I have many happy memories from the summers of 1975 and 1976 when I taught at the UGA program in Rome. For many students it was their first trip abroad and I remember their bewilderment in trying to adjust to life in downtown Rome. As Dr. Best pointed out in his account of the history of the program, the location of Pensione Ercoli on via Collina was ideal just for this reason that the students could experience a real neighborhood with small shops and restaurants and yet be close to the ancient monuments. One of their first assignments was to locate the five monuments that were closest to the hotel, ranging from the Gardens of Sallust to tombs along the Aurelian wall, pieces of the Servian wall built into modern structures, and, further away, the majestic baths of Diocletian, now the Terme museum.
In looking through my diaries from those years I marvel at how much we were able to accomplish, both in terms of classroom teaching and field trips! And to my delight, there were students who were willing to go beyond the required curriculum to explore less known sites, both inside Rome and further afield. We searched for the remains of the circuit of the Servian wall and climbed the eighth hill of Rome, Monte Testaccio, constructed from broken amphora sherds, then surrounded by the local slaughter houses and gypsy camps, now an area known for its chic restaurants. By train or bus we ventured to Lake Nemi, south of Rome, known for its ancient sanctuary to Diana, and also for the festival of wild strawberries, and to Orvieto and Siena to experience vibrant towns with a long history and rich culture.
The scheduled field trips allowed the students to prepare for seeing new things as well as to be responsible for giving class presentations. The photographs I took during these trips show students demonstrating buildings and sites to their classmates who eagerly wrote down information in their notebooks. It is not easy to talk about something you've only learned from books, but I remember very clearly how the student responsible for the site of Herculaneum masterfully showed us around the city as if he had always lived there, even though it was his first visit to the site!
Times have changed and so has Rome! But every time I walk in the area of via Collina I'm reminded of the Georgia students who were introduced to the modern and the ancient aspects of the city and who no doubt have their own stories to tell of what the summer program meant for their lives and future careers!
The University of Texas at Austin