The Vatican Museums Through the Eyes of a Teen

 Posted by on March 31, 2012  Comments Off
Mar 312012
 

As part of #1 Son’s recent school trip to Italy, the group spent a day at the Vatican Museums.  Although perhaps best known for the Sistine Chapel and the works of Michelangelo and Botticelli, the Museums are actually a vast interconnected complex of museums and chapels housing centuries of artwork collected and managed by the Catholic Church.  From ancient Egyptian art to modern day sculptures, the Vatican Museums have it on display.

Welcome to the Vatican Museums

Welcome to the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums do not permit flash photography in order to help preserve the art.  #1 Son took hundreds of non-flash photos during his tour and wanted to share his favorites with our readers.  They include some of the Museum’s most famous works including Michelangelo’s Pieta, a sculpture of Mary holding a dying Jesus.  It was completed in 1499.

The Pieta at the Vatican

The Pieta at the Vatican Museums

Many images representing the Crusades caught his eye.

Images of the Crusades

Images of the Crusades at the Vatican Museum

Many popes and saints of the church are commemorated as well.

Sculpture of Pope Leo XIII at the Vatican Museums

Sculpture of Pope Leo XIII at the Vatican Museums

The Hall of Animals was an unexpected high point with its many ancient animal sculptures.

The Hall of Animals at the Vatican Museum

The Hall of Animals at the Vatican Museum

Artwork is on display everywhere, including the ceilings such as areas as the Gallery of Maps.

The Vatican Museums Gallery of Maps

The Vatican Museums Gallery of Maps

The art doesn’t stop at the door, the grounds around the museums are used to display larger pieces such as this modern globe:

Vatican Museums Globe sculpture

Vatican Museums Globe sculpture

There are few places in the world where so many important pieces of art spanning so many centuries can be seen in a single day.  #1 Son greatly enjoyed his visit to the Vatican Museums during his class trip to Rome.

If you have been there, what was your favorite work of art?


Mar 052012
 

When visiting Rome, old and new art and architecture are constantly juxtaposed with one another.  This is a city where the Modern Art Museum features art from the last two centuries and the age of buildings is measured is millenia.   No where is the contrast between old and older more apparent than during a visit to the Colosseum.  Completed in the year 80 AD, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever constructed by the ancient Roman Empire and is an engineering marvel.  #1 Son described it as the biggest, oldest man made building he has ever seen.

The exterior of Rome's Colosseum

The exterior of Rome's Colosseum

Yet, despite its age, the Colosseum is surrounded by modern roads, cars, and of course, tourists!    #1 Son’s school group used the Roma Pass which for 30 euros covered city transportation for three days and free admission for two museums or sites including the Colosseum.   After the first two uses, Roma Pass gives the holder a reduced admission price at other museums and sites, exhibitions, and events.  Waits for access to the Colosseum can extend as long as two hours in the hot Italian sun but on a chilly February day the site was relatively empty.

The last of Rome's unusual February 2012 snow storm melting at the Colosseum

The last of Rome's unusual February 2012 snow storm melting at the Colosseum

Looking through the photos #1 Son brought back from his class’s visit to the Colosseum we are amazed that a structure this large was built without the types of heavy machinery available today.   The ampthitheatre was built to hold 50,000 spectators.  It is over 600 feet long and over 150 feet high.    The outer wall, much of which is no longer in tact due to earthquakes, is believed to have used over 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone and was held together by 300 tons of iron clamps since mortar had not yet been developed.

The Colosseum has seating for 50,000 spectators

The Colosseum has seating for 50,000 spectators

The Colosseum was home to Rome’s violent gladiator contests, mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on mythology.  It was in active use for hundreds of years.

View overlooking the Colosseum arena floor

View overlooking the Colosseum arena floor

The main arena area measures 272 ft by 157 ft.  It originally had a wood floor that covered a maze-like underground zone known as the hypogeum, which was made up of a two-level network of tunnels and cages where gladiators and animals were held before the contests.  A series of tunnels connected this underground world to the outside so performers and animals could enter the site without being seen by the waiting crowds.

The Colosseum hypogeum contained cages for gladiators and animals

The Colosseum hypogeum contained cages for gladiators and animals

Over the years the Colosseum has been badly damaged by earthquakes, looters, acid rain and car exhaust.  The site is under constant restoration as the city battles to preserve this important piece of history for the centuries to come.

Restoration is ongoing at Rome's Colosseum

Restoration is ongoing at Rome's Colosseum

Clearly the Colosseum is a “Must Do” on any trip to Rome.  Of couse, it is so big it is hard to miss.  If you visit with your teen or tween let us know what they think.

Like these photos? Hop on over to the Delicious Baby Photo Friday Page for more family travel photos!


Feb 282012
 

#1 Son recently got back from his field trip to Rome.  Amid the endless museums, ruins and historic sites he and his friends had ample time to explore sections of Rome on their own.   For #1 Son, the area around Rome’s famous Spanish Steps quickly became the default destination to people watch, soak up Roman history and culture, shop and eat wicked good gelato!

Rome's Spanish Steps are a great place for teens to hang out and enjoy the city sights

Rome's Spanish Steps are a great place for teens to hang out and enjoy the city sights

The 138 steep steps were built by the French in 1723-1725.  Their purpose was to connect the Spanish Embassy and the French Trinità dei Monti church at the top to the Holy See at the bottom.  The centerpiece of the piazza is a fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia (“Fountain of the Old Boat”), built in 1627-29 - just a few years after the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving in the New World.  It is the widest staircase in Europe.

