When I first arrived at St. Lawrence, I knew I wanted to go abroad at some point during my four years. In the spring of 2017, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and knew that I wanted to visit other cities in Europe while I was there. Of the trips that I went on, the one that is most memorable to me is the week I traveled to Italy to explore the history of art and religion in both Rome and Florence.
As a First Year student I decided to pursue a biology and business double major, which made me doubt that I would have the chance to study abroad due to the rigor of my studies. I chose St. Lawrence University for many reasons, one of which was the fact that I would be able to attend a liberal arts institution, which would allow me to explore many different subjects outside of my major. However, prior to my departure for Copenhagen it dawned on me that I’d been so preoccupied with completing courses for my major that I hadn’t taken full advantage of the classes offered by other departments.
I was fortunate enough to take a religious studies course where I learned about different religions throughout history. Throughout the semester we learned about the history of different religions, as well as the way religion is expressed through different forms of art. The course really intrigued me and I wanted to try to find a way to study the topics more. Thus, I wanted to take some time while I was in Europe to further my studies of art and religion, which is arguably the hub of these subjects.
During my time abroad I had the opportunity to spend a week in Italy, studying art and religion in both Rome and Florence. I embarked on this trip with a friend I met in Copenhagen, who shared similar interests to mine. Together we flew from Copenhagen to Rome and spent three days in the city. We visited the Vatican, where we were given a tour through the museums, the Sistine Chapel, and through Saint Peter’s Basilica, where we learned about the history of the buildings and artwork, as well as their importance to the Catholic Church. We then took time to explore everything on our own and even had the chance to walk around the outside of the dome of the Basilica, where we saw some great views of the city! The following day we went on a guided tour of the Colosseum, where we learned about the history of the amphitheater, as well as the influences of the Roman Empire and Catholic Church. We then visited the Arch of Constantine as well as the Circus Maximus, the largest entertainment venue in Ancient Rome. Although the visit was short, we also had the chance to visit the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Alter of the Fatherland, and the Pantheon, and learned about the history and design of each.
Following our visit to Rome, we boarded a train to Florence and got to observe the beautiful landscapes of rural Italy on our way. In Florence, we visited the Galleria dell’Accademia, which is most famously home to Michelangelo’s sculpture David. We also visited the Uffizi Gallery, which holds a collection of priceless artwork primarily from the Italian Renaissance. We also visited the Il Duomo di Firenze, also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, which is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Florence. Its architecture is very unique and features Italian Gothic, Renaissance, and Gothic Revival styles. The building was incredible and we had the chance to climb to the top of the dome as well, to see breathtaking views of the city. We then visited the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, a museum containing many of the original pieces of art created for the cathedral.
My trip to Italy completely exceeded my expectations and helped educate me on topics I knew very little about. The opportunity to be immersed in a culture, as I learned about many of its prominent features, was so much more beneficial than anything I could’ve learned about in a classroom setting. Learning about the history of the Roman Empire and Roman Catholic Church through the buildings and artwork still present today, left me even more fascinated about the roles religion and art play in society today. I am so grateful for the funding I received through the Travel Enrichment Grant to have this tremendous experience and I hope to return to Italy at some point in the future.