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So Long, Farewell

January 24th

Rise and shine! Today was an early morning and obviously a day dedicated to traveling. We wanted to be at the airport at a decent time because we had an international flight and such. Our flight was expected to be almost 11 hours. Yes 11 hours, and unlike the accomodations we had on our flight to Rome, we did not have individual tv screens. Luckily there were 4 movies that were played, and most of us watched all of them. Not alot of sleeping was done because let’s face it, sleeping on a plane proves to be difficult. 11 hours later we were arriving in Atlanta. We not only survived the flight, but survived customs! It was nice to be back in the States. Only a 2 hour plane ride separating us from our actual home state. We were lucky to not have anything dramatic happen on our travels and made it home safe.

A few closing remarks. Now being back, we’ve all been bombarded with the question, “So how was your J-Term?” Obviously this is not a question that can be easily answered. We had three weeks of seeing things that people dream their whole lives of seeing (being there was really like being in a dream). Not only that but the amount of material we were exposed to was un-real. So don’t be offended if we respond “good” and can’t seem to come up with some fantastic remark right away.

We have all been able to take something different away from this trip, something we will all carry with us for the rest of our lives. So a special thanks to all the friends and family that made this trip possible for all of us! Words cannot describe how thankful we are.

One last thing,



Last Day in Italy

January 23rd

Already the last day. I think it’s safe to say that this trip went by incredibly fast. Maybe too fast. Today we had a chance to go to the Museum of Science in Florence. (This museum was a little different than the one we have back in St. Paul) We had our own time to stroll around the exhibits, and had an electronic device to help guide us. Cameras weren’t allowed in the museum but there were some really interesting things inside, things that we take for granted. Some of the coolest things had to do with Galileo. Not only did we get to see his fingers and a tooth, but we got to see his telescopes. What a brilliant man he was. After we finished at the Science Museum, we had a couple hours to do whatever we pleased. Naturally we all went shopping to the markets and got some last minute gifts. We all met back at the hotel and hopped onto the bus, a place we’ve grown accustomed to. We had our last glimpse of Florence and then headed for our last meal together.

What an adventure our last night together was. We ended up having dinner in a town in a mountain-esque town where there was actually snow. The bus dropped us off at a certain point and we had to walk the rest of the way to the restaurant, which doesn’t seem like a big deal. Try walking downhill on ice! On the way we stopped and admired a palace that was a summer home for one of the wealthiest families in Italy hundreds of years ago. We were almost at our destination when four little kids bombarded us with snow balls. Their aim was definitely accurate, I should know I got hit by one. Dinner was relaxed and absolutely wonderful, another 5 course meal. The professors said their last remarks which included Barbara presenting us with mini awards, of coure there was alot of laughter. After a fantastic meal we were headed back to Rome.

We stayed at a hotel close to the airport  which would be fantastic for our early morning flight. This was by far the nicest place we stayed at all trip. It was nice to get a comfortable sleep before our big day of travel.


Fast Cars and Motorcycles

January 19th

(Apologies for having these out of order)

Today was all about cars and bikes. We had the privelege to go on factory tours of both Maserati and Ducati. The first tour we went on was that of Maserati. We had a chance to walk through the factory as the cars were being hand assembled. Maserati is all about the quality. We learned that they only produce around 5,300 cars a year. This is extremely low, no wonder the cars cost so much! It was pretty cool to see the whole process in action. I think secretly we had all wanted to “test drive” one of those cars. There are only 4 test drivers that put on about 60 miles before the car is shipped off to a dealership. How would you like to have that as your job? After the tour we all tried to get pictures in the cars in the showroom. That didn’t last too long as you can imagine, and finally a worker came out and locked all the cars on us.

Before heading to the Ducati factory we took the bus out into the middle of nowhere. We all wondered where we were at. Apparently on the outskirts of Modena, the town that the Maserati is based out of. Anyways we were at the place we were going to eat for lunch. I don’t think any of us were prepared for what was instore for us. We had a five course lunch! For once we didn’t have pizza! The food was delicious. The day was looking good so far.