The view of the rooftops of Rome from the Spanish Steps

The view of the rooftops of Rome from the Spanish Steps

Sitting on the Steps, #1 Son and his friends could look out over the rooftops of Rome and enjoy the bright paint and tiles  that are very different from what they see at home in New England.  They also marveled at the narrow streets and the tiny size of most of the cars.

A narrow side street near the Spanish Steps

A narrow side street near the Spanish Steps

Despite being hundreds of years old, the area is vibrant with modern shopping and creature comforts.  One of the most recent additions to the area is Italy’s first McCafe — like they don’t know how to make lattes and cappuccinos in Italy!   At least the gelato sold nearby was authentic and #1 Son reports it was worth every Euro they charged.

The first McCafe in all of Italy

The first McCafe in all of Italy

The Spanish Steps were just a 10 minute walk from their hotel, so #1 Son and his friends found themselves there whenever they had some time to kill – whether early in the morning or late into the night.   As Americans, they often found themselves hungry and eating dinner much earlier than most Italians – which gave them lots of extra time to check out the scene in the evening and still make it back to get enough sleep for the next day’s adventures.

Evening in the Piazza di Spagna below the Spanish Steps

Evening in the Piazza di Spagna below the Spanish Steps

If you are visiting Rome with teens, the Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps are a good area to let them shop and relax if they need a break from mom and dad.  If you visit, let us know what your teens think!

Looking for more fun travel ideas?  Head over to the Delicious Baby Photo Friday page where you will find lots of great links including this article.


Plan Ahead for International Class Trips for Teens

 Posted by on February 7, 2012  Comments Off
Feb 072012
 

It wasn’t so long ago we were writing about the challenges related to letting a young teen head out on a school sponsored class trip to Washington DC or New York.   These types of trips are a rite of passage for many 8th graders and usually involve loading a couple hundred kids and way to too few chaperones onto a dozen buses and heading on down the interstate – tracking them via their cell phone GPS and texting to check in the whole time they are gone!  At a price measured in hundreds of dollars for a few days of educational travel it wasn’t too hard to fit into the budget with a little help from the grandparents.

Roman Colosseum

Roman Colosseum

Moving on to high school, class trips take on a whole new attitude.  Many public and private high schools frequently offer international class trips to students, often during school vacation weeks or in the summer.  And, in case you were wondering, most of the time parents are not invited!

At our public high school juniors and seniors can go abroad for two week language exchanges to France or Spain or  humanities and orchestra classes can tour Italy for a week to see the sights of Rome and Florence.  Smaller groups go as far away as China during the summer.  And, every couple of years the the band goes to Disney.  Plan it right and your teen could take a major school  trip every year!

Unlike many service trips, where fund raising it undertaken to help defray some of the costs and make sure everyone who wants to participate can do so, these school-sponsored enrichment trips are optional and are generally paid 100% out of pocket.  As we’ve been finding, unexpected costs can multiply quickly, often adding 50% or more to the published budget.   Based on our recent experiences, be sure to ask lots of questions when building your trip budget and determining if it is the right opportunity for your teen.  In particular pay attention to:

  • List price – whats included and what not.   $1500 for a week in Italy including airfare sounds like a great deal, even if they do squeeze four kids into a typical undersized European hotel room.  But….the only meals included are breakfast.  The good news is that admission fees to most of the major attactions and a night at the symphony are included.

    The Spanish Steps

    The Spanish Steps

  • Food, food, food.  We’ve been told to make sure the teen has enough money to eat lunch and dinner each day as well as snacks along the way.  We are guessing here that 25-30 Euros a day ($32-$40 USD) will be enough, and then will throw in some extra.  At 7 days that is about $250 +/- in the budget.  There is no option to buy food and cook at the hotel so they will be eating out for a week.
  • Ground transportation.  While the group will be able to walk to many attractions in Rome, there will be times when they opt for public transit or cabs.  And, there is a day trip to Florence via the train.  The latter could run as high as 100 Euros roundtrip so we are adding another $175 +/- for ground transportation.
  • Communications.  This one is optional but students are being encouraged to activate international cell phone service if their phones are compatible and or to rent cheap phones while in Rome.   We are hearing rates all over the place but we’ll add $25 for that one.
  • Dress code.  Depending on your teen’s wardrobe and destination this may not be a big deal but we have been asked to make sure our teen has slacks, a tie, dress shirts and dress shoes in order to convey a general look that is a couple of steps above the typical scruffy high school look.  For us, this actually proved a great incentive to upgrade #1 Son’s wardrobe – something he has been putting off for a while.  Not sure if the money we spent on new clothes should be included in the budget but we’ll leave it out for now!
  • European chargers for electronic gadgets, travel books, maps, etc.  Not a big deal but a few dollars more unless you can borrow them.
  • Shopping.  Can’t go to Europe without bringing some mad money.  We are budgeting $200 for this.
St Peter's Basilica

St Peter's Basilica

Our budget is running near the high end of the 50-75 euros ($65-$100 a day) recommended by the trip coordinator.   Of course, they don’t want kids walking around with that much money, particularly since Rome is well known for its pick-pockets.  So, they recommend that the kids only bring a little cash and have some kind of credit or debit card or plan to use ATM cards at the local Bank of America affiliate.  We are pretty sure there are some hidden fees there too.

All and all, we are thrilled to send #1 Son to Italy as a graduation present and expect it will be a high point of his high school career.  Now that we’ve got a better sense of whats involved sending a teen overseas on their own we’ll be well equipped to plan and budget for the princess when it is her turn.  Of course, by then #1 Son will be working on a college semester abroad ….

Then again, you can’t put a price on teens learning about the world and gaining their independence!

Photos courtesy Rome.info Rome travel guide and tourist information. Hotel reservation, pictures of Rome, sights and attractions, entertainment in Rome.