When in Rome

Anna P. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Exeter High School in New Hampshire.

Wednesdays’ fieldworks are designed to take advantage of the environment around us, and the week before Christmas break we were given the task to create our own fieldwork day with a small group of friends. This consisted of agreeing on a city to go to, finding a way to get there, creating a budget, and planning a lesson plan in which we would follow throughout the day. My group decided to go to Rome, and due to the timing of this activity, we designed our entire trip to be Christmas themed.

Our travel to Rome started off smoothly, except for the minor problem of taking a metro that was going in the wrong direction! Once that issue was resolved, we were back on track and on our way to the Colosseum to start our Christmas day. The first goal was to find the giant Christmas tree that was in front of the Colosseum (should be easy, right?), and talk with people about the tradition of Christmas trees in Italy. However, once we got there, there was no Christmas tree to be found! We were perplexed, wandering around looking for this giant tree that seemed impossible to miss. We decided to ask a security guard where we could find the tree, to which he replied something along the lines of, “Um, there is never a Christmas tree here. However, there is one in Piazza Venezia.” We thanked the guard and went on our way to Piazza Venezia, very confused and frantically researching online for what we had done wrong in our previous research for this trip. Apparently, the Christmas tree in front of the Colosseum is an internet hoax! The pictures we had seen of the tree were all photoshopped, and we weren’t the first to make this mistake. Either way, we found one in Piazza Venezia and talked to some really nice workers that were willing to answer our many questions.

Next on our agenda was to visit the Christmas market in Piazza Navona to speak with local venders and buy some presents for our host families. To our surprise all the shops were closed and looked abandoned. Once again, after some quick research online, we learned that the market wasn’t just closed, it had been shut down by the police a few days earlier for selling toys without a permit and lacking essential safety elements. Now two important parts of our trip had not worked out, and we hoped that the day would only get better. 

Our next stop was Santa Maria Aracoeli, which I’m proud to report was a success! After climbing up to the tippity top of the Capitoline Hill, we entered the church and found the nativity scene we had hoped to see. A fun fact is that they don’t put a baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas day because he wasn’t actually born until then. We spent a good amount of time in this church, giving me an opportunity to sketch the interior layout of this magnificent building. 

After a quick lunch break, we headed to Santa Maria Maggiore, and sighed a sigh of relief after another successful stop. In this church lay pieces of what is believed to be actual parts of Jesus’ manger. It is a breathtaking building that holds a very important artifact of the Catholic religion and the story of Christmas. Next on our list was a patisserie for conducting research on the classic Christmas delicacy, Panettone, and how it is made. Unfortunately, the workers could not answer our questions and we left the patisserie very disappointed. We ended up taking an unscheduled visit to Eataly, and finally finished an interview about Panettone. The worker was very happy to talk about it and made many jokes that made the visit to Eataly worth it! She gave us samples of different kinds, and we ended up buying one to share on the train ride home.

Although our day in Rome didn’t go as we had originally planned it to, we still ended up having a lot of fun in the end. Any chance to get out of the classroom and speak with actual people is worth it. We took on the challenges that were presented in front of us and found a way to work through them, so I would in fact call this a successful Wednesday fieldwork!

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