On Friday 9th March Manchester Airport witnessed a gathering of Stretford High School staff, students and parents at 6am. We may have been sleepy but everyone was excited as we were due to depart on the 10th Annual Rome trip for Year 7 students. We cleared customs, passport control and security in record time (giving us more time than usual to browse the airport shops that are located flight side). The flight took off right on time and we enjoyed the superb views of the Italian Alps outside the window en route to Rome.
Upon landing we took the Leonardo Express train to Termini in the centre of Rome. After checking in at the Youth Station Hostel we set off walking through the historic centre of this beautiful city. First stop was a Pizza restaurant where the students were introduced to thin and crispy “Roman style” pizza. We always eat well on the Rome trip and this year was no exception. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the fact that we walk about 24000 steps a day I would seriously put weight on from this weekend alone. Once we were full we took in the sights. The Trevi Fountain was as beautiful (and busy) as always (we stopped to throw a coin in the fountain, as custom dictates). From there we moved on to my favourite building in the world, the 2000 year old Pantheon (the oldest dome building in the world). Finally (for Friday) we stopped in the Piazza Navona for a gelato ice cream. The students enjoyed bartering with the street traders and just watching Rome life in the evening (many people come out to parade up and down on a Friday night). Everyone was pretty exhausted by this point so we turned in for the night.
Saturday started with breakfast at the Garden Cafe (served by Vincenzo and Alyseo, who have been making us breakfast for 10 years now). We spent Saturday morning at the ancient Roman ghost town of Ostia Antica. This year the students were especially excited to see a real snake resting in the ruins. All those years of warning students about the snakes when we never saw any and this year we finally saw one. Fortunately the snake was more interested in having a nap than in anything that we had. After Ostia we travelled back into the centre of Rome for a walk around the inside of the Coliseum. This structure is truly amazing. It’s hard to believe that it was still all complete until about 500 years ago. Then, because no-one was using it, somebody had the bright idea of using the bricks as building materials. From that point on if anybody wanted bricks in Rome they just went to the Coliseum and took what they wanted – a bit like at B and Q! This is a real shame because if the building had still been complete it would still be a viable location for events rather than a derelict historical site. Saturday was rounded off with the annual race to the top of the Spanish Steps. I know I’m getting old because, even though I cheated as normal, this time I came in third. A sad day indeed!
On Sunday we battled through the crowds into the Vatican in order to hear the Pope’s Sunday speech at midday. This is still a thrill (even though I can’t understand Italian!). Just being present at such a special event is enough, you get a real buzz from the crowd. Once the Pope had finished speaking then St Peter’s Square cleared very quickly. We had brought a picnic with us and it was glorious to sit in the middle of the square on a sunny day soaking up the sun and eating fabulous fresh food. After dinner we looked around the majesty of St Peter’s in the Vatican. Once we had picked our jaws up from the floor we split into two groups. One group went souvenir shopping in the Vatican with Ms Howarth and Mr Cooke. The other group took the 551 steps up to the top of St. Peter’s basilica with Ms Latham and I. This is a gruelling physical challenge but our students managed to complete this easily and were rewarded with the best view in Rome from the top. There is nothing like looking at a 360 degree panoramic view of Rome from the top of St Peter’s on a still Sunday evening. It is very special. Once we had come back down we all went souvenir shopping before lunch (where we celebrated Leah’s 12th birthday in true style!). The evening was capped off with another gelato ice cream before bed in the hostel.
On Monday we experienced the usual crazy race through Rome to the airport in order to catch the plane home. It was an excellent trip this year. Our students were a credit to the school and I hope that they all enjoyed the trip and got some special memories from it.