This February, Ms Spindler, Mr Robinson, and Ms Bailey gave 29 students the opportunity to explore Italy’s capital and the Vatican (which we have affectionately dubbed “head office”). The goals of the trip were to deepen links to ours and our students faith with visits to key churches and the centre of the Catholic world – we based ourselves at the heart of the LaSallian world too, staying at Casa La Salle, the headquarters of the De La Salle community – as we are an associate LaSallian school. We were also taking the opportunity to show our students pieces of art that they have studied in their GCSE, hoping that up-close they become clearer and more powerful. We wanted our students to learn to enjoy the wonderful ancient city that seems more like an open-air museum than a European Capital.

Highlights included our trips to the Vatican City – both to explore the Papal collections of art and artefacts in the museums, as well as to St Peter’s Basilica with many students and staff daring the 551 steps to the top of the dome. We are grateful to Br John Fernando from the Generalate for accompanying us to the Vatican museums and sharing his wisdom. One of the highlights of the trip for Ms Spindler amongst others was to travel to St Peter’s Square to hear and pray the Angelus with the Holy Father. Each Sunday, Pope Francis delivers an address accompanied by the Angelus prayer. The address we heard was a timely call for support for those affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.


There is a sense of pure wonder that you experience in the Vatican, unlike anywhere else in the world. This accompanied with a tour of the oldest catacombs in Rome, and visits to the stunning Churches of The Pantheon, The Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, and the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere gave students the opportunity to marvel at the power of the Catholic faith in Rome whilst also taking time to pray at one of a myriad of altars and chapels that spoke to them personally. The community of the latter church, Santa Maria in Trastevere, welcomed us on Sunday evening for mass. They were so excited by the prospect of welcoming a group of worshippers that they arranged for a live translation of the Mass to be available to us so that we could share in their worship fully. The community leaders told us afterwards that they are a society whose principles are prayer, peace, and the poor – they help many in the Trastevere area and are renowned for their charity work. Through all of these opportunities we collectively experienced a lively and committed Christian community in Rome that we could celebrate and share.

There was a rich academic value to our time in Rome as well. Students were able to see Michelangelo’s Pieta and Creation of Adam up-close as well as other artworks that form part of the RE GCSE. This also gave us teachers the chance to sneak some revision for the Year 11s in, quizzing them on the features of the mosaics and sarcophagi we saw. One student described it as being similar to seeing a play you’ve studied in English performed live. Beyond the curriculum, students were immersed in the history of Ancient Rome, walking through the Forum, the Imperial Forts, the Colosseum, the site of Caesar’s assassination, and the Jewish Quarter. All of this allowed them to engage with history they otherwise would not have the opportunity to understand, and experience it in a way that only Rome allows. Some students were particularly excited by the Classical aspects of Rome – the Colosseum was a particular favourite – which have key links to A-Levels available at St Gregory’s.

They say “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” – and we did. Romans enjoy a walk, an explore, and a good meal. One student commented on how much they enjoyed travelling on the Italian Metro and experiencing everyday Roman life. We gave the students money to find their own dinners on certain nights challenging them to haggle the Italian way and find as much as they could for their budget. They were challenged to try classic Roman food, rather than the “Italian food” you can find in England and enjoy the quality ingredients. The trip had plenty of free time for students to explore the winding streets looking for souvenirs, or perhaps hidden treasures. This was an aspect of the trip that was greatly enjoyed, an opportunity to see a city in a way that school trips often don’t. All the students came away with a confidence that they may not have had before, to try speaking a bit of Italian, to explore a new corner of a city, and to find a good meal.

As a team, we had a wonderful time running this trip – despite the tiredness of the 50 miles we walked in total. It was a joy to take such passionate and engaged students on a trip and watch them develop spiritually, and academically. We look forward to the possibility of running this trip again, with many asking if they would be able to return.

Mr Bird
Teacher of Religious Education