It is without question that this trip has taught me extraordinary things: I have learnt about the history of Italy, of Ancient Rome and Pompeii, of medieval Tuscany, the Renaissance, Byzantium, the Napoleonic wars and even the fascist government of Mussolini before and during the Second World War. I have learnt about Classical, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque, Modern, Postmodern, Supermodern art forms and ideologies. Of course we had our days off and would sometimes have a change from history of art; a Sienese cookery lesson one afternoon, a fascinating visit to a famous Venetian 18th century velvet factory, a deeply moving tour of the Jewish ghetto in Venice. However, all of these added to an incredible understanding of Italian culture and history.
It still seems unreal, too perfect to recollect. I went to Rome, Orvieto, Naples, Pompeii, Siena, Arezzo, Florence, Fiesole, Pisa, Verona, Vicenza, Castelfranco, Padua, and Venice. I know it sounds clichéd, but I saw Michelangelo’s David, I climbed Mount Vesuvius, I listened to an orchestra play Mozart in the Cattedrale di Siena, I heard monks sing evensong in the 11th century crypt of San Miniato, I watched the sunset over Verona, I saw rain fall through the oculus of the Pantheon, I ate some of the best pizzas on the planet, I made some incredible friends, and I saw the golden mosaics of Basilica di San Marco light up one by one like so many stars.
Jiddu Krishnamurti once said that there “is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” And in my opinion, the greatest form of education is that which makes you feel alive, teaches you things you never knew, and inspires you to change the world: it is the movement from darkness to light. This trip is that movement, and so so much more.