayed on the Janiculum Hill, a part of Rome I had never even heard of … and I thought I knew everything. On top of the Janiculum Hill is the American Academy, where professor Celenza’s husband is the director. I knew next to nothing about this incredible institution until I walked through its gates. It was founded in 1894 and is a place where those interested in classics, humanities and the arts go to pursue their independent studies.

We had the grand opportunity of eating many meals, freshly prepared with ingredients from the grounds, with the fellows. I immediately felt the sense of passion that the fellows had for their studies. It has inspired me to pursue my passions in life. These fellows taught me that the most rewarding thing in life is to do what you love. My classmates and I all vowed to make it a life goal to someday end up as fellows at the Academy, so one day, you’ll see or read our works that we all created while studying in the city that cultivated our friendships and stole our hearts.

Courtney Mastrangelo is a sophomore in the College. More From Maz appears every other Friday in the guide.

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