Italy and Monaco. I just got back and I don’t even know where to begin!
- A walk through Pompeii
- A blessing from Pope Francis to me and a thousand of my closest friends in the Vatican
- Gazing up at the Sistine Chapel and subsequently viewing countless works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinci and many others
- Walking through the Pantheon and Colosseum where generations of Romans stood, prayed and watched gladiators fight millennia before me
- Seeing the chandelier that helped Galileo ‘discover’ the laws of pendulums, then walking out of the cathedral and up the Leaning Tower of Pisa where he ‘discovered’ the law of gravity
- Marveling in awe at the sheer size of the Michaelangelo’s David Sculpture
- Listening to the intense history of the fading, near-destruction and meticulous restoration of Da Vinci’s Last Supper while staring straight at it
- Tasting fine Italian wines, cheeses, and meats only meters from where they were grown, raised and processed
- Gambling (losing) in the Casino de Monte-Carlo straight out of James Bond
- And not to forget… Pasta & PIzza & Pasta & Pizza
You see what I mean? This trip was perhaps the best and most informative trip of my entire life. I saw countless things I remember learning about in pre-k, and will continue to remember for the rest of my life. Before I can say anything more, I have to stop and say thank you to my parents. It would not have been remotely possible without their support. “Thank You,” he said to his parents.
On to impressions. First off is my usual comment after traveling. English is awesome! Italian sounds like a beautiful language and when in writing, I could usually translate it with my Spanish knowledge, but thank goodness everyone spoke English! I really had no idea how universal English is. On the whole trip, I met very few people I couldn’t communicate with, and I’m forever grateful for that! Now on to my next impression, history.
Europe is full of buildings that are centuries and millennia old, but nothing like Italy, especially Rome. I could not believe the saturation of ancient buildings. It seemed like everywhere I looked, there was a building erected by the Romans long before Christ. And they’re just normal. The Coliseum sits next to apartments and stores, as does the Pantheon and the Roman Forum and everything else. There is no parallel in the States. And the level of preservation of many things was unbelievable! In my (and the general consensus) opinion, the Pantheon and Pompeii are two of the best preserved ‘ruins’ I saw. Today, the Pantheon serves as a functioning church (I think you can even get married there). It may have been built in the first and second century, but it has been in constant use almost ever since with fairly few modifications. Frankly, other than the design, it looks as if it could have been built yesterday. Secondly was Pompeii.
Everyone knows the story of Pompeii. Entirely covered in ash by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius (which is still active) in the year 79 AD and only discovered and excavated (still not fully uncovered) in the 18th century. Unfortunately, it’s not as impressive as it could be for five main reasons, but it’s still incredible. I’ll tell you a little about them here: firstly, when the excitations started, they were wholeheartedly funded by King Charles of Bourbon (King of Naples then of Spain) under the condition that all the best artifacts be brought to him (and away from Pompeii), secondly, and to a similar vein, when excavations were re-started later in the 18th century and the 19th, many of the best artifacts and the marble was auctioned off to the highest bidders. As such, today you can find Pompeii marble from the main square in the kitchens and bathrooms of aristocrats across the world. Thirdly, the prudish attitudes of the 18th century led to much of the erotic art in the city (of which there was a lot) being locked away or destroyed. Fourthly, came human error in the first excavations. Roofs were dug through and buildings not properly braced when unearthed, and lastly, and perhaps most tragically, was WWII. The Allied powers suspected that Nazi and Italian forces were hiding out in Pompeii and using it as a supply route and decided to bomb it. The first bombs were dropped on August 24th of 1943, the same day Vesuvius erupted 1,864 years earlier. To this day, only one original second story window survives, but perhaps the remaining part (~20 acres) to be excavated will be safe?
I could keep writing for pages and pages, but I think I’ve already written enough. After telling you about Pompeii, I’ll leave you with my little call to action. Ancient ruins (and even those not so ruined) are incredible. They’re things that I and many other kids learn about in elementary school, and for me at least, it was a dream come true to see them in person. But they are called ruins for a reason. Without care and money, they will continue to go to ruin, and especially with negative human intervention, they will only get worse and worse.
Let me give you one more example. The Roman Forum is an incredible hill full of Roman arches, columns, and other ruins. It’s impressive as is, but one can only imagine what it looked like a hundred years ago. Let me explain. About a century ago, it covered a much larger area than it does today, but obstructed a main road. The road was built around it to keep the forum together. When Mussolini came to power, he wanted a large, long, straight road to parade his troops down. He ordered the relocation/destruction of the center portion of the Forum and built a road right through. He got his parade route, but in the process destroyed thousands of years of history.
Mussolini didn’t care much for ancient history, and while most care more today than he did in the 20th century, many still don’t. I believe it’s a lesson that we need to continue to support education about and appreciation for ancient history. But those are just my takeaways.
Sorry I wasn’t able to talk about everything, but there’s just far too much! Check out the pictures below if you’d like to see/read more. Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures!