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Orientation Exploration

Orientation Exploration

Following my first night in Rome, myself and the other JFRC students entered into a few weekends packed full of Orientation activities. Between crash courses in Italian, general meetings, and community meals, we had the opportunity to go out and do some sightseeing in and around Rome, as well as on the Amalfi Coast. You can see it for yourself in these videos!

Our first excursion was to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Following a brief lecture about the history of the two sites, all of JFRC got onto a couple of buses and went downtown to explore. We stopped first at the Colosseum, taking a few pictures before entering into the ancient and ominous ruins. If they seemed large and imposing on the outside, that view was nothing compared to the interior. It is then that I realized just how significant a feat of architecture the Colosseum was for its time, and still is today. The fact that people who lived in a time without advanced things that we take for granted today (such as electricity or extensive indoor plumbing) were able to create a structure that has literally stood the test of time is truly incredible.

Once we had taken a sufficient amount of pictures and ambled around the large stadium for long enough, we ventured off to the nearby Roman Forum. At the Forum, we spent several hours exploring the ruins of Ancient Rome’s city center. There were palaces, temples, senate buildings, gardens, and plenty of other bits and pieces of Ancient Roman gathering spaces to wander around in. My favorite aspects of this area were the triumphal arches. Their details and massive structures made for an absolutely beautiful view.


Following our time at the Forum, we were set free to explore Rome as we wished to. Myself and a few others made our way into a church near the exit of the forum, taking a few photos before we went off to meet some friends for a delicious Roman meal of pizza and vino. Then it was time to rest up for our upcoming day trip!


For our day trip, we took visited the Palazzo Farnese. This papal-built palace was imagined as a fortress for the family of a former pope. It sits at the top of a hill, overlooking the town below it so as to see anyone who may be threateningly approaching. It looks rather formidable from the outside, but the interior is full of gorgeous architecture and art. The rooms are smothered in biblical frescoes, and the gardens are a beautiful place to wander around in or reflect upon while sitting near the intricate grotto. We only spent a couple hours here, but there was enough to see to fill a whole day!


The next weekend of JFRC Orientation activities led us to the Amalfi coast. We left early on a Friday morning and traveled four hours to our first stop: a restaurant right on the beach. We ate, enjoyed the scenery, and passed a few hours of time before continuing on to our next destination.


Our next stop was the archaeological sites of Paestum. This area was formerly a major Greek port city and now contains its ruins. There are ruins of several temples dedicated to certain Greek gods and goddesses, arenas for gladiator fights and the like, theater spaces for performances of famous Greek plays, and everyday homes and social spaces. We explored with a tour guide, who led us through the site and its museum before letting us get some gelato and head back to our bus!


We spent the night at a hotel with beautiful views of the coast before we began our Saturday adventures. The JFRC group split up for the day, and the group I was in went to a winery and olive farm first. We walked around the groves, tasted the wine, and ate bread dipped in the delicious olive oil made fresh from the olives on the farm. It was a short but delicious stay that prepared us for our next food-related tour of a Buffalo farm.

While at the Buffalo farm, we were taken on a tour to see how the buffalo were raised and accommodated, as well as how Buffalo mozzarella is made. The farm was extremely conscious of the happiness of their animals and offered them freedom to decide when to be milked as well as space to roam in and consistent food, water, and relaxing activities (rolling massage brushes, for example). We got to interact with a few of the buffalo before we left their space and went to watch a few workers go through the process of creating mozzarella from milk. We finished our tour by tasting the product of their labor, which was, in truth, the best cheese we had ever tasted.

IMG_1323(Wine Reserves at the Winery)

Our final destination of the day was Agropoli. This quaint and charming town on the edge of the water is home to an old castle, which we briefly explored before wandering into town to shop and enjoy the joyful local atmosphere. We arrived just as the afternoon break was ending and stores began opening up for the local Italians who were emerging from their homes. The scene was casual but cheerful, creating a great space to enjoy the evening before we returned to our hotel for dinner.

Sunday, the last day of our weekend trip, took us to Monte Cassino. The site was the first home of St. Benedict’s monastery and also the location of a World War II attack that injured and ended the lives of many. The monastery itself was beautiful, but it was made more so by its long and illustrious history. We were lucky enough to catch the last few moments of a mass occurring in the main chapel, which was a beautiful feat of art in itself. Beyond that, we toured a large portion of the building, its courtyards, and its museum. All were equally impressive and gorgeous, serving as a suitable end for our exciting trip out of Rome.


Stay tuned for my next post, which will feature the end of our Orientation (Mass of the Holy Spirit), our visit to Papa Francesco, and some adventures from on-site classes! Ciao!

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