Now that we were all fueled up, Ducati was next on the list. This tour was enjoyable because the tour guides kept a good pace, and many of us didn’t get too bored. Most of us enjoyed watching the testing chambers where men would get the bikes going fast and test the brakes and emmissions and such. After the tour we all got to walk around the museum which was awesome. It was in a circular shape with rooms off the main way. It started from the first bikes (think a bicycle with an engine) and then progressed up to the modern day models. It was great to see the evolution of the bike, and how far the technology has came in 50 years.



January 21st

Carrara is where it is at. That is if you want marble. Today we got the chance to go into the marble quarries that have been around for over 2,000 years. Woah! These are also the same quarries where Michelangelo hand picked his marble for various statues and monuments. The marble in these quarries are of the best quality, pure white, and minimal veins. It was an interesting adventure to take our huge tour bus up into the quarries. Once we got up there we had a chance to see how the marble was actually taken away using a wire rope diamond saw. We also had the opportunity to meet the owner of the specific area and he gave each one of us the diamond beads as good luck charms. Don’t get too excited, I’m pretty sure the diamond was synthetic and not real. We then had a chance to go down into the studio and look at all sorts of marble carvings.

We had a bag lunch which consisted of pop and lard. Yes, lard. It was actually pretty good, but probably not too good for you!

Last destination today: Pisa. Home to the leaning tower of Pisa and also the birthplace of Galileo. While there we had a chance to go inside the baptistry, cathedral, and graveyard. The baptistry was huge! What was special about this specific baptistry, was its acoustics. We got to hear/see a live performance of a man singing notes. The sound was incredible in the space. The cathedral had a chandelier which inspired Galileo to calculate the “period” of a swinging object. We got to see the actual lamp too, however it was located in the graveyard. Some of us were able to climb all the way to the top of Pisa, and what a hike that was. Of course we all took the classic picture of pretending to hold up the tower.

We ended the days adventure with a little Mc Donald’s. It was nice to take a break from all the bread and pasta.

Now let’s get down to business and talk about the bell tower. It was ironically due to an engineering mistake. Mainly not knowing that the soil was not suitable for such a heavy structure. Quick fun fact, both the cathedral and the baptistry lean as well.


Goodbye Roma

January 17th

Our last day in Rome… Where did the time go?

We had the morning to pack and hang out before heading to Naples. A few of us went to our favorite pizzeria to say goodbye to the owner Alberto and have one last decent meal before traveling.

Before we could actually leave we had one last thing to do. We met a professor at the Roman Forum to be geeky. The topic: technology used on old monuments to monitor the integrity of the structure. This professor that we talked to was the head of the project that set up all the equipment on this basilica in the forum.  What was neat was we had been to this exact spot a few days ago and none of us noticed the technology… they did a good job of designing it! The purpose is to monitor the natural shifting of the buildings over long periods of time.

We took about a 3 hour bus ride south to Naples to Hotel Rex. Had a chance to have a group dinner at a pretty swanky restaurant  where we had… PIZZA!! One thing we’ve all learned is that the Italians sure like their pizzas. After dinner we took a very short walking tour where we befriended a stray dog, which followed us back to the hotel. We appropriately named him Rex.


Free Day

January 16th

One full day to do whatever we wanted. Oh the possibilities!

A majority of us (13) decided we wanted to be extra adventurous and take an excursion to Venice. We were up at about 6 am. Headed to the metro to get to Termini which is where we caught the bullet train. It took less than 4 hours with multiple stops to get to our destination. We were all expecting sunny skies because that’s what it was like on the majority of the train ride. We arrived and were surprised… foggy and cold. And when I say cold I mean hat and mittens weather. You could imagine none of us were prepared for this. Anyways we all made the best of it and walked around all day and ate as we went. One nice thing about Venice: no cars that could potentially run you over because Venice is all canals. Before we knew it the day was over and we were headed back to Roma.

Some of the other students that didn’t come with us to Venice went to a soccer game and just hung out around the hotel catching up on miscellaneous things.


Last Day of Museums in Rome

January 15th

On the agenda for the day: Roman National Museum, Diocletian Baths, and Church of Michelangelo.

