June 7, 2017: Roma! (Basilica of San Clemente, Baths of Caracalla, Capitoline Hill)

After a smooth transition to Rome by coach on Tuesday evening, we settled into our residence on Via Veneto: the Cappuccini Guest House, a former convent of the Capuchin Friars dating back to the 17th century and adjoining the church of the Immacolata Concezione and famous Ossuary Crypt.

  • Refreshed and ready the morning of June 7, we took the Metro to the Basilica of San Clemente.  We exited the Metro at the Colosseo Station–holy moly, so amazing to walk out of a subway station into the shadow of the Colosseum!

    The Basilica of San Clemente is an extraordinary building in which three distinct archaeological layers have been preserved. At street level is a church built in honor of Saint Clement around 1100 AD; one level below the current basilica is the original, 4th-century AD basilica which had been converted from the home of a wealthy Roman; and at the lowest level are the remains of a republican-era villa and warehouse. Unfortunately, interior photography was not allowed.


Here we are in the Basilica cloister reading Jacobus de Voragine’s 13th-century account of Saint Clement’s life in Latin.  The story helped us understand the iconography in use throughout the church—for example, images of anchors (which were the instrument of Clement’s martyrdom).


We walked by the Circus Maximus on the way to lunch—which for some featured the pizza meal of a lifetime.

Next up: the Baths of Caracalla: big and still beautiful, even without all its marble facing.  Once students saw the size of this complex, they understood how the massive sculptures we had seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples (the Farnese Bull, Hercules and the Apples of the Hesperides) were actually just the right size for the spaces they adorned.


After touring the grounds we sat down to read Seneca’s Epistula VI.56 in Latin, which satirizes the incessant noise of the bath complex. We were in hysterics over Seneca’s grumpy characterizations.  In translation, courtesy of Mitch Towne and The Paideia Institute (Urbs Aeterna: Summer Trip to Italy, 2017, Copyright Paideia Institute for Humanistic Study, Inc. 2016):

May I perish if there is anything more necessary to a man secluding himself for study than silence!  Everywhere about me sound surrounds: I live above the BATH.  Consider all the sorts of voices which arrive at my hateful ears: as when the strong men exercise and throw heavy weights around, when they work or pretend to work, making groans, and as often as they release their held breath making hissing sounds and the most annoying breathing noises (sibilos et acerbissimas respirationes—a delightful onomatopoeia); as when I come across some lazy man who is content with his common ointment and hear the slap of palms on his shoulders, which sounds differently whether the slapping hand is flat or cupped.  If a ballplayer comes around and begins to tell the score, it’s all over (actum est).

Add to this the brawler and the pickpocket and the guy who likes to sing in the tub; add to these those guys who jump into the pool with a huge, loud splash.  Besides these are those whose voices, if nothing else, are good; consider the hair plucker and his shrill voice which is constantly shouting–perhaps a form of advertisement–and never falls silent except when he plucks the armpits of another and that person lets out a shout instead; now the drink sellers and their various exclamations and the sausage sellers and the pastry sellers and all the shopkeepers selling their own merchandise, each one with a unique technique.

Next we trekked to the Capitoline Hill.  Bellissima!

Ms. Klumpp and Ms. Cody start experimenting with selfies. You will have to be the judge of whether or not our technique improves over the course of the week…

At the Capitoline Museums we viewed some more amazing classical, Hellenistic and Renaissance sculpture and painting.



The Dying Gaul—Mr. Eberle’s favorite sculpture!
Hello, dear Cicero!

Students gather around the famous bronze of Romulus and Remus and the Lupa who, according to legend, saved them from exposure by their evil uncle Amulius.

Our Paideia Institute teaching assistant, Mitch, gives the students an assignment: they are to choose an artwork to examine closely by sketching it in their notebooks.  A contemplative afternoon peace descended on the upper floors of the museum as the students settled in and worked industriously at their art historical task.  It was a moment frozen in time, when we seemed to have not only the museum but all the ages of Rome to ourselves:

Walking across the Capitolio to get to the other side, where, on the top floor, we can buy a much-needed caffé…

and enjoy some stunning views of Roma!

Then it was time to walk to dinner at Emma (Via del Monte della Farina)—a delightful and delicious end to the night!

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