A number of SPHS students recently experienced Italy first hand. (Above) They pose outside the Colosseum.

Students Immerse Themselves in another “World”: Italy

May 18, 2011
Santa Paula High School

By Samuel W. Ramirez

Foreign Language Teacher

Santa Paula High School

Our SPHS students experienced another “world” firsthand: Italia. They gained a multi-cultural understanding as they interacted inter-culturally with its population. About 16 hours after departing from LA, Lucia, our tour director, greeted us at the airport in Rome and took us straight to piazza Navona, the famous baroque square with the fountain of the 4 rivers. At the Pantheon, the most preserved temple converted into a church, where Raphael is buried, students took notes on the largest concrete dome ever constructed. At the Trevi Fountain, a Baroque extravagance designed by master sculptor Bernini, students made sure to toss a coin into the fountain and make a wish. Their busiest day was at the Vatican Museum where they contemplated beautiful statues in the candelabra gallery and precious tapestry.

Students contemplated Rome’s spectacular monuments that flavor the frenetic present with tastes of the past. They entered the Colosseum as gladiators, a grisly battle arena that seated more than 45,000 spectators.  Moreover, the Forum nearby provided them a glimpse into everyday ancient life with markets, meeting places, and temples all combined into one vast space. At St. Peter’s Basilica, the triumphal Renaissance church, students admired Michelangelo’s masterpieces on display, especially the “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel.  Soon after, they continued their trek to Piazza Venezia, site of the enormous monument to Victor Manuel II, Italy’s first king, and to the Palazzo Venezia, where Mussolini set up his headquarters.

Students saw themselves walking in narrow streets and medieval walls.  The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is famous because it is the birthplace of St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan order.  They became religious pilgrims and art lovers as they explored the Basilica, which was built in the 13th century to hold the saint’s body.  It took 600 years to find it inside the Basilica.

Students also immersed themselves into the charms of old-world Firenze: Italian Renaissance. Some climbed the hill to reach to Rocca Maggiore, others opted to see the David by Michelangelo in the Academia Museum; others climbed the 465 steps to reach Brunelleschi’s elegant Duomo (dome) that dominates the skyline.  From atop, they could only admire the multicolored marble monuments and Florence’s architecture filled with wall after wall with incomparable art.  They also took many pictures of Giotto’s Bell Tower and the aptly named Gates of Paradise, the bronze east doors of the Baptistery that spurred the burgeoning Renaissance. They also visited the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli at the Chiesa de Santa Croce.

Students saw Venice as a unique and unquestionably beautiful city.  The weight of its opulent architecture - bulbous domes, gothic spires, and lacy marble - may be sinking the city by 10 inches a century. But none of these mattered to them, for they found themselves immersed in a labyrinth of unique streets; contemplated amazing bridges and beautiful ‘calles’, canals through the Gondola. Piazza San Marco, an airy expanse of arches, sunlight, and pigeons, gave students an opportunity to learn about the multi-domed Basilica that was completed in 1094 but decorated for centuries afterward.  It is the final resting place of the apostle St. Mark, Venice’s patron saint. The mosaics beneath the Basilica’s outside arches depict the arrival of St. Mark’s body, stolen from Egypt in 828 by Venetian traders.  At the Frothy Venetian Gothic Doge’s Palace, students entered the dungeon, the room of the meetings and beautiful paintings of the Venetian School of many artists. As they traveled to Milan Via Verona, they made a quick stop to contemplate the famous balcony of Romeo and Juliet and a statue of her. Real or not, history tells us that Verona is the setting for Shakespeare’s creation of Romeo and Juliet, and the 14th-century house claims to be Juliet’s.  Their final stop was in Milan, Italy’s capital of fashion and finance. They spent quality time at La Scala opera house, with Europe’s largest stage. They also admired the city’s marble Duomo that took almost 450 years to complete, and is now the world’s largest Gothic cathedral.

What most impressed me about these students was their hunger for learning, bonding, and interacting in a world different that theirs.  Some students bought dictionaries with translations from English to Italian and vice-versa; others had small books with highlighted information of Italy’s history and important monuments we were just about to see.  Some had electronic devices that had English/Italian translations.  While being quizzed by our tour director, all of them had a sense of competition and each of them wanted to be the first one to answer the question and win a prize.  It was definitely an educational tour.  Thanks to those that supported our students and for your continuous support: our community and our County Schools Federal Credit Union Bank in Ventura. Costa Rica is awaiting us.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.