We started the morning off at the Roman National Museum which houses some incredible mosaics, statues/sculptures and other ancient artifacts. One thing that was really impressive was an exhibit of a villa archaeologists found not far from the museum. In these re-created rooms, there were examples of the beautiful walls, ceilings and mosaics on the floor. It was neat to catch a glimpse of what the Roman’s living situation was like. Moving on from the impressive mosaics, the sculptures were so very detailed. One bronze statue we saw was called “The Boxer.”

Next we went to the Diocletian bath ruins. The Diocletian baths was a huge complex that housed you guessed it, BATHS! Bath time for the Romans was not only for cleaning purposes but also for social reasons. No matter your class, going to the baths was something that was available to everyone. It was thought that this specific bath house could house up to 3,000 seated people and a total of 9,000 people. The Romans were not only advanced in their engineering but also their thinking for coming up with the idea of such a enormous bathing complex. Among the ruins of the baths was where Michelangelo decided to construct a church using 8 gigantic pink egyptian marble from the original structure. Also inside the church is the meridian line, which a pope had constructed in order to get the accurate date of Easter. Science for the purpose of religion, kind of a cool concept!

At the end of this tour, we said goodbye to our fantastic tour guide Gino and had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves.


College Lectures and a Birthday

January 11th

This morning we visited the University of La Sapienza. It was established in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII! 1303… that puts 1885 (when St. Thomas was established) to shame. The school of engineering has 10,000 students and is located maybe 2 blocks from the Colosseum. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity of attending lectures by the professors at the University. The symposium consisted of about 6 mini lectures @ 20 minutes each. (Some of the professors took long than 20 minutes) The lectures were all about ancient roman architecture and engineering (roads, aquaducts, bridges etc). Oh and did I mention that the lecture hall we were in was once used as Michelangelo and Raphael’s drawing room?! INCREDIBLE!

Around noon we got a coffee break. They had delicious finger foods like panini’s and bakery items like croissants with hunks of chocolate in them. YUM! We then had a chance to hang out in their commons area which was a huge cobblestone courtyard. We also got to talk to some high school girls whose teacher ended up lecturing for us. It proved to be entertaining because we each go to learn about eachother’s culture and each had an interest and awe towards eachother. We’re supposed to meet up with them but we’ll see if that’ll happen!

We then were escorted by 4 male students to have lunch at their cafeteria. We all stuck out like sore thumbs. It was funny to watch everyone’s faces as a group of 20 American students walked by.

We had a free afternoon and evening. On the agenda for the evening was celebrating Derek’s birthday! A big group of us went to the pizzeria down the street and had dinner. Later we all met up at Scholar’s Lounge for Karaoke and festivities. We also met up with another St. Thomas group that was there for a communications course. The night was entertaining and you could hear songs by artists ranging from Lady Gaga to the Bee Gee’s. Our very own Andy and Pat entertained us with “Staying Alive,” which was absolutely priceless.


Oh What a Day

January 9th

We’re finally close to getting caught up, and up to date with our daily activities. I’ll try and add photos, but I can not promise if they’ll be as cool as Angela’s.

Time is flying by. So many sites, so little time. Lots was on the agenda for today. Actually this is a complete understatement. We pretty much were on the go for a solid 10 hours! Oofta! No complaining though. 

Some began the morning with mass at St. Peter’s bright and early (around 7).We proceeded to venture to Porta Portese via the wonderful public transportation, which is quite popular around this part of the world. Maybe we should try it?? Okay back on track. Porta Portese is basically the biggest flea market you could imagine. Anything and everything is there. We all parted ways when we got there and bought various knick knacks, and just took part of being with the locals on a Sunday morning. One could easily get lost. Would you be surprised that a couple of us actually did get lost?! The place is not only a maze, but a zoo as well. A great morning adventure none the less.

Next on the agenda: Castel Sant Angelo, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Aqua Virgo. I wasn’t kidding when I told you we did ALOT today.

Quick Summaries:

Castel Saint Angelo: One of the monuments we use to help us navigate ourselves. It has proved to be super handy because it is so huge, and once we reach it we know exactly how to get back to the hotel.  Some facts: this building has been “recycled” many times. A trend that we’re seeing evident in almost every building.  This “castle’s” original purpose was to be for the emperor Hadrian and his family around 120 AD. It then became a defense fortress, and later used by popes as protection.  This whole structure has survived many face lifts but wrinkles from it’s original state remain.  We walked all the way to the top, and the hike proved to be rewarding and breathtaking. We could have spent all day up there. No time, onto the Pantheon.

