Trip to Rome (Easter 1968)


By J. Haselock L6A

The Easter holiday once again saw a party of St. Nicholas boys in Italy. This year the trip proved to be very popular and the largest party yet was able to go. Full use was made of the School's new language laboratory, so after a rush course in basic Italian, everybody felt confident that the necessities of life could be secured with the minimum of embarrassment.

We travelled to Rome under the auspices of B.U.S., making a good channel crossing before enduring the manifold discomforts of the Continental railway system. The train took us straight through from Calais to Milan where, after a short walk around the city, we changed to a more comfortable Italian train for the remainder of the journey. Arriving in Rome in the evening we were divided into two parties, the younger boys were housed in one hotel near the centre of the city while we were installed nearer the edge of the metropolis. This division was perhaps a little inconvenient for the staff but it meant that the accommodation was less cramped and far more comfortable than it might have been.

From the start, the weather was excellent, indeed the sun proved to be uncomfortably hot at mid-day but the evenings were cool and pleasant. Travel, by Roman buses, proved to be a never to be forgotten experience; some fifteen passengers were carried sitting while fifty or more were crowded in to stand. The buses were never declared full up but more and more people were squashed in until it was impossible for any more to enter. The bus continued its way, skilfully avoiding the ubiquitous Fiat and the many pedestrians who stepped into the road apparently unconcerned for their personal safety. Travelling in this way we savoured the many delights of Rome: the ecclesiastical splendour of the Vatican, St. Peter's and the unforgettable view from the top of Michaelangelo's impressive dome; the glory that was ancient Rome, represented by the Forum, the Temples and the Colosseum with its memories of gladiatorial combat and cruel spectacle; the fast-flowing Tiber and the many palaces and monuments in the city that was, and for some still is, the centre of the world.

An enjoyable day was spent in visiting the Castelli-Romani, mediaeval villages clustered around the summer residences of Popes and Roman aristocracy, clinging to the slopes above deep, blue lakes, formed in the caters of volcanoes long since dead. Here was Alba Longa, the city founded by Aeneas after his flight from Troy to be the progenator of the Roman race. Large glasses of potent Frascati wine were enjoyed by all with quite noticeable after effects before we returned to the hotel. On another occasion a long and tiring coach journey was amply repaid by a tour of Pompell with its straight paved streets of shops and villas, each carefully preserved until today by volcanic ash. The wide curve of the Bay of Naples and the tall cone of Vesuvius provided a beautiful backcloth to the ancient town. The return journey was enlivened by a visit to the semiextinct volcano of Solfatara and lusty singing, successively.

Other days were spent in visiting the many churches in Rome, each one a treasure house of Italian art, or the catacombs, underground reminders of the days when Christians were persecuted. A final highlight for some was an audience with the Pope.

Each evening was free for all to enjoy as they wished, some seeking the cultural pleasures provided by the Rome Opera House and an exciting performance of Verdi's Rigoletto, while some preferred the more immediate appeal of the bowling alley or the street café.

The week was soon over and the return journey commenced, suitcases heavy with a newly-acquired weight of souvenirs and presents. After a fatiguing journey the white cliffs of Dover welcomed us back to the bosom of Mother England after perhaps the most successful Italian trip yet.


1968 School Magazine

Steve Bacon writes -

"The staff involved with the Rome trip at Easter 1962 were Messrs. Winter, Dixon, Owen and Tilbrook.  It was a wonderful coincidence that we were there on Palm Sunday which is one of the fairly rare occasions when the Pope attends Mass at St. Peters.  Staff and quite a few of the boys went to experience the occasion.  We stood in the nave and were duly blessed by Pope John XXIII as he was carried past us on a ceremonial throne.  Again, I may be able to expand on the trip in due course."


Six Years of the School Fair (1962)

Recollections (from former pupils)

History of the School

Soviet Union Easter Visit (1975)