In Rome, the City is the Classroom
For Trinity students, the decision to study away changes everything.
If that seems like a bold statement, consider the words of Livio Pestilli, an art historian who led the study away program in Rome for 37 years. “[Alumni] write back very often saying what a wonderful time they had and how it changed their lives.”
Generations of Bantams have benefited from the unique experience, but the program, which was founded in 1970, extends beyond Trinity students—it’s also offered to those from other colleges around the United States, adding greater diversity to the culture and perspectives encompassed in the Rome study-away experience.
Once in Rome, students find themselves in the heart of the city. The Aventine Hill campus overlooks many of the world’s most renowned historical landmarks. The academic program is well-established and innovative, challenging and engaging. Each day includes a full schedule of classes, which are held in one of three intimate classrooms, or in an outdoor courtyard. English is rarely spoken in Italian-language courses, which accelerates students’ understanding.
“They keep you busy, but they guide you, and you’re never really left alone,” Stephen Falcigno ’16 says. “I’ve learned so much in my time here.”
In a city as overflowing with history as Rome, learning isn’t limited to campus. Professors often take students on walking tours to learn firsthand about Rome’s impressive art and architecture. The semester also features weekend-long excursions to surrounding cities, including Venice, Florence, and Naples/Pompeii/Capri.“Rome is an outdoor museum,” says Francesco Lombardi, assistant to the program. “It is an outstanding display of beauty and history.”
That beauty and history is integrated into the learning experience. “My favorite class, ‘The City of Rome,’ was a walking tour every week around the city covering almost all of Rome’s history,” says Samantha Jones ’15. “The city itself was our textbook, and that was a really unique experience.”
While the history, art, and architecture run deep, the food also lives up to its reputation as some of the most delicious in the world. Fresh pasta, gelato, seafood, cappuccino, made-from-scratch breads, and fresh-squeezed orange juice are among the daily staples. Every weekday, chefs cook breakfast and lunch for the students, who dine together family style.
“Being in a city with so much history, so many amazing people, a beautiful language, great food – it’s just been really life changing,” said Virginia Midkiff, a student at Princeton University who studied at the Rome campus in 2015. “I’m just really, really grateful to this program.”
Students who wish to immerse themselves in the Rome culinary experience have the opportunity to pursue an internship at a local cooking school, just one of many options in the robust internship program. Students have completed internships at international law firms, underground archaeology sites, and local high schools.
“We ask students to go out of their comfort zone and to face, personally, the Italian culture,” says Elena Fossà, principal lecturer in Italian and Rome Campus internship coordinator who has taught in the program for nearly 25 years. “We place students in safe, comfortable, yet challenging positions where they can create a new perspective. It is an opportunity for a wonderful human exchange in a strong academic environment.”
Danny Meyer ’80, P’20 , a well-known New York City restaurateur, credits his internship experience in Rome as a major influence.
“From the very first restaurant I opened—Union Square Cafe—to some of the more recent—Maialino and Marta,” Meyer says, “my experiences in Rome have played an essential role in the culinary point of view and the spirit of hospitality we try to convey to our guests. In short, the experience was priceless.”
In addition to internships, the Rome campus offers many unique opportunities. There are strong programs in public affairs (economics, modern history, and politics) and in ancient culture and classics. Students can join competitive sports teams and travel throughout Europe. Art courses are available for students from a wide range of majors. Political science and art history majors can participate in field seminars, with research throughout Rome.
“Many of the students undergo a transformation here because the experience is not one that can be learned in a book or online,” says Lombardi. “It can only be learned by being here, feeling it, seeing it, tasting it.”
Pestilli says this immersion in a new culture is the greatest thing the program can offer to a student’s educational experience abroad and in life.
“The best thing we can do is teach them that otherness is something you ought to embrace,” he says. “To do that, you must make yourself vulnerable and put yourself in situations where you are not in charge linguistically or culturally. This makes our students more prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”