Pantheon: Also built by Hadrian, or commissioned would be a better word.  Another incredible engineering feat. The dome of the Pantheon is 150 roman feet in diameter, and 150 roman feet in height, this is approximately 140 feet. At the center of the dome is a 30 ft circular opening called an oculus. It is truly an experience standing in the Pantheon and looking up, pictures can not translate the shear size of the structure. It is the best perserved of all ancient Roman buildings. This is mainly because it was turned into a church around 609 AD, and has been protected ever since. Oh, and if all this weren’t enough the famous artist Raphael was buried there.

Trevi Fountain: Not too far of a walk from the Pantheon lies the famous Trevi Fountain. It is absolutely beautiful and gigantic. A few of us tossed a coin in the fountain. Foutains have been used in the Roman world as entertainment. What technology is to us today, is what fountains were to them. These fountains are possible because of yet another engineering feat of the aquaducts. Everything is starting to fit together!

Aqua Virgo: Inside the bottom of a modern building not far from the Trevi, ancient ruins were found. Now this is generally common, however the fact that archaelogists believe that this ancient villa was connected to the Aqua Virgo is quite spectacular. We were lucky enough to see these ruins in person and the artifacts that were recovered in the process. If this weren’t enough a meidevil house was built on top of the ancient one, and this is all in the basement of an inclosed building.

Is any of this blowing your mind yet? So much knowledge, so little time.

Until tomorrow!


Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum

January 8th

Being around Rome and taking tours with tour guides is always helpful when it comes to absorbing little facts. For instance “palatine” can be interpreted by us as palace. Therefore, Palatine Hill is basically the hill of palaces. We arrived to the hill fairly early because there was still the feeling of briskness in the air. None the less it was a gorgeous morning and it sure beats the snow and cold temperatures of Minnesota. We met our tour guide for the day Alessandra (a real, live archaelogist)! She showed us around and we got to see the House of Augustus (first emperor of Rome) and the House of Livia, Augustus’ wife. At a certain point one could get easily bored because pretty soon everything begins to look the same (I’m talking about the ruins). But what was especially intriguing about today was that we got the opportunity to look at the inside of both the House of Livia, and Augustus, which isn’t open to the public, so this was kind of a big deal. About 5 guards (okay I’m being dramatic they were workers) followed us around. Anyways, I tried to imagine what these palaces would have looked like but also the people which lived in them. Think about someone walking around your house in about two thousand years. Mind boggling right?

Continuing on, just at the bottom or valley of the Palatine Hill is the Roman Forum. Think or imagine ruins EVERYWHERE… seriously ruins galore. There is so MUCH HISTORY in this area that books are written about it. I won’t try and write a book, however I’ll try and sum it up as best as I can. The Via Sacra (Sacred Way) is an ancient road that runs right through the forum. The road was used for the return of Kings and Emperors from across the empire. Now picture yourself standing on this road, the same road ancient people used. These are the experiences we’re having on a day to day basis, and they’re priceless. Like I mentioned earlier there is literally remnants of ancient buildings everywhere you look, it’s like a war zone. Another really cool site we saw in the Forum is Julius Caesar’s resting place. Let’s be honest who hasn’t heard of Julius Caesar.

Already in a week all of us at some point, at some site, have been able to be overwhelmed, amazed and just in plan disbelief of the things we’ve experienced. The amount of history and facts that have been presented to us is un-real. Rome has shaped our modern world more than you would think. We’re getting the chance to see all of these contributions. Incredible.

Now mostly what Angela and I put on here is about the sites we see, but then there is the whole part of the day that doesn’t consist of site seeing. We’re all getting to go on our own adventures together. Whether it’d be grabbing some delicious Italian cuisine, eating gelato, being spontaneous, or trying to find the local grocery store to maybe or maybe not buy and responsibly enjoy Italian vino. These are the times we will remember.