Archive | December, 2013

Top Five Cultural Landscapes of Rome

9 Dec

Guest blogger Stacey Graham is a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, where she has been a staff member at the Center for Historic Preservation since 2007.  Dr. Graham is leading MTSU’s Study Abroad Class,  “Cultural Landscapes of the Roman World,” June 4-25, 2014. If you are interested in participating, Contact Dr. Graham

This blog entry was originally published at International Studies Abroad. Visit  ISA, for more information about their study abroad programs.Image

Rome, capital of the founding empire of the Western world, has witnessed almost three millennia of history.  The stories of Rome – from the days of the Roman Republic, to the establishment of the Catholic Church, to the city’s designation as a World Heritage Site – can be read in its cultural landscapes.

Cultural landscapes are landscapes that reveal cultural values through people’s interactions with their environment. Join us as we spend three weeks approaching Rome through its buildings, piazzas, neighborhoods, and more.  In this course, we will try to answer questions such as “How are the stories of the Roman past preserved, interpreted, and used in the present?” and “How does the modern city of Rome co-exist with the Rome of Julius Caesar or Michelangelo?”

Here are my top five cultural landscapes of Rome:

5. Piazza del Campidoglio – Built on the ancient Capitoline Hill and ringed by palaces, this public square combines 16th-century Baroque flair (the stunning travertine pavement design) with Roman imperial artifacts (the famous statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback).

4. Catacombs – Before the Christian Church was triumphant, it was an underground movement—literally, as is best seen in the various catacombs around the city, most dating to around the 2nd century.  Preserved within them are myriad burial chambers and some wonderful examples of early Christian art.

3.  Trastevere – The part of the city across the Tiber river (trans Tiberim), this diverse and distinct neighborhood has been occupied by Romans since the earliest days of the Republic in the 5th century B.C.  Today, it is popular among residents, students, and tourists for its charm and many restaurants.

2.  Vatican City – The seat of popes and the capitol of the Catholic world, Vatican City is a city within a city.  The sober and imposing columns of the Piazza San Pietro guide the visitor into the Basilica di San Pietro (St. Peter’s), a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture and one of the most important churches in the world.


1.  Roman Forum – From Arch of Severus in the west to the Colosseum in the east, a walk through the Roman forum provides an unparalleled education in the role of civic participation.  Mainly in ruins today, the forum still inspires republican pride and western nostalgia.

These fascinating places will be our classroom as we learn how to “read” ancient history in cultural landscapes and how people in the present use the past to form identity.  On top of some of the most famous historic sites of the western world (like Pompeii!), we will enjoy incredible food, authentic gelato, and a warm welcome from Rome’s people and climate.  Join us as we explore one of the world’s most glorious cities!