promoting cultural heritage and conservation

Rome at First Sight

My first visit to Rome happened in the middle of my very first visit to Italy, in the summer of 1993, when I was a 21-year-old Classics major. I had come to Italy to get my hands dirty with ancient material culture in an archaeological field school in Tuscany, at a small Etruscan-Roman site located on a hilltop between Florence and Siena. On weekends the project directors took us on day-trips to see important archaeological sites and museums of southern Tuscany and northern Lazio.

One weekend, the project’s assistant director offered to lead an optional weekend trip to Rome. Of course, I jumped at the chance to see, finally, the places I had read so much about during 11 years of studying Latin and the Classics, like the Roman Forum and the Capitoline Hill. We arrived on a Friday evening, and I’ll never forget my first sight of the historic heart of the ancient city: we climbed the Capitol steps designed by Michelangelo and walked around the left side of the Palazzo del Senatore (Rome’s City Hall) to the stunning little lookout terrace above the Temple of Concord and the Arch of Septimius Severus.

It was dark, but there was enough light to make out the ghostly forms of the Temples of Saturn and Castor, and the Arch of Septimius Severus. We stood there in silent awe for a good five minutes. For the rest of the weekend we walked all around the historic center, from Piazza del Popolo and the Pincian Hill to the Vatican, to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, to the Ghetto and the Aventine Hill.

I came away from that weekend a different person, much richer than when I had arrived. I had made new friends among my fellow-travelers (including the project’s assistant director, who has remained one of my closest friends ever since), and I had developed a passion for this magnificent, complex, and unique city. These are exactly the kinds of experiences and impressions that I try to foster in the students who come to Rome to study with the AIRC.

Albert Prieto, is AIRC  Associate Director of Archaeology.  He came to Rome and never looked back (well, except for grad school). albert[at